316 grade is the second-most common form of stainless steel. It has almost the same physical and mechanical properties as 304 stainless steel, and contains a similar material make-up. The key difference is that 316 stainless steel incorporates about 2 to 3 percent molybdenum. The addition increases corrosion resistance, particularly against chlorides and other industrial solvents.
316 stainless steel is commonly used in many industrial applications involving processing chemicals, as well as high-saline environments such as coastal regions and outdoor areas where de-icing salts are common. Due to its non-reactive qualities, 316 stainless steel is also used in the manufacture of medical surgical instruments.
Alternative 300-series grades can contain up to 7 percent molybdenum. They provide even better chloride resistance, but such heavy-duty resistance is only necessary in industrial or high concentration exposure conditions.
For outdoor furnishings like rails and bollards, stainless steel is an ideal corrosion-resistant material, but it will only withstand long-term exposure if the grade is appropriate for its environment. 304 is an economical and practical choice for most environments, but it doesn’t have the chloride resistance of 316. The slightly higher price point of 316 is well worth it in areas with high chloride exposure, especially the coast and heavily salted roadways. Each application for stainless steel has its own unique demands, and needs a stainless steel that’s up to the task.