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Stainless Steel 304 vs 316

Would 304 or 316 stainless work better for my project? What are the differences and when should I choose one over the other? If these are the questions you are asking yourself, look no further!

Both grades fall under the Austenitic Family of stainless steel, which means they are adaptable to cold forming, easy to weld, and offer high corrosion resistance. However, their difference in chemical makeup allows 316 to have a higher corrosion resistance, giving it the name “marine” grade. Below we will dive into a brief description, pros & cons, and when you should use each.

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Stainless Steel 304

304 stainless, also known as A2 stainless, is the most common grade of the Austenitic Family. It contains a high amount of nickel (8-10.5%) and chromium (18-20%). The other major alloying elements are manganese, silicon, and carbon. The remainder is predominantly iron.

304 stainless is a more affordable and machinable product than 316 stainless. 304 is often seen in household and industrial applications like sinks, refrigerators, fasteners, pipes, heat exchangers, and structures in environments where carbon steel would rust.

Check out our 304 product guide with more chemistry information and mechanical data.

Pros and Cons of Stainless 304



Pros: Stronger than mild steels

Cons: Vulnerable to saltwater corrosion

Pros: High corrosion resistance

Cons: Requires proper tools to machine well

Pros: Superior workability and formability to 316

Pros: Less heat sensitive than 302

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Stainless Steel 316

316 stainless, also known as A4 stainless, is defined by its stellar corrosion resistance. It is chemically similar to 304, with high levels of chromium and nickel. Also, 316 has silicon, manganese, and carbon, with iron as the remainder. However, 316 has a significant amount of molybdenum (2-3%), which 304 lacks.

This molybdenum gives 316 superb abilities in saltwater and marine applications. Hence why 316 is called “marine” grade. 316 stainless is widely used in chemical processes and high-salinity environments. For these reasons it is also often used for chemical processing and storage equipment, medical and surgical devices, and refinery equipment in addition to marine equipment.

Check out our 316 product guide with more chemistry information and mechanical data.

Pros and Cons of Stainless 316



Pros: Stronger than 304 stainless

Cons: Requires the right tools to machine well

Pros: Extremely corrosion resistant and performs well against pitting

Cons: More expensive than 304

Pros: Resistant to salt water and caustic chemicals

Cons: Less formable and machinable than 304

When Should I Use 304 vs 316?

Use 304 When

Use 316 When

Use 304 When: Low cost is more important than corrosion resistance

Use 316 When: High corrosion resistance is more important than cost

Use 304 When: The part requires more forming or machining operations

Use 316 When: You are in a marine or corrosive environment

Use 304 When: The environment isn’t particularly corrosive

Use 316 When: Your application requires higher strength and hardness

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