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The Main Differences Between Stainless Steel vs. Galvanised Steel Pipes


Often confused as being one and the same thing by the DIY novice, stainless steel and galvanised steel pipes have some inherent differences between them. Not only are they prepared in completely different ways, but are also used in different applications. Some applications may suit the use of galvanised steel pipes, whereas others may need stainless steel pipes. Both types of steel demonstrate different levels of weight, strength and composition.

What is galvanised steel?

Galvanisation is a process by which steel is made more resistant to corrosion and oxidation. This type of steel is coated in a layer of zinc which prevents corrosive chemicals and oxygen from reaching the steel under it and damaging it and is perfect for use in outdoor applications. This layer of zinc is thinner than paper and is usually measured in microns. There are two main methods through which steel is galvanised:

-      Hot-dipping: In this method, the steel pipe is dipped into a vat of molten zinc after being thoroughly cleaned to remove impurities such as dust, oil or mill scale. Once the steel surface reaches the temperature of the molten zinc, it is dipped into a quench tank to cool down and stop the chemical reaction. This is the method Jacob UK uses for its galvanised steel pipes. This method is extremely durable.

-      Electro-dipping: This method uses electrolysis to create a zinc coating over the steel. An electrolyte solution containing zinc is used as the anode, which transfers electrons to the steel (which acts as the cathode) through an electric connection. Electro-dipped galvanised steel is used more for aesthetic purposes than for its durability.

What is stainless steel?

Whereas galvanised steel gets its corrosion-resistant properties after the steel has been manufactured, with stainless steel, the difference lies in its composition. The chemical composition of the alloy contains iron, chromium, carbon and in some cases, nickel, molybdenum and aluminium. These elements are added to iron when it is still in its molten stage to create stainless steel. The minimum amount of chromium required for the alloy to be considered stainless steel is 10.5%.

Stainless steel is highly corrosion-resistant and is primarily used in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Jacob UK’s food-grade stainless steel range is made with specific considerations in mind and is manufactured according to European EC 1935/2004 regulations and the American FDA guidelines.

Comparison between galvanised and stainless steel:

-      Strength:

While galvanised steel is less durable than stainless steel and may not offer long-term protection against the elements. Galvanised steel does not do very well when exposed to salty air or water, which makes it a better choice for inland areas. In inland areas, galvanised steel may erode at a rate of less than 1 micron per year, and since the standard galvanised steel pipe has a zinc coating of at least 85 microns, that means your pipe will last at least 85 years!

Stainless steel, on the other hand, is highly durable even in the presence of salt air and water making it the perfect choice for coastal environments.

-      Price:

Galvanised steel is much more affordable than stainless steel.

-      Applications:

Galvanised steel is typically used in the air-conditioning industry, wind and solar industries, the automotive industry, telecommunication industry, as metal roofs for houses, for chain-link fences. You may even find galvanised steel in many household objects you use daily, such as washing machines, hairdryers, computer parts or even metal pails and buckets! Galvanised steel is typically used for smaller-budget projects because of its lower price.

Stainless steel is all around you. Because it is easily sterilised, it is widely used as a food and pharmaceutical material and used to create kitchen equipment like dishwashers, stoves, sinks, cookware and cutlery or surgical tools and medical equipment. It is also widely used in industrial applications for the creation of pipes, heavy machinery and the marine industry. It is the perfect material to be used in any application where the components may be exposed to saltwater or acidic environments. However, it does not fare too well when exposed to chlorinated water.

If you’re wondering which one of the two is a better option, the truth of the matter is that there is no clear answer to this. There is no universally applicable rule that determines which type will suit your particular project. Stainless steel pipes may be a better option if you’re working within the food or chemical or pharmaceutical industries, but galvanised steel pipes may be more suitable for the automotive industry or for indoor plumbing or construction industry.

At Jacob UK, all of our pipes, pull-rings and modular pipe systems are available in three finishes: powder-coated pipes, galvanised steel pipes or stainless steel pipes and can be customised based on your needs. Take a look at the applications of our modular systems to determine the type that suits you best.