If you’ve been considering adding a stainless steel outdoor kitchen to your home, you have probably heard the terms 304 stainless steel and 316L or marine grade stainless steel. These numbers refer to two grades of stainless steel, which are determined by their alloy composition and are extremely popular and widely used.
304 Stainless Steel
304 stainless steel is made up of low carbon and chromium-nickel content which makes it extremely versatile and widely used out of all the stainless steel options. The 304 option has proven to be resistant to corrosion and oxidation and offers a variety of appearances and finishes. 304 is commonly used in kitchen equipment, storage tanks, stainless hardware and much more.
316 Stainless Steel
316 stainless steel is an austenitic chromium-nickel stainless and heat-resisting steel with remarkable resistance to corrosion in comparison to other steels when exposed to the outdoor elements like sea water. As 316 contains molybdenum, it has a higher resistance to chemical attack than type 304. The 316 option is easy to clean, weld and is highly durable. 316 tends to cost a little more. However, you could end up saving in the long run if the stainless steel is going to be used for the outdoors.
304 vs. 316 Stainless Steel
For a material to be considered stainless steel, at least 10.5% of the make-up must be chromium. Additional alloys typically include nickel, titanium, aluminum, copper, nitrogen, phosphorous, selenium and molybdenum. The key difference between the 304 and the 316L is the addition of molybdenum in the 316L. It is the molybdenum that enhances corrosion resistance in environments rich in salt air and chloride – giving 316L the moniker of “marine grade” stainless steel.
How Can You Tell the Difference Between 304 and 316?
Often, you need a material test report of the material to confirm if it is 304 or 316 as it can be visibly challenging to tell the difference.
Which Grade of Stainless Steel Should I use for My Outdoor Kitchen Cabinetry?
Marine grade stainless steel is the recommended outdoor cabinetry material for all coastal areas. However, in other environments, such as the desert, the mountains, a city rooftop or simply – your home, 304 works just fine. The fact of the matter is that the majority of appliance and grill manufacturers use 304 stainless steel – even in coastal areas, requiring that you clean and maintain your appliances on a regular basis (or keep them covered).
It is also important to note that stainless steel is not stain proof; it is stain less. As such, regardless of whether you use 304 or 316L exposed stainless steel requires maintenance. The addition of molybdenum (in marine grade stainless steel) only retards corrosion, it does not stop it.
Why Add Powder Coating to Stainless Steel?
In order to truly fight corrosion, Danver recommends powder coating your outdoor kitchen cabinets, regardless of the grade of stainless you choose. Powder coating adds many benefits including creating a protective seal on the stainless surface, further protecting your investment from the environment.
The powder coat finish makes your outdoor kitchen almost maintenance free from a cleaning perspective, as well. Where traditional stainless steel highlights fingerprints, streaking, smudges, dust and dirt requiring seemingly endless polishing and cleaning, a power coated kitchen can be sprayed down with a hose or maybe a little detergent and a sponge to look brand new! In addition, powder coat finishes are available in a variety of colors and realistic wood grains, bringing style and design to your outdoor kitchen – and saving you from blinding reflections and summer sun hot surfaces.
Over 85% of the kitchens manufactured in our Connecticut factory are powder coated. In the 20 years we have been delivering these kitchens, we have virtually no instances of rust or degradation on powder coated surfaces.
Stainless steel outdoor kitchens are a great long-term investment and we’re here to help you understand the intricacies involved. If you have additional questions or would like advice on your project, reach out to our in-house design team at 203-269-2300 or contact us and we’ll be in touch!
This article is based on industry knowledge and research by outdoor kitchen design professionals, including our in-house experts and engineers with decades of experience.
Our goal at Danver is to provide factual information on relevant topics to help readers make informed decisions about their outdoor living spaces.
This article uses trusted sources with references hyperlinked to the source material.