In this article, we’ll look at the different types of metals and corrosion issues with glass balustrade systems. We will also look at how these metals fair in different corrosive environments like coastal regions and near swimming pools.

Marine environments for metals

We define in this article areas within 25 miles of the coastline or any area near a swimming pool to be a ‘Marine environment’ for metal. Distance from the sea and general weather conditions will also influence the corrosion rate.

A swimming pool surprisingly is also a harsh environment for metals. The reason for this is because the chemicals (chlorides and salts) used in swimming pools acts as a catalyst to the corrosion process.

Common metals used in glass balustrades

  1. Mild steel
  2. Stainless Steel
  3. Aluminum
  • Mild steel – a very common option used in the architectural metalwork’s industry. Mild steel is widely used in balustrade however, mild steel need post processing to prevent rapid corrosion. These post processing activities include coatings such as galvanising and/or powder coating.
  • Stainless steel – stainless steel is versatile metal that is used in nearly all industries. In most cases the correct grades of stainless steel do not require post processing such as mild steel (see guide on stainless steel). Stainless is available in two common grades in our balustrade products (304 and 316). The most important factor influencing corrosion is grade and finish (mirror polished or satin polished)
  • Aluminum – a widely used product in the glazing industry and favored for its lightweight and cost. Aluminum has good corrosion protection properties. The corrosion properties of aluminum can be improved by a process called anodising.

Choosing the right metal for coastal and marine environments with corrosion in mind

If you live in a marine environment, one of the most important choices that you will make is what material / balustrade system to go with. Your choice will determine how much routine maintenance you will need in keeping your balustrade looking new

  • Mild steel is a good choice but only if galvanised. It is important to note that galvanising does not last forever. You can look up your location and see the galvanising corrosion rate. It will give you a very rough guide as to how long the galvanising will last.
  • Aluminum is a good choice but it is essential that the aluminum is anodised as this increases the corrosion protection
  • Stainless steel is a great option for marine environments. For the best protection, we recommend mirror polished stainless steel in grade 316. We would advise against satin finish stainless steel being used in coastal regions, unless a routine maintenance program is put in place.

The Fixings

Fixings are often forgotten about but are the most important aspect for the strength and sturdiness of your glass balustrade system. In most cases, we wound recommend the use of stainless steel fixings when fixing to timber or concrete. Always speak to your structural engineer if you are unsure of what fixings to use.

The grades of stainless steel  

There are many types and grades of stainless steel but for balustrades – we offer two common grades 304 and 316.