Material Spotlight: Stainless Steel

Posted February 14, 2019 in General

MasterPLAN Outdoor Living believes in creating timeless designs for our clients that are well-crafted and sophisticated.  To accomplish this, we love to implement the use of stone, wood and metal in our backyard transformations.  When applied in outdoor functions, metals need to be carefully selected to ensure they remain attractive and maintain their integrity and durability.  Metals like treated/coated aluminum are beautiful in fence and railing applications while treated/coated steel works structural wonders, but let’s not forget the outdoor shining armor that is stainless steel!

Not to get too science-y, stainless steel is simply a mix of a minimum of at least 10.5% chromium, oxygen, proportions of other elements and steel.  The result is a corrosive-resistant and highly resilient material.  When exposed to fresh air, the chromium creates an invisible oxide layer on the surface which acts as its protectant; perfect for outdoor living.

As one of the most durable materials used in outdoor architecture and applications, stainless steel isn’t just one material, there are many different types with different properties and finishes.  Given the proper grade, finish and design are selected and properly maintained, its appearance and durability will remain almost unchanged.  Let’s explore the grades, finishes and a few alternative outdoor applications for this beautiful material…


Grade 304: This is a general-purpose stainless steel and the most common grade used around the world.  Consisting of at least 18% chromium and 8% nickel, it offers good corrosion resistance but is best suited for all indoor applications and non-saline environments.  This grade is an economical and practical choice for most environments and is easily sanitized, making it ideal to be used in kitchens, décor and furnishings.  However, if you do live near the water, you will need to explore grade 316…

Grade 316:  This grade is the second most common form of stainless steel and almost has the same makeup as 304.  The key difference is that 316 incorporates about 2-3% molybdenum, which creates a nice resistance to chlorides and other industrial solvents.  This steel is suitable for all outdoor applications, especially coastal areas or in areas with heavily salted roadways.  This grade has a slightly higher price point than 304, but it is well worth the peace of mind.


In outdoor applications, selecting the right stainless steel finish is essential.  Generally, the smoother the finish, the better the corrosion resistance.  The most common finishes include:

No.2B Matte Finish: This finish is dull in appearance which makes it just right in applications where being pretty isn’t important or further finishing is intended.  While this finish is the least expensive option, it is not intended for aesthetic scenarios.  You can usually find this finish in places that contain manufacturing equipment.

No.4 Brushed Finish: Brushing stainless steel produces the distinctive look with muted luster that we are used to in our daily lives.  This finish has strong decorative appeal without being too reflective and distracting.  You may see this finish in architecture, jewelry and home appliances.

No.8 Mirror Finish: This is obviously the most reflective stainless steel finish.  This ultra-polished surface enhances the appearance and consistency of its subject and makes cleaning a breeze.  The benefit to a mirror finish is its aesthetic and corrosion resistance, however, it must be used wisely and sparingly outdoors because of its reflective nature.  You may see this finish ornamentally in mirrors and decoratively in tiling.

We generally think of stainless steel as being either industrial or contemporary, but that isn’t necessarily the case.  Because the metal can resist heat and, if properly maintained, be rust and blemish free, we most commonly seen this material in outdoor grills and appliances fit for any outdoor motif.  However, this metal has great versatility and can be used in many ways not connected to the kitchen.

Of course, stainless steel furniture is on our short list!  To start, this material always looks sleek and clean, and the pieces can fully reflect your unique personality by the cushions you select!  Stainless steel also cannot be affected by insects or molds and is easy to clean by wiping down with soapy water, all lending to its low maintenance nature.  Known to be rust-resistant when exposed to moisture and water, fresh or salt, this material is adaptable in many residential environments.  When incorporating this type of furniture in your outdoor living space, you know you are investing in the future of your comfort, as the pieces will be with you long term.  Even down the road, if you are ready to give your space a makeover, you can feel good in knowing that the pieces are environmentally friendly and completely recyclable.

When nature was created, art was inevitable, so interpretive embellishments are essentially a form of environmental expression.

Even suitable for spaces off in the distance, stainless steel is a remarkable material when used to create custom sculptures.  This material can brighten the most uninspiring areas of a property by catching the sunlight and the attention of your guests!  Sculptures have the ability to engage visitors and offer a focal point within the landscape.  Focal points benefit your outdoor living space in many ways, from making a meek backyard feel bigger by drawing eyes to the edge of a property to being the center of where the whole outdoor living space gains its cohesive inspiration.  From sculptures to outdoor kitchen appliances to accents and adornments, carrying a material throughout a space lends a designer touch as a whole.

For those who love the idea of steel but aren’t keen on stainless’ grey-scale or reflective nature, you can always talk to your landscape designer about the incorporation of the unique properties of Cor-ten steel within your landscape.  Cor-ten steel goes through a natural process of oxidation, producing an almost ever-changing saturated rustic hue of oranges, reds and browns.  Whatever your preference, MasterPLAN hopes to inspire novel and meaningful uses of materials in your dream outdoor living spaces.

Serving the Poconos, Lehigh Valley through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey, MasterPLAN would love to partner with you to help translate your outdoor desires into your outdoor living reality.  Together, we can experience this journey together, making the best outdoor decisions for your family, home, property and lifestyle.  When you are ready to uncover the true potential of your property, reach out to MasterPLAN.  We would love to hear from you and welcome you into the family.

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