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Historic Preservation - Technical Procedures

Spectitle:

Stainless Steel: Characteristics, Uses And Problems

Procedure code:

0501018S

Source:

20Th Century Building Materials (Ed. Tom Jester, Nps)

Division:

Metals

Section:

Metal Materials

Last Modified:

02/24/2012

Details:

Stainless Steel: Characteristics, Uses And Problems



STAINLESS STEEL: CHARACTERISTICS, USES AND PROBLEMS


This standard includes general information on the characteristics
and common uses of stainless steel and identifies typical problems
associated with this material along with common causes of its
deterioration.


INTRODUCTION

Characteristics of stainless steel:

-    Contains iron and a minimum of 11 percent chromium

-    Marketed for its corrosion resistance, sanitary qualities and
    modern appearance

-    Expensive initially compared to aluminum

-    Low maintenance and replacement costs

-    More durable than most sheet metals

-    Capable of being polished using an electropolishing methods

-    Early standard finishes included hot rolled, annealed and
    pickled; still used today, but appearance is slightly
    different

-    Thin sheets could be produced using the cold reduction process
    (1947)- cold rolling of the metal into thin strips

-    Gold- and bronze-plated stainless steel was also produced and
    used in the late 40s


TYPICAL USES

Typical historical and current uses for stainless steel include:

-    Martenistic stainless steel (iron-chromium alloys containing
    1 percent chromium and .35 percent carbon) was originally used
    for cutlery and munitions in the early 1900s.

-    Ferritic stainless steel (iron-chromium alloys with a low
    carbon content) was used for the electric light bulb filament;
    also common for turbine blades  in the early 1900s.

-    Austenitic stainless steel (iron-chromium-nickel and iron-
    chromium-nickel-manganese alloys containing 18 percent
    chromium and 8 percent nickel) were developed between 1909 and
    1912 and are commonly used as formed sheets in architectural
    construction.

-    Precipitation-hardening stainless steel (titanium, boron or
    beryllium added to iron-chromium-nickel alloys as hardeners)
    was introduced in the late 1920s.

-    Manufactured in Great Britain for cutlery, stoves, and motor
    cars.

-    Marketed in the late 20s and early 30s for kitchen use, public
    lobbies, exterior ornament, railings, hardware, doors, light
    fixtures, furniture, signage and equipment.

-    Notable buildings incorporating the use of stainless steel
    include the Chrysler Building (1930) designed by William Van
    Alen, and the Empire State Building (1931), designed by
    Shreve, Lamb and Harmon.

-    Used for plaques, signs and sculptural elements as well as
    many extruded shapes for storefronts, trim and hardware.

-    Used in curtain wall construction in the 1940s and 50s.

-    Promoted in the 50s and 60s for gutters, roofing, flashing and
    sheathing.


NATURAL OR INHERENT PROBLEMS

-    Corrosion: Sensitive to hydrochloric acids.

-    Intergranular Corrosion: Under intense heat (900 to 1500
    degrees Fahrenheit), the chromium content of stainless steel
    is removed; the damaged area is recognizable by the presence
    of a blue and orange stain around the affected area; such
    intense heat can be produced when welding.

-    Pitting: Can occur when the metal is prevented from producing
    the chromium oxide film that protects it; this can result from
    dirt build-up on the surface that keeps oxygen from reaching
    the surface and developing this protective film.

-    Galvanic Corrosion: Stainless steel can become corrosive when
    comes in contact with lead, nickel, copper, copper alloys and
    graphite.


VANDALISM OR HUMAN-INDUCED PROBLEMS

-    Dents and Scratches: Common in high-traffic areas.

-    Warping: Can be caused by thermal expansion and exposure to
    intense heat.

                         END OF SECTION