When you purchase furniture for your deck or patio, are you paying attention to the hardware that comes with it?
Well you should be!
Some furniture companies send cheap steel hardware with their patio furniture. But you should always use stainless steel screws, nuts, and bolts when assembling your tables and chairs.
If you’re not sure whether the hardware is stainless or not, call the manufacturer to find out. And if it isn’t, you don’t have to give up on the set altogether. Just replace the nuts and screws with stainless versions.
So why should you be using stainless hardware in your outdoor furniture?
It’s corrosion resistant
Corrosion, aka rusting, is common when certain metals are exposed to water and other contaminants. Corrosion weakens the steel and makes it more prone to breaking. Also, as it oxidizes the rust can actually stain the surface around it, causing permanent damage to your furniture and cushions. Stainless steel is resistant to corrosion — although not corrosion-proof.
To understand the material’s corrosion resistance, you have to know what stainless steel is.
Stainless steel is an alloy made up of different materials like nickel, copper, titanium, aluminum, and others. But it must be at least 10.5% chromium by weight to qualify as “stainless”. The chromium reacts with oxygen in the air to create an invisible layer of chromium-oxide called the “passive layer”. This film is what helps to prevent corrosion of the steel underneath. The more chromium in the steel, the better the corrosion resistance.
But the corrosion resistance will only last as long as the passive layer stays in tact. Fortunately, this passive layer is self-healing, up to a point. When the layer gets scratched or damaged, the freshly exposed chromium in the metal will react with oxygen in the air, reforming the protective layer.
Deep gouges, however, or water deposits that aren’t cleaned can penetrate the passive layer beyond its ability to heal itself.
To protect your stainless steel hardware, start by keeping it clean, especially if you live near the beach. Salty air can leave deposits on the stainless steel that will lead to corrosion.
Avoid abrasive cleaners, as they can damage the passive layer. Instead, clean your furniture with a pH neutral cleanser and a microfiber cloth. And use a cover on your furniture when it’s not in use!
Stainless steel is surprisingly sustainable. It can be melted down and separated back into its component alloys, like nickel, copper, and chromium. This recycling doesn’t cause any degradation or decreased performance in the resulting steel.
Well-cared for stainless hardware will probably never need to be replaced. It’s resistant to extreme temperatures, and all kinds of weather.
What to look for in stainless steel hardware
There are over 100 different grades of stainless steel hardware, but you only really need to consider two — 304 and 316.
304 is the most common grade, and consists of 16 – 24% chromium. It’s more affordable than other stainless grades, and should work for most outdoor furniture.
316 is the second most common grade. It’s also called “marine grade”, because it’s often used in saltwater environment. It has about the same chromium content as the 304, but it also contains 2 – 3% molybdenum which makes it more corrosion-resistant. If you live near the beach or are looking for furniture for your boat, this may be a good choice. But if you’re inland, 304 will do just fine.
|Pro Tip: All ECCB Outdoor poly lumber Adirondack chairs and outdoor furniture use #316 stainless steel!
While 316 is more expensive than 304, it’s not prohibitively so. A kit of marine grade screws will cost about $37 on Amazon, while a similar set of 304-grade screws can be had for about $17.
There are additional grades with more molybednum, but these are generally only required for commercial uses. Both 304 and 316 are considered food safe, so you could use them to assemble your dining table or outdoor cooking station.
Where to get stainless steel hardware
If you need to source your own stainless steel nuts and bolts, try a website like Bolt Depot or Amazon.
Make sure to get the right size hardware! Trying to force a screw that’s too large can damage your furniture. And a screw that’s too small can result in the collapse of your table or chair. If you’re not sure what size you need, the furniture manufacturer should be able to help you.
You don’t want to risk ruining your outdoor furniture investment by using an inferior fastener. Spend the extra time double-checking the quality of your hardware, and provide your own if necessary. It will help to ensure the long life of your patio set so you can enjoy it for years to come!