Excellent ductility, weldability, and corrosion resistance are what you can expect from the 300 series of stainless steel. But what distinguishes one grade over another? It’s all in the makeup. Let’s compare 304 vs. 316 as one example.

Excellent ductility, weldability, and corrosion resistance is what you can expect from the 300 series of stainless steel. But what distinguishes one grade over another? It’s all in the makeup. Let’s compare 304 vs. 316 as one example. 

As part of the five families of stainless steel, 304 and 316 are austenitic grades that contain high levels of chromium and nickel. This has the following impact:

 300 series stainless steel

Chromium – Increases tensile strength, hardness, hardenability, toughness resistance to wear and abrasion, resistance to corrosion and scaling at elevated temperatures. 
Nickel - Increases strength and hardness without sacrificing ductility and toughness. 

But the addition of alloy elements like molybdenum can make subtle, but important, differences:

Molybdenum - Increases strength, hardness, hardenability, and toughness as well as creep resistance, and strength at elevated temperatures.

So, how do 304 and 316 stack up in the tale of the tape?

 304 vs 316 stainless steel

 

As the most widely used of all stainless steel, 304 is most notably present in industrial applications and kitchen equipment. It is a highly heat-resistant grade, and offers good corrosion resistance to many chemical corrodents, as well as industrial atmospheres. With good formability, 304 can be readily welded by all common methods. 

304L is an extra low carbon variation that avoids harmful carbide precipitation due to welding. This variation offers the same corrosion resistance as 304, but with slightly lower mechanical properties.

When it comes to 316, you can expect better corrosion and pitting resistance to chlorides than 304 and higher levels of strength at elevated temperatures. This is due in part to the addition of molybdenum. This is what makes it an ideal grade for such applications as pumps, valves, textile and chemical equipment, pulp & paper and marine applications. 
316L is the extra low carbon version of 316 that helps avoid carbide precipitation due to welding.

When it comes to 304 vs. 316, while both are good for corrosion resistance, strength, welding, and heat resistance, 316 gets the slight edge in all these categories due to variation in alloying elements. 

Did You Know?

The price of 304 and 316 grades can fluctuate based on the ebb and flow of the raw material cost. To help offset these fluctuations, surcharges are added to the base price, typically per pound and varied by the mill. Check out the May Monthly Market Report from Ryerson for more information on the cost of these surcharges and some strategies for how to protect against potential volatility. iIf you are not a registered user, click here for a free preview of our Monthly Market Report.

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