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Metal vs Alberta’s Harsh Climate: Rust and Corrosion Prevention

Today’s technology and ability to manufacture quick and cost-effective products has allowed us, as consumers, to enjoy access to disposable products that function “well enough”. Although we have great respect for the IKEA’s of the world, we know that our customers and clients want functionality AND longevity, especially in a Canadian climate.

One of the most commonly asked questions that our Miscellaneous Metals Division gets asked is:

“How can I make this product last through multiple winters without it rusting?”

We get it, we don’t want your piece of art, trellis or lamppost disintegrating at the sight of snow and so we have some insight to offer you when you’re choosing the right metal for the foundation of your product. We’ve taken your most commonly asked questions and grilled our Fabrication expert.

Question: What metal will stand up to Canada and Alberta’s harsh winters?

Answer: Stainless steel or aluminum.

Stainless steel, although slightly more expensive that other metals like galvanized or aluminum, does not rust or corrode as easily as other metals. So, despite spending a bit more on material upfront you won’t have the need to replace your product anytime soon, saving you money in the long run!

Aluminum also stands up well to elemental corrosion. Yet you need to be aware that if the aluminum meets concrete a chemical reaction may occur between the concrete and aluminum that will cause the metal to weaken and speed up the corrosion process. In cases with fresh concrete, the concrete will crack.

Question: Are there different types of Stainless Steel?

Answer: Yes! There are two types of stainless steel that we most commonly use at IMARK, #304 and #316.

Stainless 304 is most commonly used in sanitation and culinary applications as it is resistant to bacteria. That is why you see commercial kitchens covered in stainless steel and more recently in residential kitchens as it gives you a clean, professional look and feel.

Stainless 316 is most commonly used in commercial applications as it is resistant to chemicals.

Both 304 and 316 are weather resistant.

architectural fence

Laser Cut, powder coated, stainless steel fence panels on St. Anne Street in St. Albert, Alberta. 

Question: What if I have my product powder coated, won’t the powder coating prevent rust and corrosion?

Answer: Yes and No.

Powder coating must be primed and applied correctly for limited rust and corrosion to happen. Unfortunately, powder coating is not bullet proof and any nicks or damage that occur to the finished product leaves it susceptible to corrosion and rust to the new exposed base material.

Another thing to be aware of when powder coating tubing is that the powder coat application doesn’t reach the inside of the tubing leaving it susceptible to rust and corrode from the inside out.

We understand that powder coating is essential to achieve the colour you want but we still highly recommend having the product manufactured in stainless or aluminum so that if overtime there is a nick or scratch, your product is less likely to rust and you can simply touch up the powder coat.

metal chair furniture

Powder coated bench at Alex Decoteau Park in Edmonton, Alberta. 

Question: I was told that if I have my galvanized material treated (coated) it will not rust or corrode as easily.

Answer: This is true to some degree. It is very important in this situation to ensure that your galvanized materials are fully treated so that the coating enters the inside of the materials.  At IMARK we ensure that the treatment reaches the inside of materials by creating holes in the tubing allowing the liquid treatment to get inside.

Galvanized structural supports at Telford Lake boardwalk extension in Leduc, Alberta. 

Questions: If you were commissioning this project, what would you choose?

Answer: At the end of the day if you want your product to outlast our nine months of winter, we suggest choosing the right base material for the job: stainless steel or aluminum.

If you use stainless or aluminum together with a powder coat finish the chances of your product being rust free for years to come increases significantly.

If you have more questions about how to weather proof your next metal project, reach out to Chris McGeough our miscellaneous metals guru at 587.525.7050!


Q & A answers provided by Chris McGeough

Chris has over 20 years of welding and miscellaneous metals experience, and has been a part of numerous landmark metal projects in Edmonton. While you have him on the phone, ask him how his men’s league hockey team is doing.

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