Carbon Steel – A Cost-Effective Alternative To Stainless Steel

I’m sure you’ve heard about how good stainless steel is, especially in terms of it’s looks, durability, and light weight. However if you want the real deal, then you’re going to have to pay for it. Yes, stainless steel doesn’t come cheap!

So what if you don’t particularly care about aesthetics or weight, or you can’t afford stainless steel? Are there any other alternatives?

If your main concerns are durability, strength, and most importantly – cost – then yes there are! How about carbon steel?

While all steel is made using a degree of carbon, as the name suggests, carbon steel contains a higher degree of carbon during the manufacturing process. This typically gives it its dark or black colour. Conversely the main ingredient of stainless steel is chromium which gives it its aesthetic polished appearance. Just to confuse matters, carbon steel can actually contain small amounts of carbon (less than 2%) at one end of the spectrum – this is known as mild carbon steel. Alternatively, it can also contain higher amounts of carbon which is more commonly known as high carbon cast iron.

So what about the advantages?

Budget friendly

Firstly the most obvious benefit will be to your wallet. Typically mild carbon steel is up to 5 times cheaper than 304 stainless steel, so you get a lot more bang for your buck. However this varies from one steel grade to another. Carbon steel also has a naturally high tensile strength than say your common or garden 304 steel would. So a little goes a long way. This is great for those on a budget because the less base material you need, the more affordable a project will be.

Highly durable

Carbon steel is known for its high durability factor. For this reason it’s very popular when used in a wide variety of infrastructure and construction applications. It’s non-combustible, resistant to inclement weather conditions, and resistant to changes in pressure. It’s also resistant to vibration shock too, making it great for laying under roadways etc.


While stainless steel is highly recyclable, so too is carbon steel. In fact the best thing about both types of steel is that they can be recycled many times over without losing any of their strength or durability. For this reason steel is the most recycled material on the planet and at present 70% of the world’s steel is recycled. This is more than paper, glass, aluminium, and plastics combined!

Higher tensile strength

Carbon steel naturally has a high tensile strength. This means that it can be bent, stretched, and shaped into a wide variety of components and parts without losing any of its strength. For this reason, carbon steel tubing can be made thinner while supporting substances under a greater pressure.

Aside from aesthetics, the only real downside to carbon steel is that due to its elemental make-up it’s heavier than stainless steel tubing. Even though manufacturers will produce relatively thin tubing (see above), it will still be heavier than it’s stainless steel cousin.

Still unsure whether to opt for carbon steel or stainless steel for your project? Come and talk to Metro Steel! As experienced fabricators in the Brisbane area, we can advise you of the best materials for your project. To find out more, contact us on 07 3204 1000 today.

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