Stainless Steel Material Selection Guide

stainless steel material selection guide

Stainless steel is used for applications across a variety of industries, and there are several grades to choose from. Having so many grades of stainless steel available can be overwhelming, and makes selecting the appropriate one for your application challenging. There are several factors to take into consideration when making that choice, so we’ve put together a stainless steel material selection guide for you to reference as you make your decision.


Martensitic stainless steels tend to be on the brittle side, not as easily formable, so it’s best to avoid this group. Austenitic stainless steels are the best choice for formability, especially grade 304. Even a ferritic grade such as 430 would work well.

Welding & Fabrication

Both welding and fabrication affect the cost-effectiveness of a product, so you want to be careful with the type of grade you choose. The most weldable grade is the austenitic group, such as types 304L or 347. Ferritic steels such as grades 430 or 439 are also readily weldable, while martensitic grades are not suitable for welding.

For any stainless steel grade, be sure to take extra care and consideration that there is no compromise of mechanical properties during the welding fabrication process.

Machining Requirements

Most grades of stainless steel are able to be machined, but special considerations need to be accounted for to alleviate the issue of hardening. This is done by adding sulfur to the steel to help increase machinability. An austenitic example is grade 303, while grade 416 is ferritic steel with sulfur added.


Austenitic steels, such as grade 316, provide increased strength and durability in addition to greater toughness compared with ferritic and martensitic grades; this is due to higher nickel content.


Cost is relative and varies depending on your application and the type of stainless steel needed. Material cost should be measured by several factors, including cost of maintenance or replacement over the years – paying more initially may end up saving you money in the long-run. It’s also essential to consider the choice between specially manufactured products compared with standard stock products, which can differ substantially in price.

Corrosion Resistance

Stainless steel is notorious for its corrosion resistance properties. Each steel grade provides varying amounts of resistance, so you want to be sure to choose carefully based on your application. Finding a cost-effective grade that offers enough protection in a corrosive environment can be challenging, but in general austenitic stainless steels provide the best corrosive resistance due to their high levels of chromium. Grade 304 and grade 316 are both excellent options.

Contact the Stainless Steel Experts at Atlantic Stainless

Before you make your decision on which grade of stainless steel needed for your application, it’s important to consider all the characteristics and properties of each grade. This effort will pay off by way of cost-effective fabrication and trouble-free installation. Referring to our stainless steel material selection guide will help you make an educated decision on which grade of stainless will work best for your project.

Atlantic Stainless is proud to be a trusted distributor of the highest quality stainless steel; we are truly a “one-stop” stainless steel service center. If you have a project in mind, request a quote from us today!