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Stainless steel fasteners are a popular component for a wide range of applications across an equally diverse range of industries.
While picking the right fastener might not have immediate signs or benefits to some, choosing the wrong fasteners can be catastrophic.
This guide will look at popular fastener types and designs, which grades of stainless steel are best suited for specific applications or environments, additional considerations when choosing the ideal fasteners, and standards you might reference to ensure safety and long-term performance.
In most cases, the stainless steel fasteners we’re discussing in this guide are likely a form of screw or bolt.
They’ll consist of a head, a shaft, and a threaded end.
Diameters and lengths vary greatly to help you find options to suit nearly any application.
In most cases, heads are either hex-shaped, socket-shaped, or screw-topped with a driving recess.
However, studs do not include a head, instead relying on a threaded or smooth shaft that can interface with other fastening components on both ends.
When combined with other parts, such as domed nuts, standard nuts, flat washers, lock washers, and wing nuts, fasteners like bolts, screws, and studs can hold components in place, attaching sections of piping, and accomplishing a wide range of connection and placement functions.
Stainless steel’s outstanding strength and corrosion resistance make it an ideal option for various applications where carbon steel or other materials might quickly fail or degrade.
While treatments or plating can improve the corrosion resistance of other metals, stainless steel fasteners and components allow you to skip the added cost or durability concerns associated with these processes.
Stainless is also a self-healing product with minimal maintenance requirements so long as oxygen is readily available in the use environment.
The long service life and minimal upkeep justify the added cost associated with stainless steel for many use cases.
Popular stainless steel fasteners we regularly stock include:
Hex head bolts
Redi-Rod (threaded rod)
Full threaded studs
Socket head capscrews
Socket set screws
Button head socket capscrews
Flat head slot machine screws
Round head slot machine screws
Round head socket wood screws
Round head socket sheet metal screws
While all stainless steel bolts, screws, studs, caps, bolts, and other fasteners will provide some corrosion resistance, choosing the right grade is essential to optimizing service life and cost.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider the following options.
By far, 304 stainless fasteners are the most commonly produced and used fasteners across a range of industries.
From piping flanges and kitchen equipment to attaching ornamental tubing products—such as stainless steel handrails—or sealing connections with pressure vessels, 304 is an affordable yet reliable option for most parts.
If you require higher corrosion resistance, grade 316 stainless steel fasteners and components provide options for saltwater applications—such as oil and gas processing—or processes involving frequent exposure to caustic chemicals—such as chlorides.
However, they do so at a higher cost.
So unless you need the additional resistance, you might be spending more than required.
Both of these grades are austenitic stainless—meaning that, as a rule of thumb, the hardware will be magnetic, not heat treatable, and acceptable for cold forming.
If you need non-magnetic or heat-treatable fasteners, consider 400 series martensitic grades such as 410 and 420. However, remember that these grades are harder to cold form if required.
You’ll also find fasteners made from other more exotic alloys and grades.
However, unless they offer a specific benefit to your application or use environment, they may not be the most cost-effective option for your project.
Still, this level of flexibility makes stainless steel a popular alloy across a range of industries.