September 2016

Welcome to ‘Stainless Solutions’ from IMOA. Each month, we will cover a different stainless steel issue with tips on design and specification, and links to technical resources.  This month’s issue explores four very common and safety critical applications – railings, walkways, platforms and stairs.
Railings, Walkways, Platforms and Stairs in Corrosive Environments

Safety is the first consideration when designing handrails, walkways, platforms and stairs. They should also require little or no maintenance, and when the application is not industrial, be aesthetically pleasing. Stainless steel has always been a popular choice because it provides high strength, design flexibility, durability and wear resistance, which is essential for slip-resistant surfaces and structural integrity.

If the correct stainless steel is specified, coatings can be eliminated, avoiding expensive maintenance. This is critical in industrial applications where coating failure can be a source of contamination, such as in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries or where the environment is particularly corrosive such as in water treatment, wood pulp and chemical plants. Exterior applications are also presenting more challenges as the world’s population is increasingly concentrated in coastal zones, rising sea levels are causing more storm surge flooding, and the use of deicing salt is growing.

Advice on specification of common tubular handrail finishes can be obtained in The Construction Specifier article Get a Grip on Stainless Railing Finishes. Specialized finishes are discussed on IMOA’s website.

Type 316 industrial stairs (left photo credit TMR Stainless), Australian coastal swim club stairs (center photo credit Paige Stainless Fabrications) and Japanese subway railing (right photo credit JSSA).

Higher alloyed stainless steels like Type 316 and the even more corrosion- resistant duplex stainless steel 2205 are becoming increasingly common. Fabrication advice for austenitic (i.e. 304/304L, 316/316L, etc.) and duplex (i.e. 2304, 2205, etc.) grades is available for suppliers who are unfamiliar with them.

IMOA’s Site and Design Evaluation System was developed to help decision makers in selecting the correct stainless steel, and there are five case studies related to this topic illustrating use of the system in evaluating real projects around the world.

One of these projects is Queens West Pier in New York City, which has Type 316 stainless steel railings, light poles and seating. The railing sections near the shore are splashed at high tide and are exhibiting corrosion staining. A study carried out by IMOA demonstrated that selective use of a more corrosion resistant stainless steel with a smoother surface finish was advisable near the shore in this location to avoid frequent manual cleaning (IMOA case study 10 provides more details).

Case Study 10: New York Pier Railings
English (PDF, 685 K)
Spanish (PDF, 610 K)

Case Study 1: Pittsburgh and Chicago Handrails and Street Furniture
English (PDF, 261 K)
Spanish (PDF, 196 K)

Case Study 5: Hong Kong Building Exteriors and Railings
English (PDF, 234 K)
Chinese (PDF, 309 K)
Spanish (PDF, 189 K)

Case Study 6: Canary Islands 2205 Duplex Railings on a Rocky Shoreline and Type 316 Lampposts
English (PDF, 197 K)
Spanish (PDF, 167 K)

Case Study 9: Australian Coastal Swimming Pool Fence
English (PDF, 529 K)

Project Examples
Here are a few examples of the many interesting projects around the world:

New York City’s Highline Park is situated on an elevated former railway line. It has become both a major tourist attraction and a popular place for residents to stroll. Type 316 stainless steel was used extensively for railings, stair treads, seating and many other details to provide the low maintenance and durability needed for the project.

(Photo credit Nicole Kinsman)

The Gap in Torndirrup National Park near Albany, Western Australia is a popular tourist destination because of the coastal cliff formations and the spectacular views of the salt spray as waves crash into them. Obtaining a good view was dangerous until the completion of 2205 duplex stainless steel walkways, railings and a platform that extends out over the cliff in early 2016. This more corrosion-resistant alloy was a natural choice due to salt spray exposure and the need for safety, long term durability and a maintenance-free service life.

Four Freedoms Park is a memorial honoring U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in New York City. Corrosion resistant 2205 duplex stainless steel was necessary for the sculptural handrails because coastal storm surges can flood the park with brackish or salt water. The railings needed to be as durable as the massive blocks of granite in this highly-acclaimed new monument which was constructed to last for hundreds of years.

The spectacular Gobbins Coastal Path in Northern Ireland is becoming one of Northern Ireland’s premier attractions. The one kilometer walk along the cliff face has 18 bridges and four staircases. Type 316L (UNS S31603) stainless steel with a bead-blast finish was used because of 50-year design life and the need for low maintenance.

This Euro Inox case study describes the very light weight and attractive stainless steel and glass emergency fire stairway that was added to the Palazzo della Ragione in Milan, Italy, after its restoration.

English (PDF, 440 K)

This Euro Inox case study describes the glass and stainless steel walkway at the Basilica of Aquileia, Italy UNESCO World Heritage site over the 4th century stone mosaic floor.

English (PDF, 500 K)

Stainless Steel Library

Download a free Stainless Steel Library (zip file, 559 MB) with over 360 pdfs covering building and construction applications, selection, specification, fabrication, sustainability and other common questions.

Stainless Solutions e-newsletter archive

For previous issues or to subscibe to the e-newsletter, please visit the archive page.

Continuing Education – American Institute of Architects (AIA)

IMOA is an AIA continuing education system approved provider with eight 1-hour programs that are registered for both live face-to-face and distance learning credit.

1. Stainless Steel Sustainable Design
2. Bioclimatic Design With Stainless Steel Weather Screens
3. Stainless Steel Structural Design
4. Stainless Steel Specification For Corrosive Applications
5. Deicing Salt: Stainless Steel Selection to Avoid Corrosion
6. Stainless Steel Finish Specification
7. Advanced Stainless Steel Specification and Problem Avoidance
8. Specification of Stainless Steel Finishes and Grades For Corrosive Applications

For more information or to schedule a workshop contact Catherine Houska, 412-369-0377 or email

What is IMOA?

IMOA (International Molybdenum Association) is a non-profit industry association, which provides technical information to assist with successful specification of molybdenum-containing materials. Molybdenum is an element. When it is added to stainless steel, molybdenum increases its resistance to corrosion caused by deicing salts, coastal atmosphere and pollution.

If you have a topic suggestion for a future issue of Stainless Solutions or need additional technical advice on stainless steel specification and selection, please get in touch here.

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In providing consultation or other assistance with respect to technical issues, any consultation, assistance or material is provided for the general information of the recipient and should not be used or relied upon for any specific application without first securing competent advice. IMOA and their respective employees, consultants and members (i) make no representation or warranty, express or implied, of any kind with regard to such consultation, assistance or material including no representation or warranty of  suitability for any general or specific use; (ii) assume no liability or responsibility of any kind in connection  therewith; and (iii) disclaim any and all liability for any claim that arises therefrom. 

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