STAINLESS STEEL COMPARED

Why Choose Stainless Steel for Ornamental Tube Products

If you’re looking for an ideal material for your ornamental tube products, stainless steel is hard to beat. Let’s explore why!

Ornamental tubing is an essential element of a wide range of products spanning an equally vast range of industries.

While its name might suggest that it’s just for looks, often ornamental tubing is a critical component in the safety and operation of the environments or equipment on which it is used.

In this guide, we’ll look at:

  • Common uses for ornamental tubing

  • Why stainless steel ornamental tubing is a popular choice

  • The types of tubing typically used

  • Considerations you should keep front of mind when designing with this common type of tubing or purchasing tubing for your next project.

Where is Stainless Steel Ornamental Tubing Used?

Ornamental tubing is a very common product. You have likely interacted with a piece of it already at some point today.

Common uses for ornamental tubing include:

  • Grab bars in washrooms

  • Handrails for hallways or steps

  • Handrails for elevators

  • Running or step boards on vehicles

  • Handles for ovens, refrigerators, and other restaurant equipment

  • Swimming pool rails and ladders

  • Boat rails and ladders

  • Exercise equipment

  • Medical equipment

Whether you’re at work or at home, there’s likely a piece of ornamental tubing just steps away!

Why Use Ornamental Stainless Steel Tubing in Your Design?

In general, you’d use stainless steel ornamental tubing for the same reasons you’d use any stainless steel product.

The biggest concern in most cases is corrosion resistance. Stainless steel’s passive layer means you don’t have to worry about corrosion and degradation in moist or acidic environments.

However, easy maintenance is also a primary consideration in many cases.

The same passive layer and smooth finish, which help protect stainless steel from corrosion, also provide straightforward maintenance and cleanup.

In most cases, the only supplies needed to keep stainless steel looking great are warm water, mild soap, and a soft cloth.

However, stainless also works with a wide range of cleaners and can even be sprayed off in many cases allowing for flexible maintenance in various settings.

Finally, stainless is strong and long-lasting. Whether you’re using it for handles, handrails, structural elements, or ladder rails, the weakest point on many stainless steel ornamental tubing installations isn’t the tube but the mount itself!

Combine all of these traits with affordable pricing, ample supply, and near-endless customization options, and it’s easy to see why this type of tubing is so popular across a range of industries and implementations.

What to Consider When Choosing Stainless Steel Ornamental Tubing?

Like choosing any stainless steel piping product, understanding the various characteristics and options available is essential for finding the ideal part for your project or design.

In this section, we’ll look at things you should consider.

The priority of each consideration will largely depend on your individual goals and requirements, so while we’ll present them in a specific order, feel free to weigh one consideration heavier than others as it applies to your situation.

Disclaimer: All choices should be made with the assistance of a qualified professional. The following information is intended as a high-level overview of the options available. You should not take it as purchasing recommendations without first consulting an engineer or other qualified party to assess your exact needs and requirements.

Ornamental Tube Shapes and Sizing

One of the most obvious ways to differentiate stainless steel ornamental tubing is its shape.

Typically, the tubing is available in round, square, or rectangular shapes.

Multiple shape options allow you to match the tubing to both the visual style and the intended function of the final product.

Rectangle stainless steel tubing, for example, might serve well as a load-bearing surface for ladders or as a storage or shelving component.

Round tubing will provide a comfortable and reliable grip for elements such as grab bars or handles.

But shape will also influence the size of tubing available.

For example, within each of these shapes, Unified Alloys offers the following sizes:

  • Round tubing is available in outer diameters ranging from 0.5- to 6-inches.

  • Square stainless steel tubing is available in outer diameters ranging from 0.5- to 8-inches.

  • Rectangular tubing is available in sizes ranging from 0.5-inches-by-1-inch to 0.5-inches-by-12-inches.

Choosing the Ideal Grade of Stainless Steel

In most cases, stainless steel tubing is available in two grades: 304/304L and 316/316L. 304/304L is the most popular grade of stainless steel in use today.

So which should you choose?

Again, it depends on your intended use.

In many cases, the primary determining factor will be the need for additional corrosion resistance against chlorides and acids.

If you’re looking to use the stainless steel ornamental tubing in corrosive environments–such as food processing, breweries, paper and pulp processing, oil and gas processing, medical and pharmaceutical settings, chemical processing, or maritime applications–the enhanced corrosion resistance offered by 316/316L ornamental tubing will be well worth the additional cost.

However, for more decorative applications in less corrosive environments–such as automotive trim, residential kitchen equipment, or appliances–304/304L ornamental tubing offers excellent corrosion resistance for light-to-moderate uses at a more affordable price point.

For more information on how these two common stainless steel grades compare, consult our guide, “304 vs 316 Stainless Steel: What You Need to Know.

Putting a Final Touch on Your Selection with Finishes

Finally, within each tubing size and shape, you’ll find a variety of stainless steel finishes.

The ideal finish will depend on your application, but the most common finishes for ornamental tubing are:

  • Mill Finish: Keeping the standard mill finish saves money while allowing you to apply a finish yourself to suit your exact requirements. This can also provide you with the opportunity to fabricate or weld using stainless steel tubing without the worry of marring the finish.

  • 180 Grit: Capable of producing a range of finishes, 180 grit is typically used in coarse, brushed, architectural, dairy, or sanitary finishes. These generally are smoother than mill finishes without the bright, mirror-like finish of higher grits. These finishes are typically used when an item will see frequent use as it provides an optimal balance of visual appeal, corrosion resistance, and easy cleaning.

  • 600 Grit: Often used with decorative tubing and trim, these high-grit finishes provide an ultra-smooth surface with a bright finish and clear reflections similar to chrome or a mirror. However, the finish is typically more expensive and will require more delicate upkeep to avoid fingerprints and smudges.

You can read more about finish types and the impact of finish on stainless steel characteristics in our guide, “Stainless Steel Finishes.

Additional Considerations

Each of the above considerations will start to form an ideal use case for your stainless steel product.

The following considerations aren’t directly related to one specific trait but are typically influenced–sometimes subtly and other times more overtly–by the choices in the other considerations.

Before finalizing your product choices or beginning to implement stainless steel ornamental tubing in your project, you should also consider the following:

  • Weight: The ideal weight of a stair rail embedded in concrete stairs will differ from the perfect weight of a commercial oven door handle. Always consider how sizing and shape will impact the overall weight of your material choice and how that might impact operation and maintenance requirements.

  • Environmental Suitability: Understanding the environment where you intend to use your stainless steel tubing is one of the most complex yet critical aspects of choosing the ideal product. Choosing poorly could result in hazardous situations or premature failure, while over-engineering could incur high costs and wasted resources. Finding the balance is key!

  • Cost: If you’re engineering with a strict budget, every consideration in this guide will have an influence–some larger and some smaller–on the materials costs of your project. Understanding the cost-to-benefits ratio of these considerations for your specific application can help you to make cost-cutting decisions wisely if required.

Key Takeaways

  • Stainless steel ornamental tubing is used for far more than just decorative elements.

  • It is common in grab bars, handrails, automotive running or step boards, handles for commercial and consumer appliances, swimming pool accessories, boat accessories, exercise equipment, medical equipment, and more!

  • Stainless steel’s corrosion resistance means that it’s well-suited as a material for use in a vast range of environments where other metals might quickly degrade, requiring rapid replacement and increased maintenance and upkeep.

  • Keeping stainless steel ornamental tubing clean is simple, often requiring only warm water, mild soap, and a soft cloth.

  • When determining the best tubing for you, be sure to consider how the shape might impact performance and use. Square, round, and rectangle tubing provides flexibility in implementation and design.

  • Round and square stainless steel ornamental tubing is available in outer diameters ranging from 0.5- to 8–inches.

  • Rectangular tubing can reach sizes up to 0.5-inches by 12 inches.

  • When not intended for use in chloride-rich or acidic environments, 304/304L stainless steel ornamental tubing provides an excellent balance of cost and performance.

  • For chloride-rich or acidic environments, 316/316L tubing is a far better choice for safety and estimated service life.

  • The finish on your tubing can make a big difference in both the appearance of the tubing and its maintenance requirements. 180 grit provides a durable surface with minimal maintenance a clean appearance. If you’re looking for something brighter, 600 grit provides a bright, mirror-like finish similar to chrome.

  • Mill finished stainless steel ornamental tubing offers cost savings and additional flexibility in applying your finish. It’s also ideal for situations where extensive fabrication or welding might damage the finish on pre-finished tubing.

  • All of these considerations will ultimately impact a range of other characteristics, including the weight of your tubing, its suitability in varying environments, and your product’s final cost.


Unified Alloys is a leading provider of stainless steel ornamental tubing in Canada. Our extensive selection of products and decades of experience uniquely position us to help serve the needs of industries, big or small.  Contact us today or browse our product selection to see how we can help with your next design, product, or project!