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What Is Corten Steel?

A corten steel alloy is a type of steel alloy that is a type of steel alloy designed to naturally develop a rust-like patina, while simultaneously creating a protective outer layer that resembles a rusty surface. Weathered steel, also called corten steel, creates an appearance of rust after many years of weathering, without the structural damage that is associated with rusting. 

A product originally intended for building railroad coal wagons, this product has now gained widespread use for outdoor sculptures and architecture. Corten steel is known for its rusting or weathering process, which is what makes it special. The corten rusted steel does not prevent rust, but instead, it forms rust only on its outer surface. Chrome, copper, and nickel improve the weather resistance of Corten steel, which allows it to develop a desirable patina over time.

Corten Steel: Everything You Need To Know For Your Garden

Corten has been known for its outstanding corrosion resistance (COR) and tensile strength (TEN), two distinct characteristics from which its name comes. If exposed to the elements, it forms a protective oxide layer of rust when exposed to the elements. The beautiful color created by the natural rusting of the metal means that no paint has to be used to create the rich, earthy look in the metal that continues to grow every year. Additionally, this layer of rust provides complete protection to the raw steel beneath it. 

What Is Special About Corten Steel?

During its exposure to the environment, Corten steel is exposed to oxidation over a long period of time and, as a result, develops a patina or outer layer of rust. A dark brown oxidized coating is not an indicator of deterioration, as it acts as a barrier, prevents further corrosion from occurring, and prevents deep rust penetration from occurring. 

When steel is rained on or exposed to moisture, the rust layer thickens. When the steel is rubbed repeatedly, the rust layer thickens. After a while, however, it stabilizes and forms a natural look that other metals cannot achieve by applying fake paint and finishes. It is important to note that if you are using this type of barrier, you do not have to maintain your outer rusted layer or your steel interior, which is something that most other types of steel require regular maintenance on. 

In Corten steel, there is natural rust that occurs on the surface that changes color, and pattern, and ripens as it ages. With time, the rust on the surface will become more and more attractive, giving the steel a more appealing appearance. By using Corten steel as a material of choice, you can be sure that it will not deteriorate over time. This is why Corten steel is a very popular choice for garden edgings, planters, and other outdoor fixtures for many people.

What Is Corten Steel Made Of?

Corten steel is a type of steel that is slightly tempered steel that contains phosphorus and nickel-molybdenum as well as copper.

There are two types of Corten steel, Corten A and Corten B. Corten B, on the other hand, contains less carbon, manganese, and silicon and is more phosphorus, copper, and chrome dense. This composition makes Corten A a great material for aesthetic fascias and outdoor sculptures due to its composition. Compared to Corten A, Corten B contains more carbon, manganese, and less phosphorus, thus making it suitable for heavy and load-bearing structures, commonly used in construction. 

How Thick Is Corten Steel?

It is observed that the thickness of Corten steel varies greatly according to the type. Corten A, for example, varies from 1 mm to 12 mm in thickness and is commonly produced as a coil or sheet; Corten B on the other hand is commonly produced as a plate. Corten B has a thickness of between 15 and 50 mm.

Corten Steel: Everything You Need To Know For Your Garden

Pros & Cons Of Corten Steel 

There are various applications of Corten steel all over the world because of the quality attributes that make it such a beneficial material to use in many different areas of construction. It is also used for decorative metal art and facades for outdoor use. 

Despite the fact that Corten steel has its downsides, the sheer number of times it is used in modern architecture and construction shows that the positives often outweigh the negatives when it comes to using this material.

Pros Of Corten Steel

The following are some of the advantages of using Corten steel:

  • Durability 

Steel is widely recognized as being one of the most durable forms of metal on earth, and it can last decades for the right place and finish.

  • Anti-corrosive Properties 

This layer of corrosion-resistant rust that forms over the Corten steel will act as a shield from corrosion and prevent corrosion from occurring.

  • Highly Resistant To The Weather 

In order to prevent corrosion and deterioration of Corten steel, it is necessary to expose the steel to harsh environmental conditions and weather, which allows the steel to develop rust that is protective. This prevents corrosion and deterioration of the material because it allows rust to dry faster and thicker, resulting in a beautiful patina to develop.

  • Protective Self-regenerating Surface Layer 

If exposed to the elements, the layer protecting the surface of the surface develops and continues to regenerate over time.

  • Distinct Rust-like Appearance That’s Great For Aesthetics 

In the context of sculpture, architecture, landscaping, and other buildings, weathering steel, often referred to as corten steel, is known as the perfect material for blending well with the environment, and whose appearance even improves over time.

  • Low Maintenance Requirement 

It is through the rust formation that the surface can be sealed and a protective layer is formed. This reduces the amount of glare that you can expect on standard metals. As a result, there is a reduction in the amount of maintenance necessary. It is simply necessary to clean and inspect Corten steel products. In order to clean the rusted surface, you have to rinse it well with water to remove any natural debris or contamination.

  • Cost-effectiveness 

If corten steel is purchased at an initial cost that may be higher than mild steel or ordinary steel, but if it is maintained properly it actually ends up being more cost-effective in the long run.

  • Environmentally Friendly 

Unlike aluminum, corten steel is a sustainable and recyclable option for those seeking an environmentally friendly metal.

Cons Of Corten Steel

The following is a list of some of the drawbacks of using Corten steel.

  • Retention Traps 

The disadvantage of using Corten steel or weathering steel is that it is not completely rustproof. If they are used in buildings and water accumulates in the pockets of the steel, these areas may have higher corrosion rates because continuous damp or wet conditions prevent the oxides from crystallizing, resulting in higher corrosion rates. If metal wall art is hung outdoors, it may trap moisture, so you must be careful how you hang it. 

  • Staining 

In order to reduce the risk of rust staining on nearby surfaces as a result of corten steel’s initial surface weathering, it is important to use designs that drain loose rust products to neighboring surfaces. Choosing the right metal art design can help mitigate this risk. 

  • Compatibility With Climates 

There are some climates in which Corten steel is not able to prosper. It is sensitive to humid climates. In these climates, the protective patina may not form properly, and the steel may continue to corrode. 

  • Welding Technique 

When welding Corten steel, you need to take similar precautions to when welding mild steel. It can be welded manually or mechanically, however, the only difference is that you can sometimes need to use a special filler material to produce your weathering steel weld. If the mechanical properties of the weld and the base material are identical, it is crucial to use appropriate welding consumables and welding conditions.

Corten Steel Raised Beds

The general form of corten steel thickness has been discussed here, and the use of it in construction and architecture, but now let’s talk about how to grow plants in raised beds made of corten steel. In most environments, the atmospheric corrosion resistance that occurs on corten steel raised beds actually makes them more corrosion resistant than other materials. 

Corten Steel: Everything You Need To Know For Your Garden

As long as you know the process of patina formation and how COR-TEN is used, then you can determine whether or not it would be the best place and use for your work.

  • The design

Besides building structures, corten steel has a lot of uses other than large buildings. One of the most notable developments in the common production of weathering steel is making stylish and striking garden beds with corten steel. In the case that consumers want to plant in the traditional raised bed format (such as Birdies Urban Short 9-in-1 ), or even the small planters that can be placed on top of rails or counters, there are a number of different ways in which these corten steel beds can be used. There are also round planters that are perfect for any urban gardener who wants to start plant life in their area. 

There is a continual renewal of strong yield strength in the steel alloy that takes place as they rust. This leads to an improvement in the appearance and the corrosion resistance of the bed’s exterior as it is exposed to the elements over time.

  • The placement process

In order to prevent corrosion, the alloys in the construction of corten steel beds do runoff, so it’s best to place them on the earth, or in a place that does not have a lot of runoff. Planters that are placed on paved surfaces, such as in business complexes, will leach the weathering steel surface onto the pavement surface, especially if it rains frequently. The alloys are not a structural problem because they regenerate continuously as the metal rusts, but any surface that the beds are placed on will collect that run-off material as they accrete. To learn how to clean any developing stains, you can check out the last section of this article. 

The yield strength of the metal will continue to be the same as it would if it were placed directly on the earth, so it is not a threat to the environment, nor is it a threat to the plants you are growing, as we have already discussed. This is a more aesthetic concern because the metal can stain concrete if it is not monitored and maintained constantly. The weathering steel that is running off of a surface should be cleaned up immediately by continuously cleaning it or by power washing it. Otherwise, if you want to prevent any stains from appearing on your corten steel beds, you can put them on rust-colored gravel, wood, or simply dirt. 

  • Corrosion Acceleration

There is one more interesting topic about corten steel beds: the ability of the consumer to speed up the corrosion to the desired style by themselves. In addition, the beds are shipped right from the factory coated to prevent corrosion, and then once they arrive on the ground, they begin to rust naturally. However, once it wears off, the natural corrosion process begins to occur on the surface of the metal. However, you can actually make the weathering steel rust in your preferred color at home.

You can speed up the rusting process on your corten steel beds by adding 2 ounces of vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 16 ounces of hydrogen peroxide to your spray bottle. If you wish to wear gloves and goggles and spray the entire planter box, wear gloves and goggles. Wipe the surface with a towel if you need to smooth out the texture. As a result, the patina begins to develop more rapidly, and on the oxidized metal, a protective coating forms. Throughout the process, allow it to dry between treatments until you get the desired result on your metal planter. Repeat the process two or three times until you get the desired look. 

Corten steel is an extremely durable material. The process of accelerating corrosion on your corten steel bed is easy and can take place over multiple applications of the homemade solution. It is yet another benefit of working with corten steel in your garden. 

  • The sealing process

When you have oxidized the corten steel, or when it has reached the oxidation you desire naturally, you can seal the metal to keep it from rusting in the future. A number of sealants are available on the market, some of which are appropriate for the project. The best sealant for such a project is a polyurethane-based sealant. It is important to remember that the sealant will darken the outside of the bed. So, you should test the sealant first before deciding to make one. Select a small area of the bed and apply the sealant there. Once it has dried completely, you should be able to see if it has dried. If you are satisfied with the way the bed has turned out, apply the sealant over the entire exterior of it to create a finished look. Once you are satisfied with the final result, wipe it on the outside and give it an even coat. 

  • The best way to clean Corten stains

If you have already placed your bed on a concrete surface, and you have stains that are starting to form, then it is not a problem at all. It would be best to test this solution on a small area of the pavement to ensure that it is effective. Take out some vinegar or lemon juice from your cabinet and find some vinegar to wash the pavement. 

You can use either of these chemical agents (or a mixture of both of the agents) as you wish and leave them to sit for several minutes. After that, you need to scrub the affected area with a wire brush, then rinse the area with water to remove the cleaner. Repeat the process as many times as necessary until the stain is removed.


How long does corten steel take to rust?

As a general rule, Corten steel will patina or rust within six months of being exposed to the atmosphere. In most weathering steel types, wet/dry weathering is required weather cycles