Comparing Aluminum and Stainless Steel Metal Signs

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When you’re thinking about the vital area of metal signage for your business, whether indoor, outdoor or some combination therein, you have a few quality options available. Two of the most common and popular options for those in this position: Aluminum and stainless steel signs. 

When purchased through quality vendors like Signazon, who specialize in custom outdoor signs like aluminum metal signs, both these materials are excellent for business signage, and offer several positive qualities.

They’re far from identical, however, and it pays to know the situations where aluminum and steel differ for your metal sign needs. Here are several basic properties of each, plus some comparison points for those looking into metal signage. 

Qualities of a Great Metal Business Sign

Before we dig further into a comparison of outdoor vs steel signs, let’s first identify several qualities that make for a great business sign made of metal (or any other material, for that matter). These are the key traits you should be on the lookout for: 

  • Readability: The primary purpose of a sign is to deliver a message, so it follows that readability should be paramount. A sign that’s difficult or impossible to read is a wasted sign. The best fonts for signs are usually sans-serif fonts like Helvetica, Arial, or Futura, as these are the easiest to read from a distance.
  • Proper size: While a sign can technically be any size, smaller signs are usually better for portability and indoor use, while larger signs are better for outdoor visibility. That said, the size of your sign should be appropriate for the viewing distance of your intended audience; a small sign placed far away may as well not exist.
  • Durability: A sign is a long-term investment, so you’ll want something that can withstand the elements and continue looking great for years to come. This is why metal signs are often such a good choice; they’re built to last.
  • Stability: A sign that falls over or otherwise isn’t securely attached is not only an eyesore, but a safety hazard. Be sure that whatever method you use to mount your sign is up to the task.

Both aluminum and stainless steel products allow you to accomplish the above goals for affordable, realistic costs. Let’s dig into some specifics on each.

Basics on Aluminum

Aluminum is a well-known, versatile metal that was discovered nearly 200 years ago. It’s the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust, and is used in a staggering array of products, from aluminum foil to aircraft parts. Aluminum is notable for being both durable and lightweight, as well as being highly resistant to corrosion.

This means that, for those in the market for an aluminum sign, you’re getting a product that’s built to last. Whether your sign will be placed indoors or out, it will withstand the elements and continue looking great for years with minimal maintenance required.

Aluminum signs are also highly recyclable, meaning that they’re a sustainable option for those looking to reduce their environmental impact.

Basics on Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a type of steel (another metal with a long history) that contains at least 10.5% chromium. This results in a metal that’s highly resistant to corrosion, which makes it an excellent choice for those looking for a long-lasting product.

Like aluminum, stainless steel signs are an eco-friendly choice, as they’re highly recyclable.

Our next several sections will go over some specific qualities that we know business owners are looking for in the signs, plus how these two materials compare within these areas. 

Cost

The cost of your metal signage is naturally very important, especially if you’re purchasing several signs for use in multiple areas, and this is one theme where aluminum holds a significant advantage over stainless steel. Aluminum signs are less expensive to produce than stainless steel, and this is reflected in the price point; you can expect to pay around 10-30% less for an aluminum sign than a comparable stainless steel sign.

This is due mostly to the cost of the raw materials involved; aluminum ore is more abundant than chromium, which contributes to the lower price point. This doesn’t mean that stainless steel is a bad choice from a cost standpoint, but rather that aluminum offers a more affordable option for those working within a tight budget.

Weight

Another area where aluminum holds some real advantages is when it comes to weight. Aluminum signs are significantly lighter than stainless steel signs, which means they’re easier to transport and install. This can be a big advantage if you plan on moving your signs around frequently, or if you need to install them in a difficult-to-reach location.

While the weight difference may not seem like much at first glance, it can make a big difference when it comes to installation, so keep this in mind when making your decision.

Resistance to the Elements

As we touched on earlier, both aluminum and stainless steel are highly resistant to corrosion, which makes them ideal materials for outdoor metal signage. However, there are some subtle differences that can make a big difference in how your sign holds up over time.

Aluminum signs offer the best resistance to salt water corrosion, making them a good choice for those who are located near the ocean or who plan on using their signs in a marine environment. Stainless steel signs, on the other hand, offer better resistance to chemical corrosion, which can be important if you’re using your sign in an industrial setting.

Aesthetics

While both these materials look great in many settings, one element that separates aluminum from stainless steel is how much easier it is to cut, form, and engrave. This means that aluminum signs can be made in a wider variety of shapes and sizes, which gives you more freedom when it comes to designing your sign. 

Stainless steel is still a great looking material, but if you’re looking for a truly unique sign, aluminum may be the way to go.

Durability

One area where the two are relatively similar is in terms of durability; both aluminum and stainless steel signs can withstand a fair amount of abuse without showing signs of wear.

That said, stainless steel is generally the more durable of the two, as it’s less likely to dent or bend than aluminum — but this gap isn’t typically large enough to account for the other areas where aluminum is superior. 

Keep these tips in mind as you consider aluminum versus stainless steel metal signs for your business. 

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