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Stainless Steel Finishes

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Stainless steel rolled finishes provide both aesthetic and functional advantages for all types of stainless steel applications. These unique steel finishes are available in course, flat, reflective, and non-reflective options, providing enhanced metal protection and lasting visual allure. Whether you’re looking for a stainless steel finish that protects or enhances the stainless steel’s visual appeal, there are several options available that deliver the results you need.

Check out our selection of Stainless Steel at IMS!​

Stainless Steel Finishing Options

Your application requirements will largely determine the finishing options you need. Finishing options are numbered one through eight, with higher numbers more reflective than lower numbers. Lower numbers have a more matte finish, whereas higher numbers have a reflective, polished finish.

Stainless Steel Mill Finishes

Mill finishes offer a matte finish for stainless steel. It is ideal for applications that do not require bright finishes, or durability remains the most critical factor.

#1D Finish

The No.1D stainless steel mill finish requires hot rolling and minimal finishing to produce a uniform microstructure known as annealing to achieve its desired effect. This process results in the coarsest stainless steel finish available. The #1D finish creates a scale-like finish that is darker and more varied than other stainless steel finishes.

#2D Finish

The #2D finish is perpetuated through a cold-rolled, annealed, and pickling process that creates a dull matte appearance that is non-reflective. The #2D finish is ideal for gutters, drainage functions, and lubricants' retention in deep drawing applications.

#2B Finish

Providing a bright/high polish appearance, the #2B stainless steel finish is achieved through cold rolling, annealing, and pickling. The #2B finish is well-suited for solar panels and architectural applications. 304 and 316 grade stainless steels are often manufactured with a #2B finish.

Bright Annealed (BA) Finish

BA finish is bright annealed with a smooth reflective surface and cold-rolled processed. BA finish is similar to the #8 mirror finish but without a clear finish and an unscaled surface. BA finish is ideal for various fabrication projects and is often viewed as a lower-cost alternative to a buffed #7 or #8 mirror finish.

cold rolled stainless steel with BA finish

Stainless Steel Brushed Finishes

Brushed finishes offer a reflective option with parallel or patterned lines. Brushed finishes are often used for buildings and architectural applications.

#3 Finish

Also referred to as grinding, roughing, or rough grinding, the #3 finish is a 100-120-grit option that is applied through a one-directional course. The #3 brushed finish requires mechanical or gradual more refined polishing techniques via special coils or rolls. No. 3 brushed finishes are commonly used in food and beverage production services.

#4 Finish

The No. 4 finish provides a 150-180 grit option with a bright brushed finish characterized by short, uniform parallel polishing lines. Brushed #4 finishes are widely used for kitchen and restaurant equipment, food processing, dairy equipment, hospital surfaces, highway tank trailers, control panels, and water fountains.

Stainless Steel Polished Finishes

Hot rolled, then buffed, polished stainless steel finishes are highly reflective with a mirror-like shine.

#8 Mirror Finish

Defined by their high reflection and mirror-like appearance, No. 8 finishes are the most reflective according to ASTM standards. The #8 finish is created by mechanically treating the surface with a series of progressively finer abrasives. The final process involves buffing the surface for 5-10 minutes to create a mirror-like, highly reflective finish. Additionally, applying a #8 finish enhances corrosion resistance, eradicating crevices that promote corrosion. Mirror finishes are used for ornamental trim, cleanrooms, mirrors, wall panels, and architectural design.

Differences between Brushed Stainless Steel and Polished Stainless Steel

Brushed stainless steel finishes can vary due to abrasive techniques and sanding belt differences used for brushed stainless steel products. #4 finish offers more reflective qualities and lines than the #3 finish.
  • Brushed stainless steel finishes have a dull lustered appearance, whereas polished stainless steel has a bright, mirrored finish.
Polished stainless steel finishes are mirror-like with a highly-reflective appearance.

Which Stainless Steel Finish is the Best Type of Finish?

The best stainless steel finish will depend on your project requirements. Matte finishes are suitable for industrial uses that do not require smooth surface finishes. Highly reflective polished finishes are well-suited for aesthetic and ornamental applications.

Standard Stainless Steel Grades and Shapes that Benefit from Finishes

For construction and other building projects, standard stainless steel grades include:

Stainless Steel Shapes

Available in various shapes, stainless steel products often used for construction applications and available in different finishes include the following: Check out our selection of Stainless Steel at IMS!​

Find the Right Stainless Steel Products with Quality Finishing Options

Let us help you find stainless steel products with quality finishes. Our inventory of stainless steel products is available for will-call pickup or next-day local delivery. Order online or stop by one of our locations and get the best steel finish for your project today.

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