Published: August, 2020

CorTen Weathering Steel - The Facts

Kinley only uses the best quality materials across our landscape products. Find out more about CorTen and weathering steels, and why we recommend it.

What is weathering steel?

Weathering steel refers to a range of steels with a chemical composition that makes them more resistant to atmospheric corrosion compared to other, mild steels. The steel forms a protective layer on its surface under the influence of outdoor weather conditions. CorTen is an example of a weathering steel.

The origins of CorTen

The original weathering steel was developed and patented in 1933 by U.S. Steel under the brand name  Cor-Ten®, deriving it’s name from ‘CORrosion Resistance’ and ‘TENsile Strength’.

It was standardised as a product by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). 

In more recent years, ‘CorTen’ has become a standard term covering both Cor-Ten® and weathering steels. In general, all weathering steel grades have equivalent corrosion resistant properties, as well as a similar look and feel.

CorTen was originally developed for railroad coal wagons but soon became popular in construction due to being structurally strong and requiring little or no maintenance.

By the 1950s and 60s, it’s strength and industrial beauty made CorTen popular for artistic and sculptural projects. Today, one of the largest users of CorTen is the shipping container industry.

At Kinley, CorTen steel is used across our Perimeta Planter range for its quality and versatility.

CorTen A and B

The original CorTen was ASTM A242 which is widely known as Type 1 and Type 2, or CorTen A and CorTen B.

  • Type 1 (CorTen A) is available in 2mm – 12mm thick sheets or plates.
  • Type 2 (CorTen B) has the addition of vanadium, making it suited to heavy structural applications. It is generally available in 2mm – 40mm thick sheets or plates.

In Europe, Steel Grade S355JOWP is equivalent to CorTen A and S355JOW is equivalent to CorTen B. Another option, S355J2W, which is also equivalent to CorTen B, is more economical but also fully recyclable.

At Kinley, we use all types of Cor-Ten and weathering steel at our in-house Innovation Centre in East Sussex to fabricate our planter systems. 


Manufacturing and weathering

Weathering steel undergoes a hot rolling method during production, which sees the steel being passed between rollers at very high temperatures. During this process, the iron waste material (known as ‘mill scale’) moves to the surface. This leads to rust run off and staining during the early stages of the weathering process.

Once the outer iron waste layer has rusted away, the material has a stable surface with minimal shedding or staining. The process can be accelerated, or the raw material can be ‘pickled’ where an acid treatment is used to remove the mill scale prior to delivery.

Find out how Kinley ensured minimal run off and staining when installing planters at Rushden Lakes.

Finished look

CorTen steel embraces its surroundings and its final finish depends on the environment where it is installed.

For example, it will appear different in coastal areas as opposed to inland or under tree cover. The beauty of CorTen is the natural inconsistencies in the finish.

However, water pooling and puddling will affect appearance and reduce the life of the material, so this needs consideration during design and installation.

As the steel ages, it will darken in colour.

Example of how the colour can change over time: (Source - The Nippon Steel Corporation).

How to spot imitations

Mild steel tends to be much cheaper than weathering steel so it is not uncommon to find products claiming to be CorTen when in fact they are actually standard grade mild steel.

Unless you are a metallurgist it is very difficult to see any visible differences between mild and weathering steel in its unweathered state.

All CorTen and weathering steel can be supplied with a material certificate that confirms it is genuine. Any steel stockholder who is CE (BS EN 1090-2) approved will be able to supply this documentation.

At Kinley we only use certified CorTen steel and we are always happy to provide you with a material certificate on request.

Benefits of using CorTen

All weathering steels have the rust layer which protects the steel beneath, making them much more corrosion resistant and long-lasting than standard mild steel alloys.

When the initial rusting process is complete, the steel requires little or no maintenance, making it ideal for large scale and high profile projects.

Its make up ensures the material’s strength, yet it remains flexible enabling it to be formed  to create various shaped planters, among other products.

CorTen’s versatility goes beyond its strength and flexibility. It can also be powder-coated in any RAL colour to fit seamlessly into a landscape design.

We carefully choose the materials that we use in all our landscape products to make sure that you have the best quality, hardwearing design, as well as being aesthetically beautiful. This is why we use certified CorTen steel across our planter range.

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Rushden Lakes, Northampton, UK

Rushden Lakes is a shopping centre near Northampton. Completed in March 2017, the £39m project opened to the public in July.

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