When Rust Looks Stunning – The Magic of Corten Steel

The Angel of the North by steve p2008 on Flickr under Creative Commons license 2.0

One of the most popular decorative sheet metals today isn’t smooth or shiny or sparkly – it’s actually rusty. But who would want to work with rusty metal? The answer is thousands of discerning artists, architects and designers, and the metal is called Corten steel. Cladding, sculptures, garden accessories and more are all being made out of this unique metal, which is as hard-wearing as it is strikingly beautiful.

You’ve probably come across Corten steel buildings or works of art without even realising. Corten (AKA weathering steel) is easy to identify because of its distinctive, bright orange hue. One of the most famous examples of Corten steel is right here on our doorstep in Newcastle: the magnificent Angel of the North by Antony Gormley.

You don’t have to be a Turner Prize winner like Gormley to use this metal, though. With the current trend for all things industrial, Corten steel panel is making an appearance inside homes, bars and restaurants, as well as being a hit outside. Some of the most prestigious landscape gardeners in the world use weathering steel for everything from fencing to sculpture. And if you don’t happen to be a prestigious landscape gardener, you can still bring this edgy, urban look to your back yard with the addition of Corten steel planters and fire pits.

So, what is Corten? And if it’s rusty, how come it’s so sought after? Well, it’s actually an alloy, and the addition of chromium, copper and nickel to the steel means that when it is exposed to the elements, oxidisation occurs. See, Corten doesn’t start out orange; it’s actually a dull, bluish grey that changes drastically over time. Oxidisation makes the metal start to turn reddish in the outdoors, and why the stuff also goes by the name of weathering steel. The outer coat is more than just rust, though: it’s a tough patina that protects the metal within, as well as making it look good. Galvanized steel sheet might be famous for being able to withstand the elements, but Corten is even tougher.

Where to buy Corten steel, then? And how much will you need? The amount of metal you need for a project is obviously going to depend on the size; it could be anything from a little sheet for a small scale art project, right up to enough to clad the side of a very tall building. At Buy Metal Online, we specialise in custom-cut sheet metal, meaning we can provide you with precisely the amount you need, with no minimum order. Our Corten steel sheet prices are competitive – find out more here. As well as supplying this beautiful metal in its sheet form, we also offer a range of garden accents, including Corten steel planters, fire pits and even large scale, decorative letters. See the full range here.

Whatever you choose to do with Corten, one thing’s for sure: it’s more than just a pretty facade. This stylish metal is long-lasting, durable and tough.

Before and after: raw vs weathered Corten