What Are The Best Raw Materials Choices To Build Metal Cabinetry?
It’s Not Only About the Thickness of the Metal that is Used
I am often asked about which cabinet materials are best to withstand the rigorous environment and weight load demands on a garage. While there are many aspects of use, performance, style, color and finish that influence your choice on what you will buy, material choice is a critical consideration if you desire cabinets that are durable, will last a lifetime and give you the best return on your investment.
In a previous article, I gave my opinion about wood-based cabinetry for the garage and why wood may not be ideally suited for the garage environment (you can read that article by clicking on this link). In this blog article, I will describe the performance characteristics of metal and why it is your best choice, covering which specific metals you can consider when making your selection.
Material Options for Metal Cabinetry
Aluminum, steel, and stainless steel are three of the most popular raw materials used in the construction of metal cabinets and each has a distinct set of properties and finishes across a wide range of performance and price points. Metal combines durability, beauty, stability and resistance to impact. It is the reason why all professional mechanics and shops use metal cabinets for their tool and bulk storage, not wood.
Whether yours is a working garage, a space to display your collection, or simply a place to organize and store things, metal is a great raw material choice for cabinetry, but it is important to select the right metal.
ALUMINUM: Lightweight & Affordable
While aluminum is typically not as strong as steel, it is also almost one third of the weight. If the weight of the cabinet is a concern, aluminum may be the best choice because it is lightweight. This is the main reason, for example, why aircraft and trailer cabinets are made from aluminum.
Aluminum does not rust, so if your cabinets are being used in a high-humidity environment, they will perform well. However, aluminum is susceptible to oxidizing and in climates where there is ambient salt in the air they can experience galvanic corrosion, so it may be less suitable in coastal environments especially when differing metals, like steel, are used fasteners and drawer glides.
All things being equal, aluminum will scratch, dent, bend and warp more easily than steel of equal thickness. As with steel, aluminum comes in a variety of grades. Some grades have better performance characteristics than others.
What We Use at VAULT® and Why
At VAULT® we are of the opinion that steel, stainless steel and galvanized steel are superior to aluminum cabinets and are the better overall choice. Here is some information that explains our reasoning why we prefer these metals over aluminum and all other raw material choices.
STEEL: Strength and Reliability
Steel is strong and less likely to warp, deform or bend under weight, force or heat. Nevertheless the strength of steel’s tradeoff is that steel is much heavier than aluminum. Steel is typically 2.5 times denser than aluminum. It is this density that increases the hardness of steel compared to aluminum. Hardness is a material’s ability to resist scratching and denting. Harder materials are simply more durable and more resistant to abrasion and denting.
While steel can be subject to rust, in the case of VAULT®, all exterior metal components of our cabinets are fully encapsulated with a thermally reactive powder coating, automotive-quality, polymer finish. This durable finish provides rust protection as well as a bright, easily cleanable surface for years of trouble-free performance.
The main advantage to powder coating steel is in leaving a very durable finish to protect and preserve the metal. Once steel has been powder coated, it creates a very durable finish that is chemical resistant, making steel an affordable raw material and given its durability and performance characteristics, an ideal choice for garage and shop cabinetry.
By comparison, painted aluminum surfaces, while admittedly beautiful, can be more easily damaged by chemicals or scratches.
GALVANIZED STEEL: An Old Champion
Another great option for metal cabinetry is galvanized steel. Metal galvanizing has been around for years and is a proven process for protecting metal. Unlike painting, galvanizing is a hot-bath coating process where molten zinc is applied to steel providing high durability protection against rusting.
The zinc acts as a sacrificial anode that provides protection even if the surface is scratched. The zinc galvanizing process creates an interesting surface finish inside our FORGED line of cabinets.
Galvanized steel has substantially greater abrasion resistant than paint, although it is less resistant to scratches than stainless. Yet, because the substrate is steel, it has all the structural benefits of steel. It performs well in high humidity in-land environments as well as coastal regions and is tough as nails.
In addition to its corrosion resistance, galvanized steel is an affordable alternative to stainless. It delivers all desirable the mechanical performance characteristics of steel: strength, rigidity, load bearing and durability, but at a lower cost when compared with stainless.
Galvanized is perfect as an interior cabinet finish. It is bright, oil and stain resistant, easily cleaned and will provide years of carefree performance. Our FORGED Series is the only galvanized steel cabinetry system on the market that was designed specifically for the garage. Take a look at this premium cabinetry for the working garage.
STAINLESS STEEL: The Alloy That Is Your Ally
Stainless is a steel alloy containing chromium, nickel and other metals that give it tremendous strength and durability, while preventing it from tarnishing, rusting or corroding. While the salt that present in the ambient air of coastal regions can have a damaging effect upon aluminum and steel cabinets, not so with stainless steel.
Of all the materials available for garage cabinetry, stainless steel is superior in its durability corrosion, chemical staining, impact resistance and its cleanability. All around, stainless is simply the best raw material from which to build cabinetry. Let me explain why.
Stainless is dramatically harder than other metals, particularly aluminum which is softer, scratches easily and is susceptible to ‘white rust’ and oxidation. Although stainless is more difficult to cut, form and machine, measure-for-measure, it produces the sturdiest cabinets.
While stainless is the highest cost among the metals used for garage cabinetry, it has the highest performance characteristics and will ensure years of unparalleled performance.
Only VAULT® builds cabinets from premium 304-grade stainless steel for the ultimate in strength, durability and protection. The chrome alloy and nickel that what is added to 304-grade stainless steel is what gives stainless its tremendous strength characteristics & properties that prevent it from rusting or corroding. It is the chrome and nickel that give our attractive cabinet interiors their bright, beautiful surface.
So, even if you live in a very corrosive environment, where even the ambient salt that is in the air can have a damaging effect upon aluminum and even painted steel cabinets, only premium 304-grade stainless steel offers the ultimate protection against the corrosive salt-water environment associated with living near the coast.
From a hardness factor there is a dramatic difference between stainless and other metals, particularly aluminum which is a soft metal which scratches easily and is also susceptible to ‘white rust’ and oxidation.
From a durability perspective, it is hard to beat the strength of stainless steel. Why is this important? Because the weight that you are going to be storing in your garage cabinets, is generally going to be heavier and bulkier than other items you’ll store in your home or shop.
While stainless may have a higher cost than other commonly used metals for garage cabinetry, it has the highest performance characteristics and will ensure years of unparalleled performance. Today, modern day space shuttles rely on the durability and strength of stainless. It is the best raw material from which to build cabinetry. Even our competitors offer stainless steel countertops for these very same reasons.
Our VAULT® Professional and Designer Series lines of cabinets are the only stainless steel cabinets on the market, made in the United States, that are designed specifically for clients wanting the very best performance. A perfect blend of brawn and beauty, check out these cabinet systems for the ultimate in garage and tool storage cabinetry, built to last a lifetime of use.
Note: All VAULT® products are manufactured in the U.S. in a ISO 9001 certified factory