Coastal Grade. What does it actually mean??

May 26th, 2020

Living in Australia it’s safe to say most of us have experienced a day at the beach, with the sand between our toes and that fresh salty air sticking to our skin. As much as its all fun and games having a day at the beach and enjoying the sunshine, could you imagine being left outside in one sedentary position all day and all night rain, hail or shine? That is exactly what your light fittings will be doing! Let’s think about them for a second while we consider our design needs.

 

As far as lighting goes, you will hear the term “marine grade” being thrown around, especially when you hand your plans over to the electrician and he checks your site location to read 123 the Esplanade! Here at Lighting Collective it is an all too familiar story and with the ocean right at our doorstep we thought it would be good to break down some of the other materials you can use in coastal areas aside from the classic “marine grade” and that can also withstand these extreme environments.

Brass

Brass is a fantastic material and one of our favourites here at Lighting Collective. Brass is an alloy which is comprised of copper and zinc. It has excellent corrosive resistance properties and is very malleable, which makes it easily machined into a variety of shapes and can come in a range of different finishes.

Fun fact: The earliest brass, called calamine brass is believed to have been created from a reduction of zinc and copper ores, which date back to Neolithic times!

While we all love the shiny gold finish of brass, this material also has the charm of being “the gift that keeps on giving”. Over time it will naturally start to oxidise, resulting in tarnish on the metal, which is referred to as patina. This helps to shield the brass from corrosion and gives it an aged look. Patina also acts as a protective layer which is what makes it such a durable material to use in coastal applications.  

Overall, brass is great material to use in coastal environments and it will adapt and change its appearance over time which gives it a certain uniqueness however, it will require a little TLC to keep up its shiny appearance if that’s the look you are after.


Copper

Copper is another enduring material that is favoured here at Lighting Collective and for good reason. Cooper is a natural resource and is one of the most hard-wearing materials on the market. It can easily withstand anything that the coastal environment can throw at it without rust or rot or becoming brittle from prolonged sun exposure.

Similar to brass and bronze, copper will naturally oxidise over time with exposure to atmospheric elements such as oxygen, rain, carbon dioxide and other sulphur bearing compounds. These elements will tarnish the natural copper and develop a protective patina layer. Copper can take years to develop what's called the verdigris patina, especially in dry climates.

Fun fact: Copper is man's oldest metal, dating back more than 10,000 years and it is recyclable!

Unlike brass and bronze, only specific cleaners should be used on your copper fittings if you want to keep them in their natural state. However, this can be A LOT of maintenance so I would advise to only select a copper fitting if you are happy with all stages of the ageing process, and let’s face it, it is a beautiful thing to age gracefully!

Overall, copper is a hearty metal and will not rust when left to the elements, although it will adapt with its environment and age accordingly to protect itself. 


Concrete

Concrete, our friend, our saviour! What can I say, concrete is the golden child when it comes to coastal applications. It is the most commonly used man-made material on earth so why not incorporate it into your lighting.
Concrete is a composite material which is comprised of cement, water and aggregate. Mixed together they create a beautiful paste which is then poured and hardened over time.

Fun Fact: Concrete was first developed by the Egyptians! It was a little different back then consisting of lime, chalk or oyster shells but this was used as a cement forming agent until the 1800s!

Concrete is extremely resistant and as it is not a metal it will not get effected by rust, corrosion, oxidisation or any type of rot. The sun and UV rays will not make it brittle and it is not affected by moisture, earning its position as the coastal “golden child” of materials. As far as long-lasting materials go, concrete is low maintenance and my top pick for coastal applications. The best part? You can paint it to match in with any design as well.


Overall Concrete is a fantastic material to use in coastal environments as it is content with neglect and the low maintenance lifestyle.


Stainless steel

Stainless steel is an alloy composed primarily of iron. There are many different grades of stainless steel, thousands in fact. However, we are going to focus on marine grade 316.

Stainless steel 316 is valued for its anti-corrosive properties, making it a great material to use around your coastal property. Along with many other ingredients it contains chromium, which gives its anti-corrosive properties.

Fun Fact: Stainless steel is recyclable. It can also be woven and worn!  

The chromium in 316 does oxidise over time which is where you might see the stainless steel start to tarnish but it is only a very thin layer and in fact, acts as a barrier against further oxidisation and corrosion. This can be removed by cleaning the metal with a stainless-steel cleaner to restore its natural beauty.

Overall stainless steel 316 or Marine Grade stainless is a great metal for coastal environments as it will withstand the test of time. It will need a little maintenance though if you want to keep it nice and shiny new looking.


Aluminium

When it comes to light fittings, aluminium takes the cake for popularity. Why? Aluminium is a cost-effective material which is soft, lightweight with a low density and the ability to resist corrosion – the trifecta.
Aluminium comes in varying grades, some which have higher corrosion resistance properties than others. That being said, aluminium is susceptible to corrosion from chloride, AKA Sodium Chloride aka SALT! Because of this, manufactures will apply a protective coating on their fittings to protect the aluminium from oxidation and salt corrosion. The three most popular protective coatings are paint, powder coating and anodizing.

Fun Fact: Aluminium is the most abundant mineral on Earth after oxygen and silicon and is found naturally on Earth!  

Paint is suitable for non-coastal areas and preferably interior use. It is susceptible to chipping and if the natural material is exposed it has the possibility to oxidise due to air exposure.

Powder coating is a fantastic way to protect aluminium for external use and coastal areas. There are also varying ways to powder coat, some which are more durable than others. As with paint, there is the possibility of scratching. If damage occurs it will require immediate attention otherwise the material will be susceptible to corrosion.

Anodized aluminium is corrosion resistant from chloride however it is subject to galvanic corrosion. Galvanic corrosion occurs when the aluminium encounters other metals such as copper and steel. So, it is best to isolate your anodized fittings or group them with others alike.

Overall, aluminium is a great material for coastal environments when covered by a protective layer. Not all aluminium products are suitable for coastal applications so when choosing from our range, make sure you select the aluminium fittings in our coastal grade collection.


Other Materials

Some other great options to use when looking at materials for your coastal project are glass, poly-carbonates and galvanised materials.

Glass is a great choice as it is extremely low maintenance and will not be effected by external elements. Just keep in mind that the back plates or other components used on a glass fitting are suitable for coastal areas as well otherwise you may find these parts will start to degrade while the glass stays in perfect condition.

As poly-carbonates are not metals they will not experience the common issues of rust, rot or corrosion. That said, some plastics can become brittle when subject to UV rays and long sun exposure.

Galvanised is another hearty material which will withstand a coastal application. This again comes in varying grades so please check out our coastal collection to see what suits your specific needs.

Still want to know more? Email us at info@lightingcollective.com
Or view our Coastal grade collection here!

Written by Jade Taylor

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