Here’s what you need to know about Cor-Ten steel. CORrosion resistance-TENsile strength. Does this sound familiar to you? If it doesn’t, think of the name of one of the most popular materials used in architecture nowadays. That’s right, the name Cor-Ten steel stands for those two properties, which best describe this cutting-edge material. You’ve seen this natural-looking hardscape in buildings, bridges, retaining walls, fences, as edging, or even as sculptural masterpieces of art, everywhere around you. It is frequently used in architecture, construction engineering, and mostly, in landscape architecture.As one of the latest trends in the world of contemporary landscape architecture, Cor-Ten steel has become the novelty every landscape architect should know about. If you are willing to delve into the rusty nature of this appealing subject (don’t worry – you’re not going to get dirty), feel free to study the basic characteristics of Cor-Ten steel – from fabrication to recycling – within the framework of this essential guide.
Are Cor-Ten Steel and Weathering Steel the Same Thing? The first thing that needs to be clarified lies in the question: Is there a difference between Cor-Ten and weathering steel? The truth is that both names are used as synonyms, but they differ in their meanings. Weathering steel is a group of steel alloys designed to avoid the need for painting, which form a stable, rust-like appearance if exposed to the weather for several years.Cor-Ten, on the other hand, is the registered trademark held by The United States Steel Corporation, under which the weathering steel is best known. What Properties Does Cor-Ten Steel Have? The second important subject deserving your attention is the indication of this steel’s properties. As its name suggests, weathering steel has increased resistance to atmospheric corrosion in comparison with other steels. This is due to the protective layer the steel forms on its surface under the influence of the weather. By forming a film of dark brown oxidation over a metal barn or building, Cor-Ten successfully resists the corrosive effects of weather conditions such as rain, snow, ice, and fog. In this way, the protective layer prohibits deeper penetration of the elements and eliminates the need for painting and the expense of rust-prevention maintenance over the years, saving both money and time. Why Should You Use Cor-Ten Steel? Considering the advantages of the material, it’s no wonder that weathering steel is at the zenith of popularity in landscape architecture today. Ranging from engineering constructions such as bridges and buildings and reaching outdoor sculptures and art installations, Cor-Ten has also conquered exterior design and landscaping. Landscape architects and designers especially appreciate the material due to the following assets it provides:
- Combination of strength and durability with minimal thickness, resulting in the creation of fine, elegant solutions for the outdoor space.
- Generally available in sheet and plate form, facilitating the process of construction.
- Natural, warm, and specific hues, which easily blend into the overall landscape and add to the identity of a unified site
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Uses in Landscape Architecture The numerous architectural projects worldwide display the diverse uses of Cor-Ten steel, serving as excellent examples of the opportunities this material has opened to design. Fancy-looking Cor-Ten steel retaining walls, with their thin profile, significantly spare outdoor space. This is a plus that a concrete wall certainly doesn’t have. Weathering steel can also be used to design terraced or raised beds for vegetation, tapered strips to sculpt a terraced garden or steel-framed planters. Don’t forget the art installations and sculptures, where, once again, Cor-Ten steel has deservedly earned its fame.Standing out with its climate-resistance properties, this fast-working material allows artists and sculptors to easily transfer their conceptual ideas to a satisfactory realization. Read: The Pine Cones of Floyd Elzinga That Challenges your Perceptions Adding to the list of uses are water features, vertical gardens, fireplaces, edgings, or even garden steps. It seems that the only limit to Cor-Ten steel is the designer’s imagination. WATCH: How to Install Steel Garden Edging – Skemah 80a Corten
The Shortcomings of Cor-Ten Steel
After illustrating the numerous advantages of weathering steel, attention should be paid to the shortcomings of the material. Cor-Ten steel requires alternating wet and dry cycles to form a properly functioning protective coat. It shouldn’t be used in areas with salt-laden air, high rainfall, humidity, persistent fog, or generally hot, humid climates. Other challenges relate to construction in terms of special welding techniques. And –lastly, Cor-Ten steel may also stain surfaces located near it through its rust.Maintenance, Lifespan, and Recycling Although it’s not flawless, Cor-Ten steel’s perks undoubtedly surpass its offsets. These perks include:
- Minimal maintenance
- Long lifespan (some Cor-Ten bridges can reach 120 years)
- Exceeding all LEED requirements (100 percent recyclable)
Flawless or not, Cor-Ten steel is the appealing, rusty trend in landscape architecture, which, if used properly, simultaneously provides an attractive, low-maintenance, and economical design solution. Recommended Reading:
- The Innovative Use of Materials in Architecture and Landscape Architecture: History, Theory and Performance by Caren Yglesias
- Landscape Architecture, Fourth Edition: A Manual of Land Planning and Design by John Ormsbee Simonds
Article by Velislava Valcheva Return to Homepage Feature image: Abetxuko Bridge by J. Sobrino, PEDELTA, Abetxuko, Vitoria, Spain. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0Published in