Corten steel, also known as Cor-Ten steel or weathered steel, is a popular material used across a wide range of industries such as outdoor construction, where it is favoured for its ability to resist corrosion and for its added tensile strength—hence its name “cor-ten”. Corten steel weathers over time and forms a rust-like layer that acts as a protective barrier against the elements, meaning it does not need to be painted. For ordinary Corten steel, this rust layer takes time to appear and stabilise, usually around 3-10 months—and this is where the pre-weathered version comes at an advantage.
Pre-weathered Corten steel gives you all the benefits of the weathering right away. It is extremely popular in the UK for a wide variety of construction purposes, particularly exposed steel structures. Pre-weathered Corten steel can be used for ornamental and decorative purposes like façades and sculptures, as well as in larger engineering projects.
Uses for pre-weathered Corten steel
The essential advantage of pre-weathered Corten steel, and Corten steel in general, is its resistance to environmental conditions. The rust layer that forms can withstand the worst the weather can throw at it.
A popular design choice for many large urban buildings is a Corten steel façade, with Corten cladding sometimes covering as much as the entire exterior construction. Not only does this provide an attractive, eye-catching appearance, but these façades also become highly resistant to corrosion.
Because of its striking appearance, Corten steel is often used by creative architects for artistic and abstract architectural installations, such as the winding path structures at the old Chemin des Carriéres rail track, near Obernai in France. It seems at once out of place and strangely at home in this natural environment.
Roofs and decorative features
Corten steel has become a common choice as a roofing material for its extremely high corrosion resistance. Again, due to its rich colour and notable appearance, it is also used as a building material for decorative features of all kinds, such as intricately designed panelling or structural flair.
Rusted Corten steel sculptures are a common sight in many towns and cities today, as the metal material lends itself well to a broad range of artistic visions. For abstract art, its range of oranges and browns gives it the impression the sculpture is at one with the environment, and the illusion of age, while our familiarity with that recognisable rust appearance grants it certain urban and industrial values.
Ornaments and garden features
It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but Corten steel garden ornaments have also become very popular in recent years. Features like this can be seen in both domestic settings and commercial use, such as garden edging or grand features in estates. The rusted colour works almost as an accent in an otherwise natural and green space, and everything from large “moongates” to small art pieces for the garden are often made from Corten steel.
Corten steel is also often the material of choice for public monuments such as war memorials. The steel gives monuments a contemporary style while at the same time being capable of embodying historical significance.
With such extreme strength and longevity, Corten steel is also used in a variety of engineering projects. It removes the need to paint and maintain buildings or structures since it is naturally resistant to corrosion. It can be used in things like bridges and transmission poles, where it greatly reduces the cost of maintenance.
Some of the most iconic buildings and sculptures in the UK feature Corten steel construction.
Sir Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North
Probably the most famous example of a sculpture made using Corten steel is the impressive “Angel of the North” located in Gateshead, Newcastle. Withstanding the harsh northern weather and wind speeds over 100mph, it is the landmark of this region. Corten steel was essential for the construction of this 200-tonne, 20-metre-tall sculpture, as the bronze that would typically be used for sculptures of its kind simply would not have held the weight.
The Crystal Palace Concert Platform, London
By 1997, the Crystal Palace Bowl of Crystal Palace Park in London needed renovation. A Corten steel structure was chosen for its replacement, featuring a bold, angled roof above a hardwood stage. The roof and its adjoining structure are entirely cladded in Corten steel.
Royal Shakespeare Company’s Courtyard Theatre
Though the last performance there took place in 2010, the Courtyard Theatre of the Royal Shakespeare Company, in Stratford-upon-Avon, remains one of the most well-known examples of Corten steel used in urban construction. It was created as a steel extension which at first was envisioned as a temporary installation, though the plans now are to have it permanently house the new theatre.
Corten steel is a remarkably versatile material that has advantages both for the strength and reliability of the construction itself, and for its striking appearance and versatility. It will endure the elements for decades without sacrificing aesthetic appeal. Buy Metal Online is one of few UK retailers making pre-weathered Corten steel available, so you can benefit from the distinct, orange-brown patina straight away, and have its stable layer protecting the project from the elements as soon as it’s installed. You can see what your completed project will look like without waiting several months for the weathering to occur naturally.
Whatever your discipline, whether you’re interested in using pre-weathered Corten steel in construction and engineering projects, or in architectural or landscaping work, Corten steel is a fantastic choice of material for virtually any project you might think of.