Choosing the Right Tubing for Boat Bimini Frames: Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel
When it comes to building a durable and reliable boat bimini frame, the tubing material you choose is really important. There are two popular choices: aluminum and stainless steel. Each has its own special qualities and benefits, so which tubing type you pick depends on what you're looking for in a bimini frame. In this article, we'll talk about the main things to think about when you're trying to decide between aluminum and stainless steel for your bimini frame. This way, you can make a smart choice that aligns with your needs and requirements.
Strength & Durability
Aluminum tubing is known for being strong but not too heavy. It is a lighter-weight metal than stainless steel. This makes it a popular choice for smaller boats and slower speeds (35 mph or less). However, aluminum can get scratched and dented more easily over time.
Stainless steel tubing is stronger and sturdier than aluminum, but it's heavier. It resists dents and dings far better than aluminum. And its strength lends to sturdier grab holds and stability when entering and exiting the boat. Stainless can handle higher speeds and can also resist damage from fallen tree limbs and other light collisions better than aluminum.
Weight & Ease of Use
Weight is an important factor, as it affects your boat’s overall performance. Aluminum tubing is lighter than stainless steel, which makes it easier to handle and put together. This also makes aluminum easier to transport and store. It also means better fuel efficiency and easier steering when on your boat. Stainless steel is heavier, but it's really strong. This can be helpful in rough waters or when attaching additional accessories to the bimini frame.
Boats are often exposed to moisture and saltwater, which can lead to corrosion over time. Neither metal is fully corrosion resistant. However, depending on your location, one might be a better choice than the other. Freshwater doesn't have much effect on metal tubing, but saltwater can be a problem.
Aluminum tubing is naturally corrosion resistant due to its oxide layer. This makes it an excellent choice for freshwater and saltwater use. However, it is not completely corrosion resistant. In saltwater, aluminum tubing can oxidize and pit more quickly than stainless steel if not properly washed after a day on the water. Salt air will also add to the metal’s degradation over time.
Stainless steel is highly resistant — though not immune — to rust. If your tubing is exposed to chloride salts, free chlorine or sulfide gases, stainless steel can take on a brownish tint, also called a patina, or oxidize and even corrode. These elements are present in various environments, including ocean spray. But with proper care and cleaning, stainless steel can be maintained for a lifetime in excellent condition. Your bimini frame will remain structurally sound and look great even after years on the water.
It’s important to note that whichever metal you choose, your bimini frame will require regular cleaning and upkeep in order to maintain the integrity and longevity of the metal.
Cost is often a factor when choosing your bimini frame. Aluminum tubing is typically more affordable than stainless steel. Stainless steel is pricier, but it lasts longer and doesn't get damaged as easily. It's important to weigh the long-term benefits and maintenance costs associated with each metal.
Choosing the right tubing material for your boat bimini frame is crucial for its performance, durability and look. Aluminum tubing offers a lightweight and cost-effective option and is a great choice for most boats. Stainless steel tubes are heavier and last longer, which is good if you want a strong frame for a long time. Think about what's best for your boat, how much you want to spend, and how much work you want to put into keeping the tubes clean and maintained. Whether you choose aluminum or stainless steel, a well-built frame will improve your boating experience for years to come.
Bimini Frames at Sailrite
Ready to order your bimini frame? We stock both aluminum and stainless steel frames in a selection of bow quantities and tubing sizes. Whether you’re making a two-, three- or four-bow bimini, we have high-quality frames to suit your needs. All tubing bows are bent in Sailrite’s custom jig and cut just beyond the bow to keep shipping costs down and provide for greater on-site customization. Pair your Bimini Frame Kit with an accompanying Bimini Skin Kit and enjoy a well-fitting, custom-made bimini to keep you shaded and protected when on the water.
Shop Bimini Frame Kits at Sailrite and upgrade your boat today.