Aluminum vs Steel Manhole Covers

In a wide variety of industries the aluminum vs. steel debate rages on.  A number of products can be made from either material, from ski poles to SCUBA tanks to engine blocks and even vehicle frames!  In many cases, there is a balance between strength, weight and cost or worries about corrosion with these two materials.  The same questions are extended to manhole covers as well, which we’ll explore below.

            Manhole covers, whether new or replacement, come in a variety of materials including widely used steel and aluminum.  Steel is generally far stronger, cheaper and more common. You may often notice them at gas stations and parking lots.  Steel can also hold the weight of large vehicles and not fail. Although steel is cheaper and stronger, it is vulnerable to rust failure. For aesthetic applications, aluminum may be an appropriate rust-free solution. While alternative materials such as stainless steel manhole covers are also relatively resistant to rust, they can potentially rust over time while aluminum will not.  

            Aluminum manhole covers are far less common and have much more specific roles.  Aluminum manhole covers are commonly used in natural gas applications because they do not spark if struck.  Meanwhile, steel can easily spark and potentially ignite a leak, making them a poor fit for some applications. 

Aluminum is also far lighter than steel. Lightweight aluminum manhole covers are appropriate for areas commonly accessed by a single person in comparison to potentially needing assistance to lift a heavier steel cover. They are also resistant to temperature changes, so they can be used in a variety of climates. In addition, aluminum manhole covers are non-magnetic, which makes them ideal for use in areas where magnetic fields could interfere with electronic equipment.

            Much like other products, manhole covers aren’t exclusively steel or aluminum.  Clearly there are many different applications for either product and in some cases, mutually exclusive.  Steel can’t be used in natural gas applications where aluminum can’t be used in heavy duty traffic applications.  While steel is by far the most common, aluminum has carved a specific niche in the industry.

Looking for a quote on manhole covers or replacement manhole covers? Manhole Covers Direct is the nation’s leader in manhole cover manufacturing, contact us today to get a quote.