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Metal Types and Finishes Guide

From cookware to light fixtures, metal can be found anywhere in your home. We take a look at the five most common metals used in furniture and decorative accents. We also break down five common metal finishes that can influence the way metals look.

1. Aluminum

Similar in appearance to stainless steel, aluminum is lighter and less strong than steel. It can be a low-cost replacement to steel. Aluminum also doesn't rust, though it does oxidize, creating a chalky white residue. Aluminum is often used in outdoor furniture.


2. Brass

A yellowish, gold-like alloy of copper and zinc, brass is commonly found on lighting and fixtures like curtain rods, knobs, and sink faucets. Though brass has an upscale appearance, the maintenance is low. Simply clean with mild soap and water. Solid brass can be expensive, look for plated brass for a budget-friendly price.


3. Copper

Much like bronze, copper is reddish-brown in color and is found on all types of décor like lighting and sinks. Look for copper on high-quality cookware because of its superior heat conductivity. Copper can patina to a greenish-blue over time due to oxidation. To prevent this from occurring (especially if copper is used outdoors), coat with beeswax or carnauba wax and lacquer.

stainless steel

4. Stainless Steel

An alloy of carbon, iron, chromium, and other metals, stainless steel is found in furniture and fixtures throughout the home, from accent tables to kitchen sinks. Because of the chromium it doesn't rust, oxidize, or corrode and is a low maintenance material. It's much stronger than its lookalike aluminum.

wrought iron

5. Wrought Iron

Wrought iron refers to metal that has been hammered or bent into shape, as opposed to being cast or poured. Therefore, it has a roughed up surface. Wrought iron is commonly used to make fireplace accessories, pot racks, rustic beds, lighting, and more.


5 Common Metal Finishes

1. Antiqued

This finish makes the metals appear to have stood the test of time, often by darkening or tarnishing it.

2. Brushed

A matte finish looks as if it has been smoothed with a paintbrush, leaving faint brushstroke marks in the metal.


3. Hammered

It's as simple as it sounds. Metal with a hammered finish appears to have been pounded and has many small indents adding texture to the surface.


4. Polished

This finish creates a reflective, mirror-like surface on metals. A polished surface shows smudges and fingerprints more readily than other finishes.


5. Satin

Similar to brushed metals, however this type of finish is smoother and oftentimes without brushstroke marks. The sheen is between matte and polished.

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