Benefits and Drawbacks of Galvanized Steel

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Benefits and Drawbacks of Galvanized Steel

benefits drawbacks galvanized steel

If you’re purchasing steel for a project where rusting or other corrosion prevention are vital factors, one process you might be considering for your steel is known as galvanization. Referring to the process of coating the steel with zinc oxide during manufacturing, galvanization protects your steel and may also change its appearance to a format many prefer for visual projects.

At Wasatch Steel, we’re happy to explain the galvanization process for any of our steel tubing, steel plate or any of our other steel products. There are also certain situations where you want to avoid galvanization depending on the project you’re working on – let’s go over the entire process and its pros and cons.

How Galvanization Works

In the majority of cases today, steel manufacturers will galvanize a piece of steel by dipping it into a vat of molten zinc. When this happens, the zinc bonds itself to steel in a similar way to any other alloy – it becomes an actual part of the chemical composition of the steel itself.

This means that between the steel and zinc is a gradient mixture of both compounds that combines their properties. This is known as hot-dipped galvanization, and is the most common process. There is another process where zinc is sprayed onto the steel instead, but this process creates a weaker zinc layer and isn’t as common.

Pros of Galvanization

There are several distinct benefits to galvanization of steel:

  • Corrosion resistance: The iron naturally found in steel is highly susceptible to rust and other forms of corrosion, but galvanization protects it from these risks. It acts as a protective buffer from moisture and oxygen reaching the iron level and creating rust.
  • Sacrificial anode: The zinc coating acts as a full-on protector for the steel, from corrosion to other damage. Any damage or corrosion that takes place impacts the zinc layer first and leaves the steel itself intact.
  • Lifespan: Industrial steel that’s been galvanized will last over 50 years in average environments, and over 20 years even with major water exposure. This is without any significant maintenance.
  • Simple inspections: Maybe best of all, you can tell how strong a galvanized coating is just by looking at it in most cases. Even if not, a quick stress test will tell you everything you need to know.

Cons of Galvanization

There are also a couple potential downsides to be aware of with galvanization:

  • Impractical items: Certain pieces of steel are too large or small to be hot-dipped in the common galvanization format, and other formats also may not make sense.
  • Zinc needs: Zinc requires time to cool down and settle into a given steel to prevent it from pulling off. If the process is rushed, the zinc will not bind to the steel properly and may not provide the desired benefits.

For more on steel galvanization, or to learn about any of our steel products or services, speak to the staff at Wasatch Steel today.