Learning About Steel Corrosion and Prevention

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Learning About Steel Corrosion and Prevention

rusty metal scaffolding elements, closeup of photo

For many steel and metal workers, avoiding corrosion is one of the most important factors in any project. Corrosion, or any deterioration of a material caused by interactions with the environment, can be a major hurdle to completion of a given steel project.

At Wasatch Steel, we’re here to help. Here are some basics on corrosion, plus some tactics for preventing it while working with metal.

Corrosion Basics

Corrosion is a natural process that takes place all over the world. It requires the presence of three specific conditions: Moisture, a metal surface, and an oxidizing agent (also called an electron acceptor).

During the process of corrosion, the reactive metal surface is converted into a more stable form – one such form is rust, for instance. There are varying possible negative effects from corrosion on metal, including safety and collapsing of structures. All metals corrode, but at least 25 percent of corrosion can be prevented using the right protection – let’s go over that in our next section.

Preventing Corrosion

There are a few areas you can consider when looking to prevent corrosion in steel:

  • Type of metal: The simplest way to prevent corrosion is to use a metal that’s naturally resistant to it, such as aluminum or stainless steel. In many cases, using these metals will stop you from needing other corrosion protection.
  • Coatings: A good, cost-effective way of limiting corrosion is using a paint coating application. Many paints can act as a barrier between the corrosive solution and the metal under the paint. Others look to powder coatings, or even sacrificial coatings – this is the process of coating the metal with an additional metal type, such as zinc, that’s meant to eat up the oxidization and prevent the base metal from receiving it.
  • Environment: Corrosion is caused by a reaction between a metal and the surrounding environment, so if you can control the environment, you can limit it. This may include something as simple as limiting moisture exposure or maybe a more complex process like controlling the amounts of a given element in the environment.
  • Corrosion inhibitors: These are chemicals that react with the surface of a metal to limit the reactions that lead to corrosion. Corrosion inhibitors form a protective film around the metal.
  • Design modification: In some cases, modifying the design of a metal can help improve the durability of protective coatings. Look for designs that do not trap dust and water, and that encourage the movement of air while avoiding open crevices.

For more on avoiding corrosion, or to learn about any of our steel services, speak to the pros at Wasatch Steel today.