Steel, Corrosion and How to Prevent Rust Issues, Part 1

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Steel, Corrosion and How to Prevent Rust Issues, Part 1

steel corrosion prevent rust

Virtually everyone who has interacted with metal in their life has seen rust, an orange-brown discoloration that can build up on metal and affect both its appearance and its structural quality. Rust is not just an ugly, unsightly blemish on any structure – it’s also the cause of numerous structural issues, including collapses in extreme cases where rust is not properly controlled.

At Wasatch Steel, we offer both steel products and steel services that take rust into consideration. Whether you’re buying steel bar, plate or other forms of our high-quality steel, rust prevention is an important area to keep an eye on. This two-part blog will cover the basics on rust, steel alloys that are rust-resistant, and some various additional tips for ensuring rust doesn’t damage or even destroy your steel structure.

Rust Basics

Rust, for those unfamiliar with it, is one type of iron oxide that can be present on a metal. When iron present combines with the oxygen already in the air, corrosion takes place – this can happen to various iron and iron alloys, of which steel is just one example.

There are several risk factors when it comes to metal and rust, but water is by far the most significant. Water molecules can make their way into tiny gaps in metal that would otherwise be protected, bringing oxygen into exposed areas and beginning the rusting process. If salt is present in the water, the process will only move faster, as will any exposure to carbon dioxide or sulfur dioxide. When metal rusts, it expands, which can threaten the integrity of many structures – especially when combined with the weakening process that also often takes place.

Rust-Resistant Steel Alloys

There are several methods for lowering your risk of rust in steel, and perhaps the simplest here is using a rust-resistant steel alloy. There are two popular such alloys that are commonly used across numerous applications:

  • Stainless steel: Stainless steel is not only a beautiful product, it also contains high quantities of chromium, which in turn allows for chromium oxide to form. Chromium oxide acts as a protective barrier for steel, blocking oxygen from entering susceptible areas and even re-forming if it’s damaged. Certain stainless steel types will also include nickel, which further increases corrosion resistance.
  • Weathering steel: This type, also called COR-TEN steel, contains even higher quantities of chromium than stainless steel – though in other cases, this chromium may be replaced by copper, nickel or phosphorous, each of which have their own anti-corrosion properties. These alloys form a protective layer similar to stainless steel, but often for a more affordable price.

Basic Design Tips

When it comes to preventing rust in steel, basic planning during the design stage can go a long way, even if you aren’t using a rust-resistant alloy. A few basic tips:

  • If appropriate, consider drilling drainage holes for water.
  • Never bolt joints – rather, always weld in major joint areas to prevent water from seeping in.
  • Always allow for proper air circulation.
  • For larger steel structures, ensure proper access is allowed so maintenance can be performed.

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