When exposed to the atmosphere, all metals have the natural tendency to revert to the lesser energy state of ore. In simple terms, this natural phenomenon is corrosion, and is most commonly seen as iron ore or rust. Steel is an excellent building material – it is readily available, fully recyclable and has a high strength-to-weight ratio, low environmental impact, and long-term durability. However, it is inevitable steel corrodes.
Though corrosion may be more visible, all building materials (concrete, plastic, wood, etc.) diminish and decay over time. Steel is just more honest and transparent – alerting you to any problem areas rather than hiding them until it is too late. One catastrophic event due to unknown issues can be extremely costly – monetarily as well as in loss of lives. Therefore, the answer to steel corrosion is NOT to use other building materials, rather to adequately protect exposed steel to minimize and delay the process.
Selecting the most effective corrosion protection system (i.e. hot-dip galvanizing, painting/powder coating, stainless or weathering steel, or a duplex system) is important. Your analysis of each method should include such things as the durability, coating’s maintenance schedule and service life, sustainability, and initial and life-cycle costs.
The information in this section will help you to understand corrosion better and evaluate corrosion protection systems. Use the links to the left to learn more.