Of course steel and metal buildings rust...when they are left untreated and unprotected. If you drive around the West Texas countryside, you might see a lot of old, rusty, abandoned metal buildings. However, don’t let this change your perception of the durability, strength, and longevity of steel. These old buildings have not been treated with modern methods of preventing rust and corrosion.
Today’s rust prevention tactics can add to the inherent strength of a metal building and make it last many, many decades without rusting.
But first, why does rust happen?
We all know what rust looks like but most of us do not know why rust occurs. Rust is a chemical reaction that occurs when the atoms of iron bond with atoms of oxygen to form a new molecule that creates a brown stain. The iron lends itself to create the brown, rusty color. While rust starts with a small brown stain, over time, as more rust particles are formed, the metal becomes weaker and weaker until it eventually develops holes. Advanced rust will cause entire pieces of metal to crumble and then become dust. That’s not something you want to happen to a metal building standing over your head. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this from happening.
Ways to prevent rust
A method called Galvanizing was invented in France over 200 years ago. Galvanization involves coating metals such as steel in a layer of zinc. To galvanize a piece of steel, the steel is dipped into a bath of molten zinc. Once the zinc hardens, it provides a layer of protection over the steel so instead of the steel becoming rusted, the zinc sacrifices itself. The only way the steel can be exposed is by the zinc being scratched.
Paint can act as another coat of protection on the steel. It can be applied over galvanized metal. In addition to creating a moisture barrier, paint can also make a building look more attractive and customized. With commercial and industrial buildings, steel panels can be painted in the factory and be ready to install right away.
Acrylic and polyester paint are most commonly used because they are extremely durable. Sometimes, silicone is added to polyester paint for extra rust protection and extra shine.
Another type of paint that is commonly used is Fluorocarbon paint. It is heat and UV resistance with a dense, smooth finish. The colors in Fluorocarbon paint usually last longer than those in polyester or acrylic paint.
After your building is finished with your coatings applied, you still need to perform a bit of maintenance to keep it rust and corrosion free. You should clean the building regularly with a power washer. The removal of dirt can prevent stains and will help maintain the appearance of your building. For tough spots, you can use a soft-bristled brush and a little elbow grease.
You can also add laundry detergent to the water for extra cleaning power. Use ⅓ cup for every 6 gallons of hot water. However, you should always use a test spot on the building to make sure whatever cleaning detergent you use is right for your building.
Before you wash the building, remove any outdoor furniture, close all doors and windows, cover plant beds, and cover outdoor electrical components such as light fixtures and outlets. Important: turn off the breakers that supply power to outdoor light switches and outlets.
You should also inspect the exterior of the building for scratches and rust. Damage to a metal building’s exterior is unlikely, but possible. You might need to repaint areas with worn off paint. With traditional wood framed or brick buildings, repainting is a constant burden but with metal buildings, refinishing is a rare occurrence.