Steel corrosion is a common household problem and is particularly evident in steel columns.
In this blog, we examine the corrosion of structural steel, what problems can result and how to prevent it.
But first, it is important to understand what is structural steel.
Structural steel is a type of steel that is used in construction.
In households, structural steel can be used in frames, beams to support and hold up decks, columns that make up deck railings and more.
Steel has many benefits.
Firstly, it is very durable and resistant to damage.
Compared to wood, steel is more resistant to the effects of weather, fires, termites, splitting, creeping and rotting.
As such, this means that steel lasts longer before requiring repairs. This in turn makes steel more effective in the long-term, as the cost of repairs can quickly add up.
Steel is also 100% recyclable, making it more beneficial for the environment.
Steel also gives homes a straighter finish along rooflines, ceilings and walls, while timber rooves, ceilings and walls are more prone to warping as time goes by.
The cause of steel corrosion
While there are many benefits to structural steel, it is not without problems.
The most serious of these is corrosion.
Corrosion of steel is caused when moisture and oxygen react with the metal.
Upon being exposed to moisture and oxygen, the iron in steel oxidises to produce rust.
Rust is an example of corrosion that impacts iron-containing metals.
The effects of rust
The impact of rust on steel is very serious. It causes a flaky reddish-brown coating to form on metal.
This rapidly reduces the durability of the steel, making it thinner and prone to damage.
If left to spread, rust can destroy even the largest of steel structures.
Rust in the home
In terms of a residential house, rust is generally found in a few common areas.
These include rust in the corrugated roof, steel columns and beams, railings, nuts and bolts, water heaters, gutters and downpipes, ant caps, and door hinges
The impact of rust can include:
- Rust can cause holes to form in rooves.
- Beams and columns can become damaged at the base or top, disconnecting them from the ground or the house
- Railings can become flimsy and hazardous
- Nuts and bolts can degrade and break apart, making structures come apart
- Water heaters get rusted and become defective – this can cause the water itself to become rusty
- Gutters and downpipes can leak as a result
- Holes can form in ant caps, making them ineffective at exposing infestations
- Rust on metal hinges can cause the hinges to snap off when you try and open the door
The impact of rust can range from a minor annoyance to major health hazard, but even minor issues can become major if left unaddressed.
How to prevent rust
The best way to protect your home from steel corrosion is to prevent rust from occurring.
The number one way to prevent rust is to keep steel clean and dry.
Cracks and scratches expose metal and hold more water, so you should avoid anything that damages the metal. Smoother surfaces also do not trap and hold water the way rougher metal surfaces
You can apply a protective coating to the steel around your home using rust preventing sprays, wipes and paints.
Using stainless steel and galvanized metals in construction can also make your home more rust-resistant.
How to fix rust
If you notice rust around the home that you were unable to prevent, you can take steps to fix the problem.
Your first option is to simply get rid of the rusty fixture and purchase another one. This may be necessary for objects like water heaters, screws or columns that have been damaged beyond repair.
However, for items like rooves that have suffered damage, they may be salvageable.
If you notice rust, you should scrape, grind or scout it off as soon as it appears. Alternately, you can use chemicals to remove rust.
Smooth out any bumps from the removal and wash the area with warm water and soap. After this, apply an anti-rust coating and new paint.