Properly Applied and Maintained Bridge Coatings Play an Important Role in Preserving the Structure and Preventing Corrosion

10.15.14   Tiffany D. Vorhies, NACE CIP-2 | More by this Author

Properly Applied and Maintained Bridge Coatings Play an Important Role in Preserving the Structure and Preventing Corrosion

If you are involved with construction or maintenance of bridges, you understand the important role that properly applied and maintained bridge coatings play in preserving the structure and preventing corrosion.

A study conducted in 2002 estimated that steel corrosion related to infrastructure costs the U.S. over $22.6 billion per year. Protecting steel with protective coatings is one of the most effective ways of preventing corrosion; yet according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), up to 80% of premature coating failures are due to poor surface preparation, poor application, lack of adequate curing, or other less than optimal conditions for project success.

An experienced, third party certified coating inspector can provide proper oversight to verify your project is being executed properly, heading off issues before they turn into costly rework, long-term problems, or premature failures. SME's team of coating specialists have the expertise, experience and training to identify and minimize coating failure risks, while maximizing the return on your investment. 

"With proper preparation, application, and curing, some coating systems can last 20-30 years," said Tiffany Vorhies, one of SME's NACE CIP certified inspectors, "and given the expense of cleaning and re-painting a bridge and dealing with corrosion-related repairs, making sure the job is done correctly in the first place can head off unnecessary expenses and headaches later on."

In addition to providing coating inspection, our coating consulting services include condition assessments, failure analysis, coating selection, system recommendations, developing technical specifications, preparing maintenance specifications, quality assurance reviews, low and high voltage holiday testing, warranty inspections, sealant consulting, and more. 
Based on our experience, we have identified some key potential coating issues: 

  • The tops of diaphragms, backs of bolts and edges of flanges can quickly lead to coating failures if not caught.

  • In the fabrication shop, the surface preparation for the coating is critical and needs to be carefully monitored. 

  • Slip critical connections require application of an approved coating at the proper thickness and cure times. If too little coating is applied, corrosion can occur, while too much coating could result in failure of the connection. The proper thickness of a slip critical coating is typically less than the thickness of an average sheet of paper. 

  • There are often plate edge to beam face connections, transitions between various substrates, and special conditions which require protection but cannot be accessed, or have too much movement for coatings to withstand. Due to this, sealants play a critical role in the coating system. 

  • While typically specified, coating warranties are often under enforced. SME has performed several coating warranty reviews at a relatively minimal client investment to identify rework areas that would lead to costly maintenance if not addressed during the warranty period.     

    To learn more about SME's bridge coating inspection and other coating related services, contact Tiffany Vorhies, NACE CIP-2 at (800) 837-8800.


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