Building Design and Construction

Field-Painting Steel

There is some question as to justification for protecting steelwork embedded in masonry or in contact with exterior masonry walls built according to good workmanship standards but not impervious to moisture. For example, in many instances, the masonry backing for a 4-in brick wall is omitted to make way for column flanges. Very definitely, a 4-in wall will not prevent penetration of water. In many cases, also, though a gap is provided between a wall and steelwork, mortar drip pings fall into the space and form bridges over which water may pass, to attack the steel. The net effect is premature failure of both wall and steel. Walls have been shattered—sheared through the brick—by the powerful expansion of rust formations.

The preventatives are: (1) coating the steel with suitable paint and (2) good wall construction.
A typical building code reads: ‘‘Special precautions shall be taken to protect the outer surfaces of steel columns located in exterior walls against corrosion, by painting such surfaces with waterproof paints, by the use of mastic, or by other methods of waterproofing approved by the building inspector.’

In most structures an asphalt-type paint is used for column-flange protection.
The proviso is sometimes extended to include lintels and spandrels, since the danger of corrosion is similar, depending on the closeness and contact with the wall. However, with the latter members, it is often judicious to supplement the paint with flashing, either metallic or fabric. A typical illustration, taken from an actual apartment-building design, is shown in Fig. 7.63. In general, building codes differ on field paint; either paint is stipulated or the code is silent. From a practical viewpoint, the question of field painting cannot be properly resolved with a single broad rule. For an enclosed building in which the structural members are enveloped, for example, a field coat is sheer wastage, except for exterior steel members in contact with walls. On the other hand, exposed steel subject to highhumidity atmospheres and to exceptionally corrosive gases and contaminants may need two or three field coats.
Manufactured buildings should always be closely scrutinized, bearing in mind that original conditions are not always permanent. As manufacturing processes change, so do the corrosive environments stimulated by new methods. It is well to prepare for the most adverse eventuality.
Special attention should be given to steel surfaces that become inaccessible, e.g., tops of purlins in contact with roof surfaces. A three-coat job of particularly suitable paint may pay off in the long run, even though it delays placement of the roof covering.

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