Painting Steel Structures

Evidence obtained from dismantled old buildings and from frames exposed during renovation indicates that corrosion does not occur when steel surfaces are protected from the atmosphere. Where severe rusting was found and attributed to leakage of water, presence or absence of shop paint had no significant influence. Consequently, the AISC ‘‘Specifications for Structural Steel for Buildings’’ exempts from onecoat shop paint, at one time mandatory, all steel framing that is concealed by interior finishing materials—ceilings, fireproofing partitions, walls, and floors.
Structures may be grouped as follows: (1) those that need no paint, shop or field;
(2) those in which interior steelwork will be exposed, probably field painted; (3) those fully exposed to the elements. Thus, shop paint is required only as a primer coat before a required coat of field paint.
Group (1) could include such structures as apartment buildings, hotels, dormitories, office buildings, stores, and schools, where the steelwork is enclosed by other materials. The practice of omitting the shop and field paint for these structures, however, may not be widely accepted because of tradition and the slowness of building-code modernization. Furthermore, despite the economic benefit of paint omission, clean, brightly painted steel during construction has some publicity value.
In group (2) are warehouses, industrial plants, parking decks, supermarkets, onestory schools, inside swimming pools, rinks, and arenas, all structures shielded from the elements but with steel exposed in the interior. Field paint may be required for corrosion protection or appearance or both. The severity of the corrosion environment depends on type of occupancy, exposure, and climatic conditions. The paint system should be carefully selected for optimum effectiveness.
In group (3) are those structures exposed at all times to the weather: crane runways, fire escapes, towers, exposed exterior columns, etc. When made of carbon steel, the members will be painted after erection and therefore should be primed with shop paint. The paint system selected should be the most durable one for the atmospheric conditions at the site. For corrosion-resistant steels, such as those meeting ASTM A242 and A588, field painting may be unnecessary. On exposure, these steels acquire a relatively hard coat of oxide, which shields the surface from progressive rusting. The color, russet brown, has architectural appeal.