Buildings Buzz

What You Don't Know About Corrosion, Paint, and Coatings

It was the spring of 2000, when I was paying a visit to one of the largest commercial buildings in the world.  They were having trouble with a severely corroded condensate return tank for their boilers system, and so they called me to take a look at the tank.

At the time, I owned a Chicago-based industrial paint and coating company, and we had worked at virtually every major commercial building in Chicago: lining tanks, floors, pools, spas, fountains, repairing pipes, etc.

We were walking through the corridor when I saw a large tub on the floor, with a “caution, wet floor” sign with the little stick figure perpetually slipping and falling on his back.Corroded pipes

My client runs a very tight facility where you could almost eat off his floors – and this was something unusual. 

It turns out that the roof of this building is one of the largest in the world and—as you can imagine—when it rains, a massive deluge of water coursed through the roof drains, some of which were 10 inches in diameter and larger.

In this case, the pipes converged on a massive 12 inch Y-branch fitting and there was a close nipple connecting the pipe into the fitting. 

The engineer explained that the close nipple had rotted away in some areas, and when it rained, it was like someone turned on a small fire hose.  He mentioned that he had a contractor lined up to replace the custom, 70-year old fitting for a small fortune and three-days of downtime. 

I told the engineer that I could repair it in a few hours for a tiny fraction of the cost.   He stopped in his tracks and said, “tell me more.”

What I had in mind was using a variety of different resins and polymers (all of which were designed for this type of a repair) to rebuild the damaged area and provide a leak-proof, highly durable, corrosion-proof  repair.

The repair process was relatively simple.  We used a wire brush to clean the area and applied a thick epoxy paste, made into the shape of a pancake, to the areas that had completely corroded away.  We then applied an additional paste-like mastic and wrapped all of it together with a water-activated fabric.

The repair worked like a charm.

This is just one small example of how polymers could save you money.

But how do you know what technologies are out there and when to look for a specialist? Well, here are some rules of thumb:

1. If you have an asset (a pipe, tank, deck, basin, grease trap) that is rusting, chances are there’s a polymer on the market that will provide a permanent, corrosion-proof repair designed to last for decades.
2. If you have an asset that you have to keep painting, welding, or repairing in a relatively short amount of time.
3. When you have corroded (steel) or eroded (concrete/masonry) that needs to be structurally or cosmetically reinforced.

Commercial building engineers and purchasing agents are swamped. Identifying these state-of-the-art repair systems is difficult. But the savings that can be obtained by understanding all of the alternatives relating to corrosion and erosion could save significant amounts of time and money.

Warren Brand, MBA is the principal at Chicago Coatings Group.

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