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Standard corrosion protection systems for buildings


This article is designed to assist those responsible for either drafting corrosion protection specifications, or as
contractors with a requirement to meet that which is specified. The information provided is based upon industrial
experience, and is in the form of current practice tables of ‘standard’ corrosion protection systems for steelwork in a
range of environments.

Coating application in the fabrication factory


(Image courtesy of Hempel UK Ltd.)

Introduction
The tables of ‘standard’ systems for steelwork presented in this article relate to ‘environment categories’ which are
based upon those given BS EN ISO 12944-2[1] and BS EN ISO 9223[2], which are described in the table below.

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Atmospheric corrosivity categories and examples of typical environments (BS EN ISO 12944-2[1])

Corros Low-carbon steel Examples of typical environments (informative


ivity Thickness loss only)
catego (μm)a
ry Exterior Interior

C1 ≤ 1.3 - Heated buildings with clean


very atmospheres, e.g. offices, shops,
low schools, hotels

C2 > 1.3 to 25 Atmospheres with low level of Unheated buildings where


low pollution: mostly rural areas condensation can occur, e.g. depots,
sports halls

C3 > 25 to 50 Urban and industrial atmospheres, Production rooms with high humidity
medium moderate sulphur dioxide pollution; and some air pollution, e.g. food-
coastal area with low salinity processing plants, laundries,
breweries, dairies

C4 > 50 to 80 Industrial areas and coastal areas Chemical plants, swimming pools,
high with moderate salinity coastal ship and boatyards

C5 > 80 to 200 Industrial areas with high humidity Buildings or areas with almost
very and aggressive atmosphere and permanent condensation and high
high coastal areas with high salinity pollution

CX > 200 to 700 Offshore areas with high salinity and Industrial areas with extreme
extreme industrial areas with extreme humidity and aggressive atmosphere
humidity and aggressive atmosphere
and sub-tropical and tropical
atmospheres

Notes:

1μm (1 micron) = 0.001mm


a
The thickness loss values are after the first year of exposure. Losses may reduce over subsequent years.

The loss values used for the corrosivity categories are identical to those given in BS EN ISO 9223[2].

In many instances, steelwork will be in a warm dry interior where it will not corrode, and the structural stability of the
building will not be threatened during its design life (generally taken as 50 years). In such conditions (classified as C1)
no corrosion coating is required. Examples include steelwork inside dry buildings with neutral atmospheres such as
multi-storey office buildings, shops, schools, hotels, residential buildings, airport terminals, and hospitals, etc.

However, when steelwork is exposed to moisture, corrosion will occur at a rate depending on the severity of the
environment. In such cases, a coating system appropriate to the environment category should be provided. Note that
some buildings may contain areas where different environment conditions apply e.g. hospitals would normally be C1,
but may contain kitchens and laundry areas that would normally be C3. Some types of buildings, such as car parks
may fall into any of the above categories or combinations of them depending upon their location, design and
construction. Higher risk categories for interior environments (e.g. C4 and C5) are not covered in this article and users
are advised to seek specialist advice if their project involves such situations.
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The protective systems in the tables have unique identities. The film thicknesses given in the tables are nominal dry
film values (μm = micron = 0.001mm). The tables also identify the nearest equivalent system in BS EN ISO 12944-5[3]
, and the required surface preparation to BS EN ISO 8501-1[4]

Interior environments
In deriving the protection systems described on these pages, the design life of building structures has been taken as
50 years. The tables give two figures for durability:

Structure life

The period of reasonable freedom from severe corrosion of the steelwork that might lead to weakening of the structure.
This figure assumes no mechanical damage in service that no maintenance is carried out and that up to 1mm of steel
may be lost from the surface at the corrosion rate for each environment given in BS EN ISO 12944-2[1]. Visible
steelwork will normally be accessible for maintenance and if repainting is carried out the quoted structure life will be
extended.

Coating life

The expected period to maintenance of the protective coating. More frequent re-coating may often be preferred for
decorative reasons because of fading, contamination, wear and tear, etc. Hidden steelwork is assumed to be not
accessible for maintenance, thus a figure for coating life of hidden steelwork systems is not applicable.

Hidden steelwork

Standard systems for C2 – low risk environment category

System number IH-C2-A IH-C2-B IH-C2-C

Structure life 50+ 50+ 50+

Coating life n/a n/a n/a

Nearest equivalent BS - C2.07 C2.01 or C2.05


EN ISO 12944-5[3]

Surface preparation to Manual clean to St2 Blast clean to Sa 2½ Blast clean to Sa 2½


BS EN ISO 8501-1[4]

Factory applied coatings - Zinc phosphate epoxy Water based acrylic


primer (note 1) or
80μm Water based epoxy zinc
phosphate primer 2 coats
2x60μm=120μm total

Site applied coatings High build Bitumen - -


150μm

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Standard systems for C3 – medium risk environment category

System number IH-C3-A IH-C3-B IH-C3-C

Structure life 50+ 50+ 50+

Coating life n/a n/a n/a

Nearest equivalent BS C3.07 - C3.10


EN ISO 12944-5[3]

Surface preparation to Blast clean to Sa 2½ - Blast clean to Sa 2½


BS EN ISO 8501-1[4]

Factory applied coatings Hydrogen modified epoxy Hot-dip galvanize to BS i) High build zinc
300μm EN ISO 1461[5] phosphate epoxy primer
(note 2) 80μm (note 1)

ii) High build recoatable


epoxy MIO 120μm
(note 3)

Site applied coatings - - -

Notes to tables:

1. The thickness values given for primers are the total thickness used and may include a prefabrication primer.
For example, 80µm can be in one coat or as 20µm prefabrication primer plus 60µm post-fabrication primer.

2. For steel profiles over 6mm thick the minimum average thickness of galvanized coatings to BS EN ISO 1461[5]
is 85µm
3. MIO - micaceous iron oxide.

Visible steelwork

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Standard systems for C2 – low risk environment category

System number IV-C2-A IV-C2-B IV-C2-C

Structure life 50+ 50+ 50+

Coating life 10 15 12

Nearest equivalent BS C2.04 C2.03 C2.01 or C2.05


EN ISO 12944-5[3]

Surface preparation to Manual clean to St2 Blast clean to Sa 2½ Blast clean to Sa 2½


BS EN ISO 8501-1[4]

Factory applied coatings - High build zinc Water based acrylic


phosphate epoxy primer or
80μm Water based epoxy zinc
(note 1) phosphate primer
60μm

Site applied coatings i) Zinc phosphate alkyd Alkyd finish 60μm Water based acrylic
primer 40μm (note 2) or
Water based epoxy finish
ii) High build zinc 60μm
phosphate alkyd primer
80μm

iii) Alkyd finish 60μm

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Standard systems for C3 – medium risk environment category

System number IV-C3-A IV-C3-B IV-C3-C

Structure life 50+ 45 40

Coating life 40+ 25 20

Nearest equivalent BS - C3.07 C3.06


EN ISO 12944-5[3]

Surface preparation to - Blast clean to Sa 2½ Blast clean to Sa 2½


BS EN ISO 8501-1[4]

Factory applied coatings Hot-dip galvanize to BS i) Zinc phosphate epoxy i) High build zinc
EN ISO 1461[5] primer 80μm (note 1) phosphate epoxy primer
(note 3) 120μm (note 1)
ii) High build epoxy MIO
100μm ii) High solid aliphatic
polyurethane finish 60μm

Site applied coatings (note 4) Recoatable polyurethane -


finish 60μm

Notes to tables:

1. The thickness values given for primers are the total thickness used and may include a prefabrication primer.
For example, 80µm can be in one coat or as 20µm prefabrication primer plus 60µm post fabrication primer.
2. A ‘wetting’ low viscosity primer is recommended to obtain satisfactory performance.

3. For steel profiles over 6mm thick the minimum average thickness of galvanized coatings to BS EN ISO 1461[5]
is 85µm.
4. To enhance durability and improve the aesthetic appearance, the hot-dip galvanized coating can be treated
with a mordant wash or ‘T’ wash followed by a vinyl primer at 40µm and a vinyl finish at 60µm.
5. MIO - micaceous iron oxide.

Swimming pools

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Standard systems for C4 – high risk environment category

System number SP-C4-A SP-C4-B SP-C4-C

Structure life 50+ 50+ 50+

Coating life 10+ (note 1) 25 25

Nearest equivalent BS G4.02 C4.07 C4.11


EN ISO 12944-5[3]

Surface preparation to - Blast clean to Sa 2½ Blast clean to Sa 2½


BS EN ISO 8501-1[4]

Factory applied coatings i) Hot-dip galvanize to BS i) Zinc phosphate epoxy i) Zinc phosphate epoxy
EN ISO 1461[5] (note 2) primer 80μm primer 80μm

ii) Mordant wash or etch ii) Pigmented epoxy 2 ii) Epoxy MIO 2 coats,
primer or sweep blast coats, 200μm total 200μm total
(note 3)

iii) Surface tolerant epoxy


75μm

Site applied coatings Acrylic urethane 50μm Aliphatic polyurethane Recoatable polyurethane
finish 60μm finish 60μm

Notes to table:

1. The Coating Life is estimated for the paint system only and does not include the hot-dip galvanized coating.
The life of the total protection system without maintenance should exceed 25 years, however, it is anticipated
that for aesthetic reasons maintenance will be carried out at periods of 10 years or less.

2. For steel profiles over 6mm thick the minimum average thickness of galvanized coatings to BS EN ISO 1461[5]
is 85µm. For hidden steelwork, e.g. behind a suspended ceiling, no further treatment is required. For steelwork
that is visible, the galvanized coating should be surface treated and coated as shown.
3. Methods of preparing hot-dip galvanized coatings need to ensure that a satisfactory condition is achieved to
accept a paint coating system. It is important that the steelwork is thoroughly degreased and free from any
contamination. Several methods can be considered including:
1. Mordant wash or 'T' wash, which is the brush application of a chemical solution that reacts with the
galvanized surface. The effectiveness of the solution is readily visible and untreated areas are self
evident. After treatment, the solution should be rinsed off with clean water and then the treated surface
dried ready for painting. It is important that the manufacturers' instructions are carefully followed to
ensure successful results.
2. Etch primers, which can be either single or two pack materials and they are applied as thin film
coatings to around 10μm to 25μm in thickness. The two pack versions tend to provide an improved
surface compared with the single pack
3. Sweep blasting, which is the use of low pressure fine grade non-metallic abrasive which can be very
effective but requires care and expertise. The treatment should slightly roughen the galvanized surface
without removing the coating.

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4. MIO - micaceous iron oxide.

Exterior environments
Coating system durability given in the following tables is based on practical experience. It is the expected life, in years,
before first major maintenance. This is taken as degradation level Ri3 from BS EN ISO 4628-3[6] (1% of surface area
rusted). It should be noted that this does not imply a guarantee of life expectancy. The durability of galvanized
steelwork is derived from the figures in BS EN ISO 14713[7].

Standard systems for C3 – medium risk environment category

System number E-C3-A E-C3-B E-C3-C

Coating life 20+ 20 20

Nearest equivalent BS - C3.07 C3.09


EN ISO 12944-5[3]

Surface preparation to - Blast clean to Sa 2½ Blast clean to Sa 2½


BS EN ISO 8501-1[4]

Factory applied coatings Hot-dip galvanize to BS i) Zinc phosphate epoxy i) High build zinc
EN ISO 1461[5] primer 80μm (note 3) phosphate epoxy primer
(notes 1 & 2) 100μm (note 3)
ii) High build epoxy MIO
100μm ii) High solid aliphatic
polyurethane finish 60μm

Site applied coatings - Recoatable polyurethane -


finish 60μm

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Standard systems for C4 – High risk environment category

System number E-C4-A E-C4-B E-C4-C

Coating life 15-20 20 20+

Nearest equivalent BS C4.11 - -


EN ISO 12944-5[3]

Surface preparation to Blast clean to Sa 2½ Blast clean to Sa 2½ Blast clean to Sa 2½


BS EN ISO 8501-1[4]

Factory applied coatings i) Zinc rich epoxy primer i) Zinc phosphate epoxy i) Zinc phosphate epoxy
40μm (note 6) primer 80μm primer 25μm (note 7)

ii) High build epoxy MIO ii) High build glass flake ii) Elastomeric urethane
100μm epoxy 300μm 1000μm (note 8)

Site applied coatings High build epoxy MIO Recoatable polyurethane Recoatable polyurethane
100μm (notes 4 & 5) finish 60μm finish 60μm

Standard systems for C5 – Very high risk environment category

System number E-C5-A E-C5-B E-C5-C

Coating life 15 20 15

Nearest equivalent BS TSM5.01 C5.08 G5.04


EN ISO 12944-5[3]

Surface preparation to Blast clean to Sa 3 Blast clean to Sa 2½ -


BS EN ISO 8501-1[4]

Factory applied coatings i) Sprayed aluminium to i) Zinc rich epoxy primer i) Hot-dip galvanize to BS
BS EN ISO 2063[8][9] 40μm (note 6) EN ISO 1461[5] (note 1)
150μm (note 9)
ii) High build epoxy MIO ii) Mordant wash
ii) Zinc phosphate epoxy 200μm total (one or two
sealer coat 50μm coats) (note 4) iii) Etch primer 40μm

iii) High build epoxy MIO iv) High build epoxy MIO
100μm (note 4) 100μm (note 4)

Site applied coatings Recoatable polyurethane High solid aliphatic Recoatable polyurethane
finish 60μm polyurethane finish 60μm finish 60μm

Notes to tables:

1. For steel profiles over 6mm thick the minimum average thickness of galvanized coatings to BS EN ISO 1461[5]
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is 85µm.
2. Where painting of galvanized steelwork is required for aesthetic or other reasons; suitable systems from BS
EN ISO 12944-5[3] may be used.
3. The thickness values given for primers are the total thickness used and may include a prefabrication primer.
For example, 80µm can be in one coat or as 20µm prefabrication primer plus 60µm post fabrication primer.
4. MIO - micaceous iron oxide.
5. It should be noted that the colour range of MIO is limited.
6. The zinc rich primer applied at 80µm would increase the durability of the system by approximately 5 years.
7. The primer coat may be omitted providing the build/intermediate coat is applied directly to a clean steel
substrate of suitable surface profile.
8. With time, elastomeric urethanes may suffer from superficial degradation known as ‘chalking’ which changes
the visual appearance but does not affect the over all durability of the system. Where colour stabilization is
required for appearance purposes, this can be achieved by the application of the finish coat in this system.
9. The protection of structural steelwork against atmospheric corrosion by thermal sprayed aluminium or zinc
coatings is covered in BS EN ISO 2063-1[8] and BS EN ISO 2063-2[9].

Perimeter walls

Steelwork in clear separation from outer leaf

For wall cavities in which steel will remain dry, either by use of an impermeable outer leaf or where there is physical
separation of the steel from the outer leaf, a system from the ‘Hidden steelwork’ section for environment categories
C1, C2 or C3 may be appropriate. The treatment specified for cavity wall condition should also be suitable for the
interior environment of the building. Should the internal environment be more aggressive, additional protection will be
required.

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System number PW-C2-S

Structure life 50+

Coating life n/a

Nearest equivalent BS EN ISO 12944-5[3] C3.08

Surface preparation to BS EN ISO 8501-1[4] Blast clean to Sa 2½

Factory applied coatings Zinc phosphate epoxy primer (note 1) 80μm

Site applied coatings (note 2)

Notes to table

1. The thickness values given for primers are the total thickness used and may include a prefabrication primer.
For example, 80µm can be in one coat or as 20µm prefabrication primer plus 60µm post-fabrication primer.
2. The environment within a ‘normal’ cavity wall construction is categorised as being C2. The system PW-C2-S is
considered appropriate for such conditions. However, where steelwork within the cavity is deemed to be in a
more aggressive environment category, the application of a high build bitumen coating at 150µm to the faces
of the steelwork within the cavity may be applied before or during construction.

Steelwork in contact with outer leaf

Brickwork cladding or other masonry, can develop cracks and leakage over time. When steelwork is in contact with, or
embedded in a brick/masonry outer leaf, one of the following systems should be used. In some regions, stainless steel
may be required for embedded members by local regulations or be deemed necessary to provide adequate durability.
Specialist advice should be sought.

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System number PW-C2-A PW-C2-B

Structure life 50+ 50+

Coating life n/a n/a

Nearest equivalent BS EN ISO - -


12944-5[3]

Surface preparation to BS EN ISO Blast clean to Sa 2½ -


8501-1[4]

Factory applied coatings One coat solvent free epoxy i) Hot-dip galvanize to BS EN ISO
450μm 1461[5] 85μm

ii) Two coats heavy duty bitumen,


200μm total

Site applied coatings - -

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References
1. ↑ 1.01.11.2 BS EN ISO 12944-2: 2017, Paints and varnishes – Corrosion protection of steel structures by
protective paint systems – Part 2: Classification of environments, BSI

2. ↑ 2.02.1 BS EN ISO 9223: 2012, Corrosion of metals and alloys – Corrosivity of atmospheres – Classification,
determination and estimation. BSI

3. ↑ 3.003.013.023.033.043.053.063.073.083.093.103.11 BS EN ISO 12944-5: 2018, Paints and varnishes, Corrosion protection


of steel structures by protective paint systems, Protective paint systems, BSI

4. ↑ 4.004.014.024.034.044.054.064.074.084.094.10 BS EN ISO 8501-1: 2007, Preparation of steel substrates before


application of paints and related products. Visual assessment of surface cleanliness. Rust grades and
preparation grades of uncoated steel substrates and of substrates after overall removal of previous coatings,
ISO

5. ↑ 5.05.15.25.35.45.55.65.75.85.9 BS EN ISO 1461: 2009, Hot dip galvanized coatings on fabricated iron and steel
articles. Specifications and test methods. BSI
6. ↑ BS EN ISO 4628-3: 2016 Paints and varnishes - Evaluation of degradation of coatings - Designation of
quantity and size of defects, and of intensity of uniform changes in appearance - Part 3: Assessment of degree
of rusting. BSI
7. ↑ BS EN ISO 14713-1: 2017 Zinc coatings. Guidelines and recommendations for the protection against
corrosion of iron and steel in structures. General principles of design and corrosion resistance. BSI

8. ↑ 8.08.1 BS EN ISO 2063-1: 2017, Thermal spraying, Zinc, aluminium and their alloys, Design considerations
and quality requirements for corrosion protection systems, BSI

9. ↑ 9.09.1 BS EN ISO 2063-2: 2017, Thermal spraying, Zinc, aluminium and their alloys, Execution of corrosion
protection systems, BSI

Resources
Hendy, C.R.; Iles, D.C. (2015) Steel Bridge Group: Guidance Notes on best practice in steel bridge
construction (6th Issue). (P185). SCI
Guidance Note 8.01 Preparing for effective corrosion protection
Guidance Note 8.03 Hot dip galvanizing
Guidance Note 8.04 Thermally sprayed metal coatings
Guidance Note 8.05 High performance paint coatings
Steel Buildings, 2003, The British Constructional Steelwork Association Ltd.
Chapter 12 – Corrosion Protection

Further reading
D.Deacon & R.Hudson (2012), Steel Designer’s Manual (7th Edition), Chapter 36 - Corrosion and corrosion
prevention, The Steel Construction Institute.
D.A. Bayliss & D.H.Deacon (2002), Steelwork Corrosion Control (2nd edition), Spon Press.

See also

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Corrosion of structural steel


Influence of design on corrosion
Surface preparation
Paint coatings
Metallic coatings
Appropriate specifications
Inspection and quality control

External links
British Coatings Federation
Galvanizers Association
Paint Research Association
The Thermal Spraying and Surface Engineering Association

CPD
Corrosion protection

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