Understanding Aging Steel Structures

Once thought to be permanent structures free from maintenance and reliability concerns, steel structures have demonstrated that they do indeed degrade over time as a result of corrosion and mechanical damage.

Original protection systems, including factory-applied galvanizing and coatings, help to reduce the effects of corrosion by creating a barrier between the steel and the soil in its environment. As structures age, the initial protection systems begin to deteriorate. Deterioration of this protection allows environmental influences to directly impact the steel itself. In many cases, deteriorating factory-applied coatings become detrimental to structures because they not only allow moisture to come in contact with the steel, they now tend to hold the moisture against the steel accelerating the corrosion process.

Once the steel is exposed, the natural process of corrosion activity sets in and begins to thin and weaken the steel. This typically begins at the groundline and proceeds downward along the surface of the structure below grade.  Age alone is not an accurate predictor of which structures experience corrosion. There are a number of factors that can contribute to corrosion and increase the rate at which a structure corrodes.

Structure Characteristics

  • Age
  • Structure type & design
  • Material type
  • Foundation construction
  • Existing coatings
  • Variations from construction standard

Environmental Conditions

  • Terrain & soil conditions
  • Moisture content
  • Stray current
  • Agricultural activity
  • Industrial emissions

Turnkey Solutions

As a turnkey solution provider, Osmose can assist you with every aspect of implementing a steel infrastructure life-extension program.  We offer the industry expertise to develop effective corrosion and concrete programs, the engineering resources to design complex repairs, and the field labor to thoroughly assess structures and install restoration solutions, cathodic protection, and protective coatings. 

To learn more, visit the Steel Inspection & Life Extension section of this website or contact your local Osmose professional.  Not sure who your local professional is?  Email steel@osmose.com to find out.