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Newly Galvanized Steel

No

Yes

Partially Weathered
Galvanized Steel

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Fully Weathered
Galvanized Steel
Maintenance Painting
of Duplex Systems

Yes

No, if spot painting


Yes, if fully repainting

Painting

Profiling

Galvanized Steel for

Cleaning

Preparing Hot Dip

Age of Galvanized Steel

Practical Guide for

Quick Guide to Surface Preparation for


Painting Over Galvanized Steel

Practical Guide for Preparing


Hot-Dip Galvanized Steel for Painting
Successfully painting over hot-dip galvanized steel,
also known as a duplex system, does not have to be a
difficult or confusing job. Just like painting over
anything else, proper surface preparation is the key to
creating an effective bond between the paint and
galvanized su rface.
A galvanized coating is mostly made up of zinc.
Zinc is great at protecting the steel from corrosion, but
its very reactive. Almost immediately after galvanizing,
particles of zinc oxide and hydroxide form on top of the
zinc coating. These particles, along with dirt and grease,
need to be properly removed from galvanized surfaces
in order to ensure the paint adheres to the galvanized
steel.
The following steps explain how to prepare the
galvanized surface to be painted successfully.

4 Steps for Good Surface Preparation

STEP 1 Know the Age of the


Galvanized Coating
Knowing the age of the galvanized steel ready to be
painted is important because age determines what type of
su rface preparation should be done. Early on, zinc oxide
and hydroxide hinder the paints ability to adhere to the
galvanized coating. However, over the course of six to 24
months the zinc surface weathers and forms a thin,
dense film of mostly zinc carbonate called the zinc patina.
Once the patina has fully formed, the particulates no
longer interfere with paint adhesion.

Galvanized coatings can generally be grouped into


three categories: newly galvanized, partially weathered,
and fully weathered. The length of time a galvanized
coating takes to reach each age level depends on
environmental conditions, such as humidity, temperature,
wind, etc.

Newly galvanized steel has been-hot dip galvanized


within 48 hours typically has very little zinc oxide or
hydroxide on its surface. Most painting of newly
galvanized steel is done in a shop environment.
Partially
w e a t h e r e d
galvanized steel is
more difficult to
pinpoint. As a rule, a
partially weathered
coating is between
48 hours and two
years old. Generally,
this coating has
some zinc oxide,
hydroxide and carbonate film, but the full zinc patina is not
yet formed.

Fully
galvanized

weathered
steel

is

generally older than two


years and has a fully
formed zinc patina.

STEP 2 Inspect the Galvanized


Coating

Chromate Testing
Sometimes galvanized steel is dipped in a chromate
bath immediately after galvanizing. The chromates can
greatly interfere with paint adhesion and must be removed
prior to painting. Although, some chromated galvanized
surfaces have a dull, flat gray finish, it can be difficult to
visually detect the use of chromates. If there is uncertainty
on whether the steel was chromate quenched, then the
galvanized surface needs to be tested for the presence of
chromates. This testing is fairly simple and is described in
ASTM B 201.
If chromates are found, the galvanized steel can either
be allowed to weather for approximately two years before
painting, or the chromates can be cleaned off using one
of the cleaning methods described in the next step.

Surface
Imperfections
Regardless of
the age of the
galvanized
coating,

it

shouldnt have
significant
bumpy

spots,

sharp

icicles,

high spots, or
extremely rough edges. This is important because
protrusions greater than the paints dry film thickness
(five -ten mils) interfere with adhesion and can cause
voids in the paint coating. To smooth out surface
blemishes, hand-file or power-sand the area. Be very
careful not to remove any more of the protective zinc
coating than absolutely necessary.

Touch-up and Repair


Check to see if there are any bare areas revealing
the underlying steel, such as drill holes or weld lines
and touch-up those areas. Large scratches and gouges
in the galvanized coating should also be repaired prior
to painting.
Complete the surface cleaning and profiling
appropriate for the age of the coating before repairing
th e zinc coating. Then th e damaged or bare areas
should be touch ed-up with
a product conforming to
ASTM A 780. These include
zinc-rich paints, or cold
galvanizing compounds. Be
sure the surface is even and
consistent after completing
touch-up.
If a touched-up surface
is to be powder coated, wait
24-48 hours before coating
in order to prevent blistering
of the powder coating.

Step 3 Clean the Galvanized Surface


Newly
Galvanized
Steel

No dirt or grease present.


Few

zinc

oxides

and

hydroxides formed. No major


cleaning necessary.

Partially
Weathered
Galvanized
Steel

Remove surface oxide and

Fully
Weathered
Galvanized
Steel

Requires minimal cleaning,

hydroxide film, as well as dirt


and grime.

such as a warm water power


wash to remove contaminants
from the surface. Power wash
should not exceed 1450 psi.

Maintenance
Painting of
Duplex
Systems

Clean dirt and other surface


contaminates from previously
painted areas.

The goal of su rface cleaning is to remove the


grease, dirt and oils from the galvanized surface in

order to promote paint adhesion.

If it is determined the galvanized surface needs to


be cleaned, any of the methods listed below can be
used. Remember, a cleaning solution is meant to clean
the zinc surface, not remove it. Some cleaners may
react poorly with certain paint systems. Be sure to
consult the paint manufacturer rega rding specific
cleaning instructions.

Alkaline solutions in the pH range of 11-12, but


not greater than 13, (dilute sodium hydroxide,
trisodium phosphate or similar solutions) can be
sprayed at a temperature ideally between 140 F
and 185 F. If the solution is brushed on, use a
nylon bristle brush not copper or steel. After
cleaning, thoroughly rinse with hot water and allow
to dry completely.
9

Solvent cleaning (mineral spirits, turpentine,


high-flash naphtha, or similar solvents) should be
used only if they can be applied with lint-free rags
or soft bristled nylon brush es. These rags and
brushes
must

be

changed
frequently to
avoid the respreading of
contamnants.
A f t e r
cleaning,
thoroughly
rinse

the

surface with
hot water and
allow to dry
completely.

Ammonia cleaning, which should be used in a


solution of one to two percent ammonia, is
usually only used when ash residue from the
galvanizing process is present. Apply the ammonia
solution with a nylon brush. Afte r cleaning,
thoroughly rinse the su rface with hot water and
allow to dry completely.
Thorough
rinsing
ensures
that
leftover
residue
from the
cleaning
solution
will not
interfere
with
paint
adhesion.

Step 4 Surface Profiling


Newly
Galvanized
Steel

Typically very smooth, will


benefit from profiling. Sweep
blasting while still warm (175390 degrees F) works well.

Partially
Weathered
Galvanized
Steel

Benefits from some surface

Fully
Weathered
Galvanized
Steel

Fully formed zinc patina. The

Maintenance
Painting of
Duplex
Systems

For spot repainting, no sur-

profiling.

profile is generally ideal. No


surface profiling is needed.
face profiling may be required.
For entire repainting, sweep
blasting may work best. Do
not remove too much zinc.

To promote paint adhesion, the profile of the

galvanized surface can be slightly etch ed. In order to


raise the surface profile, some of the zinc coating is
removed. Be very careful to remove as little zinc as
possible.

If the galvanized coating needs to be profiled, one


of the following methods can be used. When using a
chemical process, check with the paint manufacturer to
make sure it wont interfere with paint adhesion.
Sweep blasting is the most common way of profiling
galvanized steel. Particle size for a sweep blast of
galvanized steel should range between 200 and 500
microns (8-20 mils). Aluminum/ magnesium silicate can
be used to sweep blast, as can many types of natural
media like corn cobs, walnut shell, corundum,
limestone, and mineral sands with a Mohs hardness of
five or less. Conditions for sweep blasting are
recommended to be less than 50 percent humidity and
a minimum of 70 F. Consult SSPC Surface Preparation
Specification 7 for sweep blasting procedures.
1

Zinc phosphate treatments have been shown to


increase both paint adh esion and durability. They
can be applied by immersion, spray or soft bristle,
nylon brush. Only leave the treatment on th e
galvanized steel between three and six minutes.
Follow this with a clean water rinse and let dry. Do
not use phosphate treatments in conjunction with
zinc-rich paints.

Penetrating sealers are two-part epoxy


systems, applied approximately two mils thick.
They have been used as a su rface treatment on
difficult to clean su rfaces. Follow manufacturers
directions and always use a topcoat.
Wash primers should be applied to the
galvanized surface at a thickness between 0.3 and
0.5 mils. Thickness above 0.5 mils causes
adhesion problems. Because of this, wash primers
are best applied in shop conditions. Follow
manufacturers
directions
for
maximum
performance.
Acrylic passivation products should be applied
approximately 0.04 mils thick to a clean galvanized
surface. The coating should be completely dry
before painting.

Using Primers with Prepared Galvanized


Steel
After cleaning and profiling the galvanized su rface,
a primer coat is often used to help with paint adhesion.
Many types of paints react poorly when applied directly
on zinc coatings. Primers allow for the successful use
of many of
th ese paint
types. Zincrich

paints

have a great
track record
and

can

often

be

used as a
primer.
Priming
of galvanized
su rfaces

should be done as soon as possible after cleaning and


profiling. Because the zinc coating continually reacts
with the environment, zinc oxides and hydroxides
begin to build-up right away. Always apply primers
according to the manufactu rers directions and
specified paint system.

Duplex
System:
Hot dip
galvanized steel
Zinc-rich primer

Acrylic top coat

17

Common Failure Problems


Most failures of
duplex systems can
be traced to th ree
things: poor su rface
preparation,
overblasting,

or

paint thickness.
S u r f a c e
preparation

Taking the time to


correctly prepa re the
surface

strongly

contributes

to

good coating. The procedures in this booklet outline


proper surface preparation.
Overblasting When the galvanized coating is
overblasted, too much zinc is removed. Because the
zinc protects the steel from corrosion as the paint

wears away, the steel will rust if th e zinc isnt there to


protect it. If this is the case, then the duplex system
fails. To avoid this problem, be sure to use the correct
media for sweep blasting galvanized surfaces, and do
not blast in one area for too long.
Paint thickness When paint is not applied to
the manufacturers recommended thickness, the
duplex system can also fail. Too thin of a coating, and
the paint will wear away quickly. Too thick of a coating,
and the paint
may not cure
correctly and
cause adhesion

prob-

lems. Always
follow

the

manufacturers
tions

direcfor

application.

When attention and


time are taken with surface
preparation, painting over
galvanized steel will create
beautiful results.

For more information


about hot dip galvanized
steel and its preparation for
painting, contact the
American Galvanizers
Association at
800.HOT.SPEC. For information about paint selection and performance with
properly prepared hot dip galvanized steel, contact the
paint manufacturer.

Tel:
720-554-0900
Fax:
720-554-0909
www.galvanizeit.org
aga@galvanizeit.org

1999 American Galvanizers Association


The material in this publication has been developed to provide
accurate and authoritative information about painting over hot-dip
galvanized steel after fabrication. This material provides general
information only and is not intended as a substitute for competent
professional examination and verification as to suitability and
applicability. The publication of the material herein is not intended as
a representation or warranty on the part of the AGA. Anyone making
use of this information assumes all liability arising from such use.