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Steps for Successful Surface Preparation Prior to Painting Steel

by Brenda Vollman on Feb 2, 2021

Surface preparation is an essential factor in painting steel since it determines the paint job's success or failure. One also needs to have the right surface prep tools to get the job done right. Although steel is strong, durable, and hard, it still needs surface preparation to enhance these qualities. Using the best coating system will be of no use if you do not adequately prepare the steel's surface.

Benefits of adequate surface preparation include prolonged life span of the steel, improved aesthetics, improved corrosion resistance, and safe handling of steel equipment. Lack of proper surface preparation can lead to structural problems, corrosion, and the paint coating not sticking to it evenly or fully. Our copy is going to highlight a few steps for successful surface preparation prior to painting steel.

Pre-Cleaning

The first step to successful surface preparation is determining whether your steel needs to be pre-cleaned. If it has been exposed to soluble or loose substances, oil, grease, or chemicals accumulated from the air composition in an industry, you need to pre-clean it. If the steel is located in a high salt area, it needs to be pre-cleaned to ensure that the salt does not interfere with the coating. Make sure you also clear the steel off any debris that may be on its surface.

Cleaning

There are different methods of cleaning the surface of the steel. What you would like to rid the steel of will determine what method of cleaning you will employ.

To clean the steel of any debris, you can employ a low-cost but safe and effective cleaning method. Use a mild detergent to wash the surface of the steel. The first step is using clean water to rinse the surface, and then soaking it for a few minutes. Doing this ensures that any debris attached to the steel loosens. Next, you will need a soft sponge to apply a soapy solution to the steel, and then rinse the steel with hot water.

Part of your surface prep tools should include sandpaper, chisels, scrapers, and brushes. These are used when hand tool cleaning steel surfaces cannot be reached by power tools when cleaning. You can use them to clean small corners, which are some of the surfaces that are hard to reach. The surface being cleaned determines what tool is appropriate to use.

The best option for cleaning dust is wet abrasive blasting. It also speeds up getting rid of the thick coating, which may have been placed in multiple layers. If the contaminants are soluble in water, low-pressure blasting will suffice. High-pressure blasting is only necessary for maintenance cleaning. Ensure you follow the set safety standards when using high-pressure blasting.

Abrasive blasting is an appropriate cleaning method that is also cost-effective for cleaning large steel areas that require cleaning rapidly. Abrasive blasting can quickly get rid of old layers of paint, rust, and mill scale. However, it cannot remove viscous substances such as chemicals, grease, and oil. In such a case, you will need to employ the use of a denser and harder abrasive.

Ensure you also clean the steel of any corrosion or the byproducts of corrosion. Check the steel to see if it has any spots with rust. These should be removed to prevent corrosion from being beneath the paint. You can use chemicals and physical means to get rid of corrosion. Use a sandpaper or wire brush to scrape the corrosion. Alternatively, apply a chemical rust remover on the steel's surface. Corrosion forms on ferrous metals in a few hours. Therefore, there is little time between getting rid of the corrosion and applying primer to the steel.

If the steel has any grease or oil, you need to eliminate them. Grease and oil will severely damage the potential of paint adhering to the steel for a long time. Pick an appropriate solvent to remove the grease and oil. The right solvent will get rid of these two with ease. Make sure you get a solvent that is safe to use. There are various options of solvents, so get one that would suit you best.

Texturizing

After all the measures you employ in surface preparation prior to painting your steel, you need to remember an essential step, which is to texture the steel's surface. Once you have performed surface preparation, the raw metal will often be shiny and smooth. However, this is not an indicator that they will adhere to the surface if you apply the paint and primer.

It would help if you texturized the steel to ensure that the paint and primer stick. Texturing often applies to ferrous metals. To texturize the steel, you can use tools like buffing pads and sandpaper. They will scrape and scratch the steel's surface and not cause any noticeable deformation or damage. Ensure you know how to use these tools. Not using them appropriately could permanently ruin the steel.

Surface Condition

Before proceeding with the final step, adding a primer layer to the steel surface, you need a painting contractor who is qualified to inspect the steel surface. There are set industry standards that guide the inspection criteria. Visual guides are often included with the written standards. Surface preparations will vary depending on professional or industry standards, the paint and primer used, and the environment. For a project to be successful, a client has to adhere to the set rules.

Always ensure that you store the steel in a stable, dry environment instead of exposing it to moisture. To get the steel to look beautiful and hold the paint ensure that there has been adequate surface preparation carried out by a professional. You will avoid having unnecessary repair costs if you adhere to the set rules. Before getting started on surface preparation, always ensure that you have all the surface prep tools you will need during the process to ensure your work is seamless. 

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