How Can I Protect Steel Piles from Corrosion?
Steel piles are a series of structural steel shapes that are driven into the earth to stabilize a foundation. The various shapes include steel sheet pile, steel pipe pile, steel h-pile beams, and steel wide flange beams. These structural steel shapes can be driven for retention walls, bridge foundations, excavation applications, and more.
Steel piles used in marine areas or driven into other areas of water are susceptible to corrosion. Unprotected steel piles in seawater are particularly at-risk for corrosion, but corrosion is also common, although usually not as rapid or severe, in freshwater areas. The high salt content in seawater is particularly damaging to steel piles. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to protect steel piles from corrosion. Below are some possible solutions:
Protective coatings can help protect steel piles from corrosion in both seawater and freshwater areas. There are several paints and coating options for steel piles that are specifically designed to prevent premature corrosion. Organic resin coatings and metallized aluminum coatings are particularly popular choices. Organic resin coatings are quite affordable, and metallized aluminum coatings are exceptionally protective in saltwater applications.
Concrete Jacketing –
This involves jacketing steel piles with protective concrete. It can provide an extra and needed layer of protection from water that may degrade piles.
Fiber Wraps –
Wraps made of fiber laminate material may be applied to steel piles to prevent corrosion. They may also be applied to piles that have already experienced some degree of corrosion to slow down further decay.
Cathodic Protection –
The process of cathodic protection uses a protective current that offsets corrosive currents in piling. This type of protection causes steel to become cathodic and resistant to corrosion.
Over Dimensioning Methods –
When steel piles are installed, over dimensioning in wet areas that are susceptible to corrosion is a great idea. Over dimensioning involves increasing the wall thickness of sections of piles by using extra piles that serve as sacrificial metal to offer extra support to the overall structure. Over dimensioning is helpful because it increases load bearing capabilities. If corrosion is a possibility in the future, the higher the load bearing capabilities are to start, the better.
When steel piles are used in marine and inland areas where they are exposed to water over long periods of time, it is important to employ one or multiple of the corrosion prevention strategies listed above. When deciding which strategies are ideal choices, you should consider the potential costs of certain corrosion prevention methods as well as the needed life expectancy of piles for your individual project. If the proper protection methods are used, steel piles will usually last up to around 50 years in marine areas. Premature removal of piles can be costly. As is the case with most things, adequate prevention of some kind is a worthwhile decision.
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