The Steel Structures Painting Council has correlated surface preparations and primer, intermediate, and finish coats of paints into systems, each designed for a common service condition (Steel Structure Painting Manual). In addition, the Council publishes specifications for each system and individual specifications for surface preparations and paints. Methods for surface cleaning include solvent, handtool, power-tool, pickling, flame, and several blast techniques.
Surface preparation is directly related to the type of paints. In general, a slowdrying paint containing oil and rust-inhibitive pigments and one possessing good wetting ability may be applied on steel nominally cleaned. On the other hand, a fast-drying paint with poor wetting characteristics requires exceptionally good surface cleaning, usually entailing complete removal of mill scale. Therefore, in specifying a particular paint, the engineer should include the type of surface preparation, to prevent an improper surface condition from reducing the effectiveness of an expensive paint.
Paint selection and surface preparation are a matter of economics. For example, while blast-cleaned surfaces are concealed to be the best paint foundation for lasting results, the high cost is not always justified. Nevertheless, the Council specifies a minimum surface preparation by a blast cleaning process for such paints as alkyd, phenolic, vinyl, coal tar, epoxy, and zinc-rich.
As an aid for defining and evaluating the various surface preparations, taking into account the initial condition of the surface, an international visual standard is available and may be used. A booklet of realistic color photographs for this purpose can be obtained from the Council or ASTM. The applicable standard and acceptance criteria are given in Quality Criteria and Inspection Standards, American Institute of Steel Construction.
The Council stresses the relationship between the prime coat (shop paint) and the finish coats. A primer that is proper for a particular type of field paint could be an unsatisfactory base for another type of field paint. Since there are numerous paint formulations, refer to Council publications when faced with a painting condition more demanding than ordinary.
In the absence of specific contract requirements for painting, the practice described in the AISC Specification for Structural Steel for Buildings may be followed.
This method may be considered nominal. The steel is brushed, by hand or power, to remove loose mill scale, loose rust, weld slag, flux deposit, dirt, and foreign matter. Oil and grease spots are solvent cleaned. The shop coat is a commercial- quality paint applied by brushing, dipping, roller coating, flow coating, or spraying to a 2-mil thickness. It affords only short-time protection. Therefore, finished steel that may be in ground storage for long periods or otherwise exposed to excessively corrosive conditions may exhibit some paint failure by the time it is erected, a condition beyond the control of the fabricator. Where such conditions can be anticipated, as for example, an overseas shipment, the engineer should select the most effective paint system.