Rust In Basements

Do you have steel beams in your basement? If you do, you’re probably concerned about rust and its effect on your basement.

Structural steel is quite strong and durable. This is one of the main reasons it is used for construction. However, steel is quite susceptible to corrosion. This corrosion (or rusting) compromises the integrity of the steel thus creating a safety hazard to the occupants of the building. Preventing the corrosion of steel beams is therefore vital.

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Causes of rust in basements

There are several different causes for corrosion on steel and other metal components in basements. These include:

  1. Basic corrosion

This is the most common cause of rust in basements. It is the result of a combination of moisture and oxygen. When these elements are in constant contact with the steel in the basement, a multi-stage chemical reaction occurs. This reaction results in the formation of hydrated iron oxide. This appears as a brown rust coating on the surface of the steel beam.

This reaction continues as long as all elements i.e. oxygen, iron and water, are present and in contact. As corrosion continues, the steel beam weakens and will eventually crumble.

  1. Bimetallic reactions

This results when the steel beams come into contact with another metal. A chemical reaction between the two metals occurs. This is common when metal alloys are involved. The complex reaction results in corrosion that weakens the steel beams over time.

This type of corrosion is common in metals that are buried or submerged.

  1. Environmental exposure

There are various pollutants in the environment. These include toxins and various gaseous compounds. Many of these toxins can encourage or cause rust in basements. Buildings in areas that are near manufacturing or processing plants that are known for emitting gasses or liquids that are corrosive are particularly vulnerable to this type of corrosion.

You are likely to experience corrosion as a result of exposure to the environment if:

  • The steel beams are uncoated
  • The steel beams have not been coated to suit their particular environment
  • The steel beam is not well maintained
  • Inadequate insulation of the foundation
  • No vapor barrier to prevent entry of moisture
  • Leaking roof
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Poor design or faults in the construction of the building’s foundation.

Rust in basements is more complex than many people believe. It is therefore important to work with a reputable foundation contractor in order to ensure that you protect your steel structures for the long term.