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January 9, 2023
Preventing Rust on Fences and Gates with ZRC® Cold Galvanizing Compound
Written by: Sam Steele
Commercial properties in a variety of industries rely on fences to keep the property secure, keep items from being stolen, protect the people inside, or designate property lines. Many business owners grow complacent with their fences and gates, thinking once it is up there is nothing left to do. In the long run, this is not true. In fact, they do require a bit of upkeep from time to time. The reason why has to do with rust.
Understanding Why Fences Rust
Depending on the humidity, rust begins to form on metal within days - even if it’s not noticeable to the naked eye yet. Preventing rust on fences and gates is important for maintaining both their appearance and structural integrity. Rust is caused by the oxidation of iron or steel, which can occur when these metals are exposed to water and oxygen for an extended period of time.
Not all outdoor structures will rust at the same rate, though. Why is this? There are several factors that can contribute to the formation of rust on fences and gate posts:
Any metal will rust when it gets wet. You may not often think about it, but the air itself is wet with water vapor! Fences and gates, being outdoors, are particularly susceptible to rust because they are constantly exposed to the elements. High humidity levels can increase the likelihood of rust forming on fences and gate posts. This is because the moisture in the air can condense on the surface of the metal, creating the perfect environment for rust to form.
Rain can also contribute to the formation of rust on fences and gate posts. When it rains, water can accumulate on the surface of the metal, providing a source of moisture that can lead to rust. A fence in an area of the country where it rains frequently, like South Florida or the Pacific Northwest, is going to rust much more quickly than a similar fence in Nevada.
#3 Proximity to the ocean
Speaking of South Florida or the Pacific Northwest, fences and gate posts located near the ocean are particularly susceptible to rust because of the high levels of salt in the air. Science tells us that the salt in the air can create a corrosive environment that can accelerate the rusting process.
How to Maintain Fences and Gates
It's a good idea to regularly inspect your fences and gates for signs of rust. If you notice any rust forming, you should take steps to address it as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading and causing further damage. There are several steps you can take to prevent rust on your fences and gates:
Keep up with maintenance
The first step in understanding how to prevent iron from rusting is to learn the importance of maintenance. Fences and gate posts that are not properly maintained are more prone to rust. If the metal is not regularly cleaned and dried, moisture can accumulate on the surface and lead to rust. We recommend you take a wire brush and give it a solvent wipe to clean it. You want to get as much of the rust off that you can. Try to get to it before it reaches a “point of no return.” In order to truly be able to salvage a rusty fence, you need to recharge the zinc before it is depleted (more on this later on!).
Keep the metal clean and dry
Regularly cleaning and drying your fences and gates can also help prevent rust. You may wonder what dirt has to do with rust. Dirt and other natural debris can trap moisture against the metal, which can lead to rust. By regularly cleaning your fences and gates and drying them off after it rains, you can help prevent moisture from accumulating on the surface of the metal.
Repair any damaged areas
Routinely check your fence for any damaged areas. If found, they should be repaired as soon as possible. Damaged areas are more prone to rust because they provide a place for moisture to accumulate. By filling in any cracks or holes and sanding down rough edges, you can help prevent rust from forming.
Particularly if the fence in question is a chain link fence, you may realize it is rusting much quicker than you had hoped. This is because it’s very difficult to get its surface prepared against rust because of the nature and shape of the metal. ZRC is a product that can be added afterwards, without taking down your fence. ZRC® Cold Galvanizing Compound is incredibly effective at stopping rust from forming. This is because we use ultra pure zinc dust, something no one else can say. Using a ZRC product will mean you won’t have to reapply the paint or spray for many years because it is a high-quality product. After all, you don’t want to go through all of this work to redo it in a year! You can read more about this in our blog, High-Quality Zinc: What it Means and Why it Matters.
Why Is Pure Zinc Dust Important?
Zinc dust is key in the science of how to prevent iron from rusting, as it acts as a rust inhibitor because it has what is known as a galvanic effect on metals like iron and steel. When zinc dust is applied to these metals, it creates a galvanic cell, with the zinc serving as the cathode. This means that the zinc will sacrifice itself to protect the steel from corrosion. The zinc ions in the zinc dust will react with the oxygen and water in the environment, forming a layer of zinc oxide on the surface of the steel. This layer of zinc oxide acts as a barrier, protecting the steel from further corrosion.
In addition to its sacrifice during the galvanic effect, zinc dust can also provide additional protection for iron and steel by absorbing moisture from the environment. This can help prevent rust from forming on the fence by removing the source of moisture that would otherwise contribute to the corrosion process. This helps protect the fence or gate from corrosion and extends its lifespan – saving you money and effort in the long run.
As long as existing zinc is in contact with the new zinc that you’re painting on, ZRC will work to restore your fence to a like-new condition. If you stay on top of it and consistently regalvanize it before it gets out of control, you can make your fence last indefinitely!
If you’re now realizing your fence and gate need a little TLC, the answer you’re looking for can be found on our website. We encourage you to browse our product offerings and select the ZRC product that is right for your specific needs. If you’re not sure, you can always contact us and ask!