In the case of a newly applied coating, asset owners can use the coating’s warranty information, advice from a third-party inspector and the opinion of the contractor to determine when the coating will once again warrant attention. Professional inspectors should be on hand to oversee the surface preparation, coating application and to evaluate the complete job. But for asset owners looking to design a protective coatings maintenance plan in the middle of a coating’s service life, a coatings survey is often conducted to determine exactly how an existing coating is holding up.

For some assets, especially those near ground level, this may be a logistically simple process. But for bridges, water towers, smokestacks, confined spaces and other elevated or tough-to-reach assets, planning a coatings survey can be more of an involved process.

That doesn’t mean it’s a step that should be ignored. A coatings survey will give an owner an idea of how a coating is currently performing, of any problems that should be addressed immediately and a general idea of when next steps will need to be undertaken. Surveys are a necessary part of any well-put-together maintenance plan and should be performed regularly. It’s commonly recommended that they be conducted at least once per year.

In this post, we’ll discuss some of the necessary aspects of a thorough coatings survey, as well as how a coatings survey fits into a larger protective coatings maintenance plan.

The elements of a coatings survey

A thorough coatings survey should take into account all of the important physical details about the coating in use and its current condition, as well as all of those environmental factors which will have a bearing on how the coating performs. This includes the presence of moisture, climate, UV exposure and any other factors particular to the exact geographic setting of the asset.

A coatings survey should also contain details pertaining to the coating’s original application. Facts like the date the application was completed, the applicator who performed the work, the manufacturer that produced the coating, and so on, should be included. Any notable circumstances or condition from the time of the application that the owner can recall should also be included in the survey. The more complete this section of the survey is the more educated any maintenance decisions will be.

After the background condition of the asset have been thoroughly assessed, the time comes to focus on the state of the coating itself. How well it is adhering to the substrate and dry film thickness should be noted, as well as the percentage of failure of the coating system over a given area. The presence of chalking, primer, mill scale, rust and gloss should also be noted. Any serious pitting corrosion or other serious failures should be addressed immediately.

Finally, a coatings survey should include a plan for going forward. Which locations on an asset are in particular trouble? Will they require maintenance immediately, or should they be made a part of a one to three-year plan? Which locations on the asset are especially difficult to reach? Should adjacent areas be recoated if scaffolding needs to be erected to reach these tough spots?

Once these questions are addressed in the final section of the survey, a larger coatings maintenance plan is beginning to take shape. Owners will be well on their way toward perfecting a document that will ensure that their assets will continue to function without unexpected downtime or expenditures.

What is corrosion, anyway? Download your complete guide to corrosion here.

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