Rust bleeding through paint
January 26, 2014 in Design Dilemma
About 4 months ago we had our patio posts and iron redone. The contractor was an iron worker, as he put in new decorative iron. That being said, he insisted on iron posts for the patio. He told me rust would not be an issue, as he would use a good primer and paint to finish it. After about 2 months, rust began bleeding through the paint. I attached two pics. The first shows the work in progress. Some of the posts are already primed, but notice the unprimed post. If you look closely, you can notice some light, powdery surface rust. I don't think that was removed before they were primed as you can see in the second picture the rust bleeding through the finished product. Any advice or ideas from someone who understands rust and how to control it, would be helpful. Thanks in advance.
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Richlind Architects LLC
Hard to diagnose without more investigation. Usually, steel exposed to the weather is galvanized with a silver/grey zinc coating before paint. What is the steels exposure to elements? Is there a drainage problem in the wall not wicking moisture away? Are you near an ocean and salty air? Can your contractor warrantee the work performed, bonds, insurances?
0 Likes   January 26, 2014 at 1:10PM
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I don't understand him insisting on steel posts for the patio. I guess he was fishing for more work? I can understand how a homeowner can get bullied by the 'expert', but I look at it this way - for the amount of money you are laying out, it should be done however you want, not how the contractor wants.

Steel comes with mill scale on it, which is why it's a dull gray. Mill scale is applied hot, to prevent the steel from rusting from the foundry. However, mill scale does not last forever. it cracks and flakes off. That means any steel without some other kind of coating (galvanizing for ex) should have all of the mill scale sandblasted or ground off before painting, or at least a rust converter used. Your unprimed post looks like it has mill scale, but I can't tell for certain without a close up.

Before we blame that, is the paint used water based? If it is, then the paint could be the water source.

Regardless, your guy said rust wouldn't be a problem and it is. He should come back out and fix it by stripping everything off (Scotch Brite works well for that), painting a couple of coats of rust converter primer like this one:
and then painting with oil based paint.
2 Likes   January 26, 2014 at 2:02PM
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He failed to clean the iron of loose rust and prime with the correct primer. Shame on him! You have pictures - call him and have him do the job correctly.
4 Likes   January 26, 2014 at 2:19PM
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Call him back and have the post done correctly. If he not willing, call BBB and do a review
of his work, on line, if he has a site.
1 Like   January 26, 2014 at 6:54PM
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Other than getting the idiot back to do it (if you want to trust him again, that is)
You (or him) needs to take it back to bare metal.....
Then prime, undercoat and finish coat.
Don't cheap out on the paint- quality is everything when paints concerned.
Painting over it, after a light sand- it's just going to keep coming back mate.
Sorry for that but that's really your only option (if you want to keep the posts) hope that helps
1 Like   January 26, 2014 at 8:10PM
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I appreciate all of the feedback. I figured it would have to be taken back down to bare metal, as I don't think the posts were cleaned properly either before he primed, in fact I'm damn certain they weren't. He first insisted that he would come back out and "repaint", which I thought wouldn't solve the problem, hence my reason for this post.

One of the first responses, from "santoslhauper" recommended oil based paint, as a water based paint could be the source of water to cause the rust? Is that possible? I mean, if it's cleaned and primed properly with a good primer, would it matter if it is an oil based paint or not? Should I be worried about the post inside the wall? We are not near the ocean. In California and we do get some rain, and being this is a patio, it is obviously in the elements.

If he won't bring it back down to bare metal and re-do correctly, can I have another contractor do the work, or myself, and charge him for the material/labor? I've never had to sue/take a contractor to court for not finishing work. Is that something the BBB would help with? I have since seen some yelp's on his business, some good, some not so good.

Thanks for all of the insight!
0 Likes   February 1, 2014 at 12:09PM
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I have no idea what primer was used and I'm not familiar with the porosity of primers, but it's generally a better idea to paint with oil based paint to obviate the issue. It is possible that the water in the paint can rust the steel, but it is also possible the primer would be enough. You should be able to get custom color oil based paint from your supplier, so I wouldn't trust just the primer. At the very least the primer should be oil based. And definitely use the rust converter first, then primer. For the steel sculptures I paint, I use the Gemplers, then Rustoleum filler primer, then oil based paint (or automotive HVLP spray paint).

As for worrying about the inside walls of the post, they will rust but it will take many decades to rust through given the thickness of the posts he used (I'm assuming he used the proper posts, at least 1/4" thick)

To the question of whether you can hire another contractor and charge the guy, not really. The guy would have to agree to that first. But I would first give him the opportunity to come back and repair it. It's very possible the guy will fix his mistake.
I doubt the BBB would help you sue him. There's not really much you can do about a guy doing a crappy job. Even if you hadn't paid him a cent, he did a crappy job, and you refused to pay, he could put a lien on your house and you'd have to pay him for his crappy work. It sucks, but so it goes. Just like journalists, politicians, mechanics, etc., contractor is another profession which has lost all trust IMO.
I think when hiring a contractor these days, one needs to treat the hiring process like you're hiring someone to babysit your kids. That's how rigorously they should be vetted. And even after that, you need to google basic procedures so you can verify he/she is doing the job right. A good contractor won't mind your scrutiny. In fact, a really good one would welcome it.

If your guy won't fix the mistake, and DIY is possible, I'd suggest that, depending on the tools you have. A Scotch Brite pad on an angle grinder would be the best stripping tool IMO.
1 Like   Thanked by johnnyg007    February 1, 2014 at 12:50PM
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So, many years ago we had the same issue. Unfortunately, we could never alleviate the rust problem no matter how well we prepped and what type of paint or primer we used. We did live in Seattle, so maybe that is why. Is there anyway you could turn the rusty post into a focal point? Could you clad the posts with copper and let in green? Would there be a weird reaction between the metals? I think this is a think outside of the box issue. I hope you can come to an answer that you will love.
0 Likes   February 1, 2014 at 1:34PM
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