Any steel structure that spends a significant amount of time outdoors exposed to the elements will have to withstand the effects of weather damage. Steel is a strong material that can stand up to most forms of physical stress without breaking or deforming. Still, damage from weathering occurs over relatively long periods, and the effect is usually gradual. Rain, wind, and snow can all affect the appearance of steel and eventually threaten its structural integrity.
Because weathering can cause numerous issues for steel structures, whether it’s a steel-framed building or a steel storage container, weatherproofing to protect steel elements from weather damage is essential. In the case of buildings, exposure to the elements can ultimately compromise the integrity of the structures, requiring significant repair work or rebuilding to make them safe. Similarly, weather damage can eventually leave holes in steel containers, which expose their contents to rain, wind, and snow and leave them vulnerable to thieves.
Fortunately, most high-quality steel containers on the market today are designed to be weatherproof, and there are several ways of increasing their weather resistance. None of these techniques is permanent, but with proper care and the occasional reapplication of weatherproof coatings, they can survive for many years without being compromised by weather damage.
When it comes to creating weatherproof steel containers, prevention is the best cure. There is a range of manufacturing techniques that steel fabricators can use so that the steel they produce has some degree of innate weatherproofing. For example, Flintham Cabins’ steel containers are made from Corten steel, a special type of steel that offers increased resistance to weather damage compared to regular steel.
Corten steel takes its name from the two distinctive properties that separate it from other steel alloys; corrosion resistance, and tensile strength. Both of these properties make it an ideal material for steel containers. In addition, Corten steel containers resist weathering damage, specifically corrosive wear, better than other types of steel, while its tensile strength enables containers to stack atop one another and withstand a relatively large amount of weight.
Corrosion is perhaps the most common form of weathering damage that affects most steel structures. Corrosion, commonly known as rusting, occurs due to oxidisation. This effect results from steel interacting with atmospheric oxygen and exchanging electrons. Atoms in the steel donate an electron to the oxygen atoms in the air, leaving a positively-charged ion. This chemical reaction leads to the formation of iron oxide – the rust that we are all familiar with.
Oxidisation requires the presence of water. As a result, steel structures situated near water, primarily saltwater, are much more susceptible to corrosion. A small amount of rust only causes cosmetic damage. However, as the rust spreads over the structure, it eventually compromises its integrity and leaves the affected area weakened. If left long enough, rust will ‘eat through’ the steel and leave a hole.
Corten steel counteracts the effects of corrosion due to its unique chemical composition. This composition means that when the steel reacts with atmospheric oxygen, it forms a protective layer on its surface instead of allowing iron oxide to accumulate. In other words, it’s designed to ‘rust’ in a very particular way so that the rust forms a protective layer atop the steel.
How Does Steel Survive Other Forms of Weathering?
Corrosive oxidisation is just one of the ways that weather damage can compromise steel containers. The steel also needs to withstand wind, snow, rain, and other weather phenomena that can cause long-term damage.
Rain, ice, and snow can all cause weathering damage to steel structures due to moisture. Steel isn’t generally susceptible to mould damage, a common concern wherever there’s excess moisture. However, excessive moisture will encourage rust and corrosive damage. If the contents inside the container are damp, this can also lead to mould damage inside the container. Using rust-resistant steel, like Corten, can prevent external damage from rain. You can reduce dampness within the container by using a dehumidifier or certain types of insulation. Many containers contain a secondary lining material specifically to protect against internal moisture and dampness.
How to Prevent Weather Damage
You can do several things to help protect steel containers from weather damage. For example, steel site cabins in London situated near the waterfront will be more susceptible to rust because of their proximity to water. Moving them further away or erecting barriers to minimise their moisture exposure will help mitigate this.
Sheltering steel containers will reduce their exposure to all forms of weather and mitigate all types of weather damage. However, this won’t always be practical. Fortunately, there is a host of powder and paint coatings you can apply to the exterior of a steel container to form a protective barrier between the steel and the surrounding air. Some of these coatings are incredibly effective. These coatings are regularly used to protect the integrity of metal bridges.
What to Do if a Steel Container is Damaged by the Weather
If a steel container shows signs of rust, you need to act quickly to prevent the problem from spreading. Remove as much rust as possible, and apply a protective coating to prevent further damage.
However, by the time most weather damage becomes noticeable, the damage will already be done. Even if you can prevent further damage from occurring, the integrity of the steel may be compromised. Therefore, it’s usually safer to invest in a new container that’s more weather-resistant.
Flintham Cabins’ steel containers use Corten steel to ensure they are as resilient as possible and can withstand all but the most extreme forms of weather damage. So if you’re looking for reliable steel storage units in London to keep your cargo safe from the elements, Flintham Cabins offer the ideal solution. Contact us today to learn more about our steel container hire and whether they’re right for your storage needs.