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Some of my customers have asked what kind of paint is best for coating hot-dip galvanized steel. Is there a specific type of paint I should be recommending to my customers?

Chinatown Park
Painted Duplex System
*Updated 2023

Making paint recommendations can be tricky. First, it could reflect poorly on you or your company if a recommendation turns out problematic. Second, it’s best to leave paint recommendations up to paint suppliers or specialists. Having said that, many types of paint have been applied to hot-dip galvanized steel over the years. Some patterns have emerged with specific types of paint in particular environments, some working better than others.

In the AGA publication, Duplex Systems, you will find a table (Figure 1, below) that discusses the compatibility of 16 types of paint or other barrier coatings that have been applied over hot-dip galvanized steel. While this information should not be looked at as a recommendation, it can be used as a resource to assist in choosing an appropriate type of paint or barrier coating to apply over hot-dip galvanized steel. However, the specific type of paint or other barrier coating that will be applied over the hot-dip galvanized steel is only part of the formula for ensuring a successful duplex system. The other part of the formula, and probably the most important, is the preparation of the galvanized coating prior to applying the paint. If the preparation of the galvanized coating is inadequate, it does not matter what type of paint is used, it will begin peeling off the galvanized coating sooner rather than later.

Clients asking for recommendations should also be made referred to SSPC Guide 19. Guide 19 addresses both the condition of galvanizing and the application’s service environment to narrow down types of paint that are compatible under these circumstances. Using Guide 19’s Table 1, you can easily see what paint types are recommended before exploring further options with a paint supplier. For example, on a deteriorated hot-dip galvanized coating in a chemical (<5pH or >10pH) environment, bituminous, coal tar epoxy, and epoxy paint types, would be recommended.

SSPC Guide 19 - Table 1 (Click here for the full SSPC Guide 19)

Galvanizing Condition Service Environment
Coating Type New Partially
Deteriorated Aesthetic Chemical
(pH <5 or >10)
Buried Marine
Acrylics Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes
Bituminous Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
Coal Tar Epoxies Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Epoxies Yes Yes Yes -- Yes Yes Yes
Inorganic Zinc Rich No No No No No No No
Latex Acrylics Yes Yes No Yes No No No
Organic Zinc Rich No No Yes -- No No Yes
Micaceous Iron Oxide
Reinforced Polyurethane
Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes
Vinyls Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes

Remember, even the best paint systems will fail if the galvanized surface is not properly prepared. So do yourself and your client a favor by emphasizing the importance of surface preparation when discussing paint. The AGA has published an instructional guide, Preparing Hot-Dip Galvanized Steel for Paint. The guide offers a detailed walk-through of the steps necessary to properly prepare a hot-dip galvanized coating for paint or other barrier coating. It is available for download in PDF form and can also be ordered as a CD or DVD with visual demonstrations.

Figure 1: Barrier Coatings Compatibility with HDG Steel

Type Compatibility Comments
Acrylics Sometimes If the pH of the paint is high, problems may occur due to ammonia reacting with zinc
Aliphatic Polyurethanes Yes If used as a top coat for a polyamide epoxy primer, it is considered a superior duplex system
Bituminous Yes Used for parts that are to be buried in soil
Chlorinated Rubbers Yes High VOC content has severely limited their availability
Coal Tar Epoxies Sometimes Rarely used, only if parts are to be buried in soil
Epoxies Sometimes If paint is specifically manufactured for use with galvanized steel
Epoxy-Polyamide Cured Yes Has superior adherence to galvanized steel
Latex-Acrylics Yes Has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly
Latex-Water-based Sometimes Consult paint manufacturer
Oil Base Sometimes Consult paint manufacturer
Portland Cement in Oil Yes Has superior adherence to galvanized steel
Silicones No Not for use directly over galvanized steel, can be beneficial in high temperature systems w/ base coat
Vinyls Yes Usually requires profiling, high VOC’s have severely limited their availability
Powder Coating Yes Low temperature curing powder coatings work exceptionally well over galvanized steel

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