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September 5, 2019

Steel Bridge Repair and Maintenance Essentials

What are the essential processes involved in steel bridge repair and maintenance?

  1. Ocular Inspection
  2. Removing and Reapplying Paint
  3. Cleaning Exposed Areas
  4. Reinforcing Steel Sections
  5. Steel Cable Maintenance


The main advantages of local steel products over other construction materials are its strength, ductility, ease of production, and quick construction.  Add the fact that steel has a much higher strength in both tension and compression than concrete, you have an alloy that is perfect for the bridges. This is because it is a versatile and effective material that provides efficient and sustainable solutions for bridge construction.

Steel bridges are widely used around the world and come in different structural forms with different span lengths such as highway bridges, railway bridges, and footbridges. Despite its wonderful and robust properties, steel is not a miracle alloy that is exempted from maintenance. Just like many things in this world, if steel is widely used, then it also means they are supposed to be widely maintained. However, doing that might not be the simplest task. If you are looking to take part in the repair and maintenance of steel bridges, but do not know what to do, here is a list of essentials.


What should you look for during steel bridge maintenance?

What Should You Look For During Steel Bridge Maintenance

Steel bridges are enormous structures that are not the easiest to repair and maintain because they have different components that have a different deterioration rate, rehabilitation cost and cost-effective treatment time.  You have to know what to be on the lookout for on your next inspection/evaluation.

Aside from that, each repair decision must be carefully weighed with the long-term operational requirements and existing environmental factors in mind. A lack of foresight can lead to many more problems down the line, so take the time to think about how to go about doing repairs and maintenance.

Ocular Inspection

In that same vein, bridge maintenance must always begin with an ocular inspection. The way steel degrades or deteriorates is mainly due to corrosion i.e. rust. By first doing an ocular inspection, you are most certainly going to be able to see where rust is forming. From that information, you can then know which part of the bridge to focus on.

You should also be on the lookout for structural damage such as dents, deformities, chip damage, and other details that could affect the structural integrity of the bridge.

Removing and reapplying Paint

If the steel bridge needs to be repainted, the first thing to do is remove the existing paint until the bare metal is the only thing remaining. Apply one prime coat before anything else because it is the first layer of protection against the elements, so don’t go painting before applying it. After it dries, apply two layers of the color coat of your preference. Make sure to apply paint seals to the joints and intersections of the metal surface so that no moisture can get in between the metal parts.

If the paint you are trying to remove has a lead component, make sure not to inhale or ingest it to avoid lead poisoning. Try to be diligent at its disposal as well, so you don’t cause lead poisoning to other organisms in the environment.


Cleaning Exposed Areas

Dust, animal droppings, and other forms of dirt can make your steel bridge look depraved. When it comes to the exposed areas (which is pretty much every area of the bridge), use a pressure washer to ensure that it is cleaned thoroughly.

When it comes to cover plates, another widely exposed part, replace uneven and worn-out plates if normal pressure washing and buffing is not enough to maintain its integrity.


Reinforcing Steel Sections

Some sections of a steel bridge might have weakened due to corrosion and wear, but not all of them can be replaced easily or in an instant. In those cases, reinforcing these sections is your next best bet. You can add extra steel to parts like the cross-section for reinforcement.

Be mindful when adding more metal for reinforcement because the permissible stresses in the added material must comply with the load design stresses. Retrofitting is good and all, but it is not uncommon for some structures to weaken due to poor placement of the added metals.


Steel Cable Maintenance

Steel Cable Maintenance

You can maintain steel cables by removing foreign objects from the cable support system, cleaning it and lubricating the cable supports. Tighten or replace stirrups when necessary and repair the cable wrapping when it is damaged.

Do not neglect the steel cables just because they might be a hassle to repair and maintain due to their placement. They are important in keeping your steel bridge safe for use.


Key Takeaway

Repair and maintenance is a crucial part of keeping a bridge safe, and neglecting it could lead to disastrous results. Also, do not forget to use the proper equipment and tools to make repairs safely. Diligence and preparation will go a long way in any steel bridge endeavor.

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