Embedded in Concrete: Reinforcing steel corrosion protection

The New New York Bridge will incorporate thousands of tons of galvanized rebar.

Extensive design considerations are relevant to reinforcing steel, including bending, cutting, tying, welding, and handling. While this article does not go into detail regarding design concerns of reinforcing steel, specifiers must be aware of these considerations before making their final decisions. Durability, cost, and performance are important factors in the life of reinforcing steel, and each type of bar and coating can provide advantages in each of these areas.

Constructing projects to last 75 to 100 years saves taxpayer money while also creating a stronger infrastructure for the future. Conducting research to determine performance, application conditions, and cost, as well as communicating with those involved in the project, will ensure the correct type of reinforcing steel is chosen 
to provide the longest possible project lifespan, increasing safety and sustainability for the whole community.

Built in 1973, Pennsylvania’s Athens Bridge was inspected in 2001, with no sign of active corrosion found on the galvanized reinforcements.
Photos courtesy American Galvanizers Association

Built in 1973, the Athens Bridge in Pennsylvania is an 11-span, four-lane divided bridge utilizing hot-dip galvanized reinforcing bars. Its bridge deck was initially inspected eight years after installation, when concrete cores were drilled and an analysis of chloride contamination and coating thickness was conducted. The chloride levels found in the cores exhibited concentrations between 0.8 and 3.5 kg per 0.7 m3 (1.8 and 7.9 lb per 1 cy) of concrete. The high end of these concentrations was well above the threshold for active corrosion to occur on bare steel.

Despite these extremely corrosive conditions, the coating thickness measurements indicated galvanized coatings approximately three times as thick as required on newly galvanized rebar according to ASTM A767, Standard Specification for Zinc-coated (Galvanized) Steel Bars for Concrete Reinforcement. The Athens Bridge was later inspected in 1991 and 2001, and the analysis generated similar results, with no sign of active corrosion found on the galvanized reinforcement. These inspections indicate the bridge will stand with at least 75 years of maintenance-free corrosion protection.


The Egg, a performing arts center in Albany, New York.

The Egg at the Empire Center Plaza in Albany, New York, was completed in 1978. This performing arts center was a massive undertaking of architecture, combining aesthetics and function and featuring a concrete and steel stem extending six stories into the ground.

The Egg keeps its shape by wearing a girdle composed of heavily reinforced concrete beams, which use hot-dip galvanized rebar. The superior durability and corrosion protection of hot-dip galvanized steel made it the logical choice for the reinforcement of concrete in such an integral aspect of the structure’s design. The reinforced girdle helps the Egg keep its shape, and directs the weight of the structure onto the supporting pedestal and stem. Thanks to hot-dip galvanized reinforcing steel, the Egg’s extravagant design has not only wowed citizens and visitors for decades, but will remain a beautiful centerpiece of Albany for generations to come.


Laura Hanson is the digital marketing manager for the American Galvanizers Association (AGA), where she has worked for more than six years. She leads the Rebar Focus Group for AGA members while managing all AGA digital marketing initiatives. Hanson holds degrees in design from the University of Nebraska Lincoln and in communications from the University of Denver. She can be reached via e-mail at lhanson@galvanizeit.org.

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One comment on “Embedded in Concrete: Reinforcing steel corrosion protection”

  1. This article inaccurately states that, “Stainless steel is a newer reinforcing steel application. Therefore, there is less data available regarding its performance.” The world’s longest pier in Progreso Mexico was completed in 1941 using stainless steel reinforcement. Based on this article, that was well before galvanized rebar was introduced.

    The statement indicating the studies of stainless steel reinforcement are limited is also false. Stainless steel concrete reinforcement has been extensively studied globally and its’ exceptional performance documented in NACE and other papers. There have been many long term side-by-side bridge deck installations (Americas, Europe, Asia) and comparative evaluations of stainless steel relative to other types of reinforcement.

    Furthermore, for steel reinforcement to be identified as “corrosion resistant” in the ASTM standards, there must be a corrosion test and a minimum requirement for certification. The ASTM stainless steel and epoxy coated rebar both have corrosion test requirements – galvanized steel does not and when this has been discussed at past A01.05 meetings the industry has declined to add a corrosion test requirement. A review of the corrosion data available for galvanized rebar shows that it does not perform well in the standard laboratory tests that are used for steel reinforcement and the evaluation of its’ performance in actual installed applications has varied substantially based on the concrete type and actual conditions.

    This article is factually problematic in many respects and is clearly attacking a competitive material by providing false information.

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