Why Coatings Failures Require Thorough Investigation

Proving that surface preparation or coating application did not meet requirements is not enough. One must show that the deficiency directly caused or contributed to a coatings failure.

That was a key takeaway from Monday's “Coating Failure Investigations—Causes and Repairs” forum during the 2024AMPP Annual Conference + Expo in New Orleans.

Two KTA-Tator industry veterans — Rick Huntley, a senior consultant with 35 years of company experience, and Valerie Sherbondy, lab director with 34 years of experience — led the discussion. KTA-Tator is an engineering consultancy based in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Most in the audience said the most important property of a coating material is its ability to protect the surface from corrosion, although Huntley explained that sometimes a coating is there simply to make the inside of a pipe smoother to reduce friction — or even simply for aesthetic reasons.

“When dealing with failure analysis, what is the coating for and is it serving its purpose?” he asked. “What constitutes a coating failure? It doesn’t do what it is supposed to do. All coatings will fail, but if it lasts 25 years, it’s not a premature failure.”

Sherbondy said being able to reach down to the substrate of a surface greatly helps her investigation in the lab.

“People get really offended when I ask them to send me a piece of a bridge or a piece of aluminum,” she said. “I ask anyway. If we can get the substrate,  that really helps us put a whole story together.”

The presenters, who also led their audience through case studies, said their investigation process requires one to:

Understand the coating type/properties/purpose
Gather information
Make observations
Collect samples and data
Examine the information provided/samples
Collect evidence
Communicate conclusions

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