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Why Hot-Dip Galvanized Steel Makes Superior Rooftop Support Systems

Posted by Art Valentz on January 15, 2020

Rooftop supports are extremely important when it comes to extending the lifespan of your commercial roof – as well as increasing the safety of contractors and maintenance crews who work on your elevated surfaces. With that said, not all rooftop support systems are created equal.

Your rooftop supports are subjected to the same stressors as other materials on top of your roof: sunlight, wind, rain, snow, and so on. They must also continuously bear the weight of heavy equipment, in addition to the occasional weight of foot traffic. Without maintenance or inspection, your rooftop supports will eventually succumb to rust and wear – endangering your equipment, your building, and your workers.

At PHP Systems/Design, we make all of our rooftop support systems out of hot-dip galvanized steel. This provides many advantages over traditional materials and helps your support systems last as long as possible while remaining safe to use.

What is Hot-Dip Galvanized Steel?

Metal – steel or iron – corrodes when exposed to the atmosphere. Protective coatings such as paint can prevent this, but these inevitably flake away after long-term exposure to the elements. The best way to preserve and strengthen metal in outdoor environments is to coat them with a layer of resistant material that will not wear away over time or corrode when exposed to oxygen.

Hot-dip galvanization involves coating steel in a bath of molten zinc. This process alloys the zinc with the surface of the steel. Although zinc oxidizes when exposed to the atmosphere, it does not corrode. Instead, it forms zinc carbonate, a strong crystalline material that protects the underlying steel from corrosion and wear. Once protected, galvanized steel can be formed, machined, and even welded while still maintaining its corrosion resistance.

Advantages of Galvanized Steel Construction

When you build with galvanized steel, you build for the long haul. Projects built with galvanized steel are usually specified to last for up to 100 years. Galvanized steel structures have the potential to last for up to a 100-year design life without significant maintenance.

Not only does zinc act as a barrier between steel and the atmosphere, zinc also offers what’s known as cathodic resistance. Even if the zinc coating experiences damage, it creates an electrical field that prevents the exposed steel surface from corroding via atmospheric contact. As a result of these protections, hot-dip galvanized steel corrodes at a rate that’s 1/30th of normal, unprotected steel.

In addition to forming a corrosion barrier, hot-dip galvanized steel is more durable than an unprotected material. The zinc carbonate barrier is soft on its surface, absorbing the impact force of any blows to the steel. The lower layers – closer to where the zinc contacts the steel – are harder than the steel it’s protecting. This combination makes it difficult to scratch or penetrate the zinc coating.

Lastly, the zinc layer provides equal protection across its entire surface. The layer maintains equal thickness across corners and edges, while evenly coating both the interior and exterior of hollow parts. This ensures that there are no areas where a hot-dipped galvanized steel part is less-well-protected than any other part – the entire structure will age at the same rate.

Adding Hot-Dip Galvanized Steel to Rooftop Supports

By adding so many robust protections, galvanized steel can outlast other kinds of steel in extreme environments. Studies have shown that because of its resistance to impacts and atmospheric corrosion, galvanized steel can last for over 70 maintenance-free years in the toughest industrial environments.

Sitting on top of a roof, exposed to sunlight and weather, represents a pretty harsh environment for metal – but it’s also not the harshest possible environment. In other words, it’s likely that you’ll get a lot more than 70 years of use out of your rooftop supports. In fact, given that most commercial roofs are projected to last from 20 to 50 years, it’s likely that your rooftop support system could outlast your roof!

Here at PHP Systems/Design, we know that it’s important to have a safe, usable roof – and an equally safe and usable rooftop support system. As such, all of our systems are created with hot-dip galvanized steel, ensuring that you’ll rarely have to worry about maintaining your rooftop supports as you maintain your roof and roof-mounted equipment.

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