an excerpt from SSPC's Protective Coatings Glossary

The wearing away of a surface by action such as by rubbing, scraping, erosion, or other frictional process.

The ability of a coating to resist being worn away and to maintain its original appearance and structure when subjected to rubbing, scraping and wear. [ASTM]

Any set of conditions used in an attempt to produce in a short time the results obtained under normal conditions of aging. In accelerated aging tests, the usual factors considered are heat, light, water, and oxygen, either separately or combined. [Painting/Coatings Dictionary]

A failure between two distinct coating layers or between the substrate and the first layer of coating. See ADHESION TEST, TENSILE (PULL-OFF) in main glossary.

The addition of foreign materials to a manufactured product.

Film defect in which the coated surface, having once reached a tack-free state, subsequently develops a sticky condition. [CED]

(1) Storage of paints, varnishes, etc., under defined conditions of temperature, relative humidity, etc., in suitable containers, or as dry films of these materials for the purpose of subsequent tests [Painting/Coatings Dictionary]; (2) Gradual changing of a coating’s chemical and/or physical properties over a period of in-service response time.

Dry bubble in coating film caused by entrapped air. [CED]

(1) The process of causing small air bubbles to form in paint or wet paint film; (2) Intentional incorporation of small air bubbles in concrete to improve such physical properties as freezethaw resistance.

Inclusion of air bubbles in coating film or other solids such as concrete. [CED] See BUBBLING.

(1) A type of crazing or surface cracking of a definite pattern, as indicated by its name. The effect is often caused during weather aging; (2) the cracking of the surface bitumen on a built-up roof, producing a pattern of cracks similar to an alligator’s hide; the cracks may not extend through the surface bitumen. [CED]; surface cracking of a paint film having the appearance similar to alligator hide. [ASTM]; alligator cracking is the vertical cracking of a coating with a pattern of closed cells or islands of unbroken coating. See also CRACKING.

Surface opalescence (blush) on epoxy films caused by reaction of amine co-reactant with carbon dioxide and water to form an amine carbamate. This can affect adhesion of any subsequent coat if not properly removed.


Additive used to control or prevent foam formation during the manufacture or application of coatings.

Additive used to prevent the livering of a coating. See LIVERING.

Additive used to control sagging of a coating.

Substance incorporated into a pigmented paint to retard settling and to maintain uniform consistency during storage or painting operations. These additives normally function by altering the rheological properties of the paint.

Any material added to a coating to prevent or retard the processes of oxidation or polymerization that result in the formation of an insoluble skin on the surface of the coating in a container. [Painting/Coatings Dictionary]

Material added to surface coating compositions to prevent the formation of wrinkles in films during curing.

Area or patch, usually in a wrinkle finish film, which has failed to wrinkle or give the desired optical effect. [CED]

A chemical agent capable of killing organisms such as those responsible for microbiological degradation.

Any undesirable change in material properties brought about by the activities of microorganisms. [CED]

Biological encrustation of surfaces in sea water by flora and fauna, e.g., barnacles. See FOULING.

Disfiguring of surfaces by growth of microorganisms.

(1)Bleaching is a uniform loss of color of a paint or varnish. This may be due to internal chemical or physical action in the paint itself, to influences from the surface on which it is applied or to weathering or contamination from the atmosphere; (2) Intentional lightening of the color of a material such as wood, vegetable oils, varnishes, etc. [CED]; removing color. [AM]

Coating discoloration by the diffusion of coloring matter from a previously painted or unpainted surface (e.g. asphalt) by the action of the coating solvent.


The diffusion of colored matter from a substrate (including a previously applied paint film) into a newly applied finish, resulting in a discoloration of the finish. The solvent carrier of the newly applied finish normally transfers the coloring matter. Examples are bituminous surfaces, wood knots, organic pigments, contaminants.

Usually circular-shaped discoloration in stained or painted siding. [CED]

Appearance of color on a newly painted surface by migration of a previously painted substrate beneath it.

An undesirable rounded elevation of the coating resulting from the local loss of adhesion. See also BLISTERING.

(1) Formation of dome-shaped projections (blisters) in paints or varnish films resulting from local loss of adhesion and lifting of the film from an underlying paint film (intercoat blistering) or the base substrate. The standard test method for evaluating the degree of blistering of paints is described in ASTM D 714; (2) The irregular raising of a thin layer at the surface of placed mortar or concrete during or soon after completion of the finishing operation, or in the case of pipe after spinning; also bulging of the finish plaster coat as it separates and draws away from the base coat [ACI]; (3) Formation of blisters in films of paint or varnish. Blistering may be caused by solvent entrapment, moisture diffusion through the coating, or excessive moisture in the substrate.

A coating’s ability to resist the formation of blisters.

A barrier coat or transition primer/tie coat that prevents incompatible paints from touching. See also BARRIER COAT, TIE COAT in main glossary.

(1) The undesirable sticking together of two painted surfaces when pressed together under normal conditions or under specified conditions of temperature, pressure, and relative humidity; (2) Undesired adhesion between touching layers of material, such as occurs under moderate pressure and sometimes pressure and heat, during storage or fabrication. [CED]

The ability of two coated surfaces to resist sticking together during normal handling and storage.

The reduction of a coating gloss caused by materials exuding in or from an applied film. Unlike bleeding, the solvent-caused movement of material is from the coating itself and not the substrate.

Thickening of an oil through thermal processing; (2) An increase in the viscosity or thixotropy of a paint, varnish, or lacquer which occurs during storage. [MPDA]

(1) The rebound of atomized paint particles during spray application. This effect is most pronounced when paint is being applied into corners or boxed areas. The resultant return flow of atomized air carries some of the paint particles away from the surface. See also DRY SPRAY, OVERSPRAY; (2) Rebound of abrasive particles during abrasive blasting.


Susceptible and being easily broken, fragile.

Degree of susceptibility to cracking or breaking by bending. [AM]

A subjective, descriptive, appearance term applied to metal-like reflectance which sometimes appears at the surface of nonmetallic colored materials. It is perceived at the specular angle, by observing the image of a white light source, for example, and is characterized by a distinct hue of different predominant wavelength than the hue of the paint itself. The origin of the selective specular reflectance is generally considered to be reflectance from very small particle size pigments partially separated from the surrounding vehicle at or near the surface. [CED]

(1) Marks produced in a coating by the bristles of a brush during application. Depending on the leveling characteristics of the paint, brush marks may or may not remain in the dried coating; (2) Small ridges or valleys produced in a paint film by the combing action of the bristle of a brush. [CED]

Compound used to control the formation of bubbles in a coating.

Air bubbles or solvent vapor bubbles found temporarily in the wet film of a coating or permanently in the dry film.

Small regular or irregular cavities, usually not exceeding 15 mm in diameter, resulting from entrapment of air bubbles in the surface of formed concrete during placement and compaction.

Hard setting of pigment from a liquid paint during storage.

Resistance to deterioration of liquid paint in original container.

Surface hardening without thorough drying of film.[CED] See SURFACE DRYING, TOP DRYING in main glossary.

A coating failure that is sudden, very dramatic, and serious.

Metallic degradation resulting in substantial loss of metal.

Hole or holiday shaped like a cat’s eye; cratering. [AM] See CRATERING.

Mechanical lifting of a coating caused by hydrogen bubbles formed when cathodic protection

is excessive.

The formation and instantaneous collapse of innumerable tiny voids or cavities within a liquid subjected to rapid and intense pressure changes. Cavitation produced by ultrasonic radiation is sometimes used to effect violent localized agitation. Cavitation caused by severe turbulent flow often leads to cavitation damage. [ASM]

A process involving conjoint corrosion and cavitation. [ASM]

Progressive loss of original material from a solid surface due to continuing exposure to cavitation.

The formation of loose powder on the surface of a coating, usually caused by degradation of the organic binder by the sun’s ultraviolet light. ASTM D 4214 is the Standard Test Method for Evaluating the Degree of Chalking of Exterior Paint Films.

The ability of a pigmented coating to resist chalking. See also CHALKING.

The slight surface roughening caused by small bubbles of escaping solvent vapor.

Fine, shallow cracks in a coating resulting from surface weathering.

(1) The fine cracking that develops in paint films during prolonged curing and/or weathering that does not penetrate to the underlying surface. ASTM D 660 is a Standard Test Method for Evaluating Degree of Checking of Exterior Paints; (2) Development of shallow cracks at closely spaced but irregular intervals on the surface of plaster, cement paste, or concrete [ACI].

The ability of a coating to resist checking. See also CHECKING, CRACKING RESISTANCE.

Total or partial removal of a dried paint film in flakes by accidental damage or wear during service; in traffic paints, this failure is usually characterized by sharp edges and definite demarcation of the base area. [CED]. ASTM D 913 is the Standard Test Method for Evaluating Degree of Resistance of Wear to Traffic Paint. ASTM D 3170 is the Standard Test Method for Chipping Resistance of Coatings.

The ability of a coating or layers of coatings to resist total or partial removal, usually in small pieces, resulting from impact by hard objects or from wear during service.

A mild form of crawling.

The lack of clarity or transparency in a paint or varnish film. [CED]

Loss of a coating’s function or purpose, i.e., when it no longer protects the substrate, provides


an attractive appearance, or serves some other function such as providing a non-slip surface. The time of failure is considered to occur when some action is needed to restore its properties to the level necessary to again provide its intended purpose.

The rapid drying of a coating (often a lacquer) during application to form fine strings instead of normal atomization.

The propensity of a substance to adhere to itself. The force holding a substance together. [Painting/Coatings Dictionary] The ability of a single coating layer to resist internal partitioning or fracturing.

A failure or break within a given coat or material (the coating breaks within itself).

The formation of hairline cracks in lacquers exposed to low temperatures.

Crazing and cracking of a coating subjected to low temperatures or cold/ambient cycling. [CED]

In tank linings, a driving, permeating force assisting ionic passage through a coating to a metal in the direction from a hot liquid to a cold wall.

The ability of a film of paint or varnish to show little change in original color after being exposed to a specific environment, generally light and weathering.

Property of a material relating to its ability to maintain constant color during surface exposure, especially to sunlight. Color retention requirements usually are described in terms of color difference defined according to a standard test procedure.

Condition causing a surface, material, or process to become dirty or impure; also, the material that causes a surface to be in this state.

The chemical or electrochemical reaction between a metal and its environment that results in the loss of material and its properties. Metals corrode because they exist in chemically unstable states.

The process in which a metal fractures prematurely under conditions of simultaneous corrosion and repeated cyclic loading at lower stress levels or fewer cycles than would be required in the absence of the corrosive environment.

(1) The splitting of a dry paint film. Different types of cracking include hair-cracking or hairlines, checking, cracking, crazing, crocodiling or alligatoring, and mud cracking. The standard test method for evaluating degree of cracking is described in ASTM D 661; (2) To break up into simpler chemical components, as with cracking of petroleum.

The ability to resist formation of cracks that extend through at least one coat of paint. See



Topcoat cracking caused by application of topcoat before the previously applied coat has sufficiently cured.

The formation of small, shallow depressions in a coating generally resulting from foreign matter in or deposited on the wet film.

Small, rounded depressions in a coating film that do not expose the previous coat or the substrate. See CRATERING.

The drawing back of a liquid film from a uniformly thick layer to form areas of little, if any, thickness. It occurs when the surface tension of the coating is greater than the surface tension of the substrate. [WJP]

A network of intersecting checks or cracks appearing on a coated surface. See CRACKING.


Corrosion that occurs within or adjacent to a crevice formed by contact with two pieces of the same metal or another metal or with a nonmetallic material. In these locations, the intensity of attack is usually more severe than on surrounding areas of the same metal surface. [Painting/Coatings Dictionary]


Removal of color upon abrasion or rubbing. Staining of a white cloth by rubbing lightly over a colored surface. [Painting/Coatings Dictionary]

The ability of a coating to resist color transfer when rubbed or abraded.


A coating film defect in which a pattern of wrinkles resembling a crow’s foot is formed. See WRINKLING.


Sags with a draped appearance.

A surface or film imperfection (flaw), deficiency, or incompleteness that deviates from a speci-


fication or industry-accepted condition.

An additive that prevents pigments in suspension from coalescing to form flocs.

Additives used to reduce or eliminate foam formed in a coating or coating constituent. See ANTI-FOAMING AGENT.

A gradual loss of coating materials and/or properties resulting from their service conditions and weathering.


(1) The separation of a coat or coats of paint from the previous coat or from the substrate. Failure of a coating to adhere to the previous coating; (2) In the case of a concrete slab, a horizontal splitting, cracking, or separation of a slab in a plane roughly parallel to, and generally near, the upper surface; found most frequently in bridge decks and caused by the corrosion of reinforcing steel or freezing and thawing; similar to spalling, scaling, or peeling except that the delamination affects large areas and can often be detected by tapping. [ACI]



Selective loss of zinc metal from a brass alloy.

Stiffening and loss of fluidity of paint upon agitation. The opposite of thixotropy.

The collection of air-borne dirt, soot, or other foreign material on the exterior surfaces of coatings or other substrates. ASTM D 3274 is the standard Test Method for Evaluating Degree of Surface Disfigurement of Paint Films by Microbial (Fungal or Algal) Growth or Soil and Dirt Accumulation.


The ability of a coating to resist soiling.

The separation resulting from insufficient adhesion of a coating to an undercoating or other substrate.

Change in the color of a coating after application (usually an undesired darkening), normally caused by exposure to sunlight or chemical atmospheres.



Resistance of paint to being spread by a brush. A paint with a lot of drag is hard to work with a brush.


A drop of wet coating that forms on or falls from the edge of the coated substrate.

(1) A rough, powdery, noncoherent film produced when an atomized coating partially dries before reaching the intended surface; (2) Overspray or bounce back falling dry on unintended surfaces and producing an adherent, sand-like covering. See also BOUNCE BACK, OVERSPRAY.

Loss of gloss or sheen. [AM]

Degree to which paints and paint materials withstand the destructive effect of the conditions to which they are subjected.

A type of coating adhesion failure in which undercutting (penetration of corrosion beneath the coating) occurs at an unprotected or incompletely protected edge.

A white crystalline or powdery deposit on the surface of concrete. Efflorescence results from leaching of lime or calcium hydroxide out of a permeable concrete mass over time by water, followed by reaction with carbon dioxide and acidic pollutants.

Penetration of water through a coating film caused by excessive cathodic protection potentials. Often results in blistering of coatings.

The gradual loss of coating by wear or weathering. ASTM D 662 is the Standard Test Method for Evaluating Degree of Erosion of Exterior Paints.

A joint action involving corrosion and erosion.

To separate in flakes, scales, or layers.

The migration of a substance to the surface, such as resin from wood, or plasticizer from films. (CED)

An apparatus for determining the resistance of coatings and other materials to fading. It

accelerates the fading by subjecting coated panels to high-intensity ultraviolet wavelengths similar to those found in sunlight.

A cosmetic coating defect consisting of reduction in color intensity.


An investigation conducted to determine the causes and responsibilities of coating defects, loss of coating function, and/or corrosion, if present.


Corrosion exhibiting a thread-like structure and directional growth under coatings on metal surfaces such as steel or aluminum. [Painting/Coatings Dictionary]

(1) A narrow linear projection on a formed concrete surface, resulting from mortar flowing into spaces in the formwork; (2) A type of blade in a concrete mixer drum. [ACI]


Coating film defects related to cratering in which small dimples or holidays resembling fish eyes form in the wet coating. See CRATERING.

The detachment of pieces of the paint film itself either from its substrate or from paint previously applied. Flaking is generally preceded by cracking, checking or blistering and is the result of loss of adhesion usually due to stress-strain factors. ASTM D 722 is the standard test method for evaluating degree of flaking of exterior paints. Also referred to as scaling.

The ability of a coating to resist the actual detachment of film fragments either from the previously applied coating or the substrate. Flaking is generally preceded by cracking, checking, or blistering, and is the result of loss of adhesion. Also known as scaling resistance. [ASTM D-16]

The occurrence on the surface of a coating film of patches glossier than the surrounding coating. See HOT SPOTS.

The development of cracks in coating when subjected to repeated bending.

The segregation of individual pigments in a coating system during curing related to differential movement in surface tension currents caused by solvent evaporation. Produces a varigated paint surface.

Formation of clusters of pigment particles in a fluid medium that may occur after dispersion. The condition usually is reversible, and the particle clusters can be broken up by applying

relatively weak mechanical forces or by a change in the physical forces at the interface between the liquid and the solid dispersed particles. Flocculation is often visible as a “Jack Frost” pattern in a flowout of a dispersion; microscopically, it appears as a lacework or reticulum of loosely clustered particles. It results in more rapid settling although it is usually soft, shows loss of color strength and poor dispersion. Surface-active agents are often useful in reducing the extent of flocculation and hence the yield value.

The segregation of pigments in a coating system caused by different rates of settling in the wet film to form a uniform appearance different from that expected. Compare to FLOATING.

The development of small air bubbles into liquid coatings during mixing. Latex coatings are especially susceptible to this phenomenon because of their surface active agents used to stabilize the dispersion.

Misting. [AM]

Any material in a paint or varnish or on a coating film that does not belong there.

Marine organisms, both flora and fauna, attached to the hulls of ships and other structures in sea water that cause drag.

The accelerated deterioration at the interface between contacting surfaces as the result of corrosion and slight oscillatory movement between two surfaces. [ASM]


Accelerated corrosion resulting from two dissimilar metals in electrical contact, exposed to conductive medium.

(1) A defect in which an oil or alkyd paint or varnish thickens to jelly-like consistency in an unopened container; (2) The first stage in the cure of an epoxy or polyurethane coating in which a soft, semisolid network is formed. See also LIVERING.

A cosmetic coating defect occurring to low sheen finishes in which there are areas with less color or difference in sheen from surrounding areas.

Ability of a coating material to maintain its gloss.

Markings, slogans, or drawings that deface a wall or other surface.

A rough, bumpy, or sand-like texture in a dry coating film.


Showing through of the underlying surface layer due to inadequate opacity of a paint film which has been applied to it. [CED] See INCOMPLETE HIDING.

Thin, needle-like or sliver-like protrusions (ranging from 3 to 6 mils [76 to 152 micrometers]) found on steel plates that have been blasted with steel shot or grit. [Painting/Coatings Dictionary]

Very fine cracks which do not penetrate the topcoat; they occur erratically and at random. [CED] See CRACKING.


Deterioration of a coating as a result of exposure to elevated temperatures.

The ability of a coating to resist deterioration when exposed continuously or periodically to high temperatures at or below a given level. Heat resistance depends on the binder type and other coating ingredients.

A pigment with a high refractive index that gives the most hiding power to a coating. Rutile titanium dioxide, followed by anatase titanium dioxide, zinc sulfide, and zinc oxide are materials with high refractive indices.

Pinhole, skip, discontinuity, or void in a coating film that exposes the substrate. [ASTM]

Instrument utilizing electric current (low-voltage, high-voltage or AC electrostatic) to detect nicks, scrapes or pinholes (holidays) that penetrate a coating film.

Voids left in concrete due to failure of the mortar to effectively fill the spaces among course aggregate particles. [ACI]

Areas of higher gloss than surrounding areas often caused by being relatively resin-rich where coating was applied more thickly than other areas.

Ability of a coating to resist a sudden blow; ability to resist deformation from impact.



Presence of foreign material in the finished material. [CED]

Inability of coating materials to perform satisfactorily when in direct contact with another coating or substrate. The incompatibility may be chemical (e.g., causing bleeding or saponification) or physical (e.g., inability to expand and contract with substrate).

Failure to completely obscure from vision any underlying coating or other substrate.

Resistance to penetration by an indenter. [CED]

Contamination between successive coats of paint or a coat of paint and the base substrate.

The separation (disbonding) of two adjacent coats of paint.


Cohesion within a coat of paint. The ability of a paint film to hold itself together. See COHESION.


A thin, weak, brittle layer of cement and aggregate fines on a concrete surface. The amount of laitance is influenced by the type and amount of admixtures, the degree of working, and the amount of water in the concrete.

Visually darker section edges where paints or stains have dried before adjacent areas have tied into them, i.e., where a wet edge has not been maintained.

The ability of a coating to flow out after application so as to obliterate any surface irregularities such as brush marks, orange peel, peaks, or craters which have been produced by the mechanical process of application.

Chemical added to coating to increase the ability of the wet film to settle to a uniform thickness.

Softening and raising or wrinkling of a previous coat by the application of an additional coat. [Painting/Coatings Dictionary] Lifting often occurs because the solvents in the new coat are too strong for the previous coat.

The progressive, irreversible increase in consistency of a pigment-vehicle combination.


Livering usually results from a chemical reaction of the vehicle with the solid dispersed material, but it also may result from polymerization of the vehicle. The irreversible character of the changes distinguishes livered material from thixotropic “build-up,” which is reversible. [Painting/Coatings Dictionary]


Corrosion that is affected by the action of microorganisms in the environment, e.g., sulfatereducing bacteria found in some petroleum products and in sewage.

Microorganisms, particularly fungi, that grow on paint and other surfaces, particularly in damp, shady places, causing discoloration and disfigurement.

An additive used to enhance a coating’s ability to resist mildew growth.

Unsightly appearance on coated or uncoated surfaces caused by growth of microorganisms, particularly fungi. ASTM D 3274 is the Standard Test Method for Evaluating Degree of Surface Disfigurement of Paint Films by Microbial (Fungal and Algal) Growth or Soil and Dirt Accumulation.

A coating’s ability to resist the growth of mildew (fungus growth) on its surface.

Whitish or translucent appearance in an unpigmented liquid coating or film which should normally be transparent. [CED]

Holidays, skips, voids. [AM]

The presence of differently colored spots or blotches on a surface.

A coating defect resembling the irregular cracking of drying mud that typically arises during the curing of a relatively inflexible coating applied too thickly.

Gradual deterioration of a coating as a result of exposure to an exterior environment, as opposed to artificial (laboratory) accelerated weathering.



An unacceptable variation of color from that desired or specified.

Bowing of the edges of a steel plate due to thermal expansion and contraction or cyclic loading and unloading. Oil canning can lead to cracking of the coating at the edges.

The conversion of a satisfactory coating into an unacceptably soft and tacky one, when in contact with household or industrial oils.

A coating application (usually spray) defect in which the coating surface has the irregular appearance of an orange skin because of insufficient leveling of the wet film. On products such as appliances, orange peel may be desirable.

Dispersed too finely by use of excessive atomizing pressure. [AM]

An exposure of the coating to a temperature moderately higher or for a longer period of time, or both, than that recommended by the manufacturer of the coating for normal curing, [CED] so as to adversely affect coating performance.

Caused by an aftercure or being subjected to too high a temperature or too long a period at a proper temperature and resulting in a product with lowered performance. [CED]

(1) Atomized paint particles that deflect from or miss the surface being spraye; (2) Spray particles that are not wet enough to fuse when they reach the surface being sprayed. As a result, overspray may contaminate property beyond the surface being sprayed. See also DRY SPRAY, BOUNCE BACK.



Disbonding of particles of paint, varnish, or lacquer film from a surface due to loss of adhesion. It may be caused by dampness, grease, an improperly prepared surface, or excessive moisture behind the surface.


Use of more pigment in a coating than can be completely wetted by the resin; exceeding the

critical pigment volume concentration (CPVC).

A holiday or discontinuity that extends entirely through a coating film, approximately the size of a pin; normally caused by solvent bubbling, moisture, or foreign particles.

Formation of small holes through the entire thickness of coating; see CRATERING. [AM]

Tiny, dispersed points of rust that can appear at pinholes and holidays in a coating. Very dense pinpoint rusting can appear on painted steel surfaces where the coating does not completely cover the blast cleaning profile.

A small hole in the surface of a metal or other material that is deeper than its diameter.

(1) Localized corrosion of a metal surface, confined to a point or small area, that takes the form of cavities [ASM]; (2) In concrete, pitting is localized disintegration, such as popout. [ACI]; (3) Formation of depressions (pits) in the surface of a coating often caused by the escape of gas or solvent vapor.


The accumulation of a liquid or paint in a shallow depression. [MPDA]

Formation of blisters of solvent vapor in wet coating surfaces that break but do not level because of too great a viscosity.

(1) The ratio, usually expressed as a percentage of the volume of voids in a material to the total volume of the material including the voids [ACI]; (2) Small interconnected voids, such as in concrete, which allow fluids to penetrate an otherwise impervious material.

The length of time a coating system provides protection to a substrate.

Particular case of water spotting caused by rain. [CED]

In spraying of coatings, the atomized particles that bounce back from the surface being painted. See BOUNCE BACK, OVERSPRAY.

Lessened time during which the coating provides its intended function(s).

A surface defect of net-like appearance. [AM]



A quality of paint that does not flow out evenly and dries with slight ridges. This effect also can be the result of poor workmanship.



Irregularities of a surface due to uneven flow, frequently due to application of a coat that is too heavy and not brushed out well. Also known as “sags” or “curtains.” [MPDA] See SAGGING.

An iron oxide that forms naturally on ferrous metals as a result of exposure to normal weathering or industrial atmospheres.

(1) The irregular downward flow of wet paint under the force of gravity to produce a thicker lower edge. Thus, denser, thicker, and lower viscosity coatings are more likely to sag; (2) Subsidence of shotcrete, plaster, or the like, due generally to excessive water in the mixture; also called sloughing. [ACI]


The ability of a wet paint film to resist the downward flow that results in an uneven film with thick edges and runs. See also RUNS.


Resistance to deterioration during salt spray testing. See SALT SPRAY TEST in main glossary.

A surface condition having the appearance of sandpaper; overspray. [AM]

Alkaline hydrolysis of fats to form soaps.

The akaline hydrolysis of coating binders (usually their drying oils) to disbond and degrade them. This commonly occurs on the alkaline surfaces of concrete and galvanizing.


Paint failure that causes a coating to fall off in flakes or chips. Scaling is the last stage of cracking. Moisture entering cracks in the paint film destroys its adhesive property and results in the flaking or scaling of the paint. [PDCA]

Action or process of depositing matter (sediment) that settles to the bottom of a liquid.

The occurrence of particles in a coating formed from action of reactive pigments and acidic components of the binder during storage that result in a roughened surface on the cured film.

Formation of small, undesirable particles or granules in a paint, varnish, or lacquer. [CED]


Descriptive of a paint finish that is not smooth owing to undispersed pigment particles or insoluble gel particles in the paint. [CED]

Division into components or layers by natural causes. [AM]

The sinking of pigments, extenders or other solid matter in a paint in a container, with a consequent accumulation on the bottom of the can.

A coating of paint showing through a subsequent coating.

The roughening of the surface of a coating resulting in loss of gloss or wrinkle.

A surface defect characterized by parallel hairlike striations in coated films. [AM]


A solid or semisolid membrane that sometimes forms on paint or varnish in the can.

Formation of a thick film (skin) on the surface of a liquid paint during storage, more likely to occur to a previously opened or partially filled container.

Holidays; misses; uncoated areas; voids. [AM]


The failure of solvent to completely evaporate from a paint film due to inadequate drying


conditions and/or recoating too soon. It may cause blisters or pinholes, sometimes called “solvent pop,” to form.

A proportion of solvent types in a coating that causes inadequate solvency or improper evaporation rates.


The ability of a coating to resist solvent attack, solution or disfigurement. See SOLVENT RUB TEST in main glossary. [CED]

The situation wherein some of the protective vehicle is washed off the fine pigment particles, allowing them to pull together into clusters or flocs or when flocs of resin form due to dilution with a solvent or diluent of insufficient strength. [CED]

The chipping or fragmenting of a surface or surface coating caused, for example, by differential thermal expansion or contraction. [MPDA]. Spalling of a concrete surface also may result from corrosion of rebar or other embedded steel.

An incomplete or not continuously wet coating caused by a faulty spray painting application.


Development of small areas on a painted surface which differ in color or gloss from the major portion of the work. [CED]


Resistant to change. In the case of corrosion, resistant to chemical reaction with oxygen.

(1) A solution or suspension of coloring material formulated to provide a color to a surface, especially wood, without completely hiding it or forming a continuous film; (2) An undesirable surface coloration.

The ability of a coating to avoid change in appearance after a material capable of staining has been applied and removed.

Long, narrow, irregular lines or bands or layer-edges, especially ones distinguished by color, visible on a surface. [CED]

Drying of the surface of a liquid coating film before the body of the coating film. The result often is that the under portion is slow in drying and that solvent is trapped within the coating or the coating remains soft for an extended period of time. See TOP DRYING in main glos-



The exudation of oil from a coating after it appears to have cured.

The stickiness of a surface such as a paint or varnish film during the drying period. Oil paints and spar varnishes may retain tack for several weeks after they are considered dry. [PDCA]

Absence of tack or stickiness in an applied coating after suitable drying time. In some cases, coatings are tack-free after application; tack may not develop until a little later.

General term used to describe surface defects such as crawling that give rise to unique patterns. [WJP]

Uniform drying throughout the film as opposed to bottom-drying or top-drying.

Formation of localized corrosion products scattered over the surface in the form of knob-like mounds.

Failure of a coating to reach its optimum degree of cure, with a resultant loss of performance properties.

The gradual penetration and spread of corrosion beneath a coating from a break or pinhole in the film or from unprotected edges. Also referred to as creepage.

Corrosion that occurs between a coating and the metal substrate without a break in the coating layer.

Uneven loss of gloss is a cosmetic coating surface defect in which there is a variation in reduction of sheen such as may occur where there is partial shading.

The length of time a coating adequately performs its function. See SERVICE LIFE in main glossary.





Any nonuniform change in appearance, including color, gloss, or sheen in the shape of spots and streaks, resulting from the accumulation of water on or the contact of water with the painted surface. It is apparent after drying. [CED]

The behavior of paint films when exposed to natural weather or accelerated weathering equipment, characterized by changes in color, texture, strength, chemical composition, or other properties. [CED]

An apparatus in which specimen materials can be subjected to artificial and accelerated weathering tests that simulate natural weathering by the use of controlled cycles of ultraviolet radiation, light, water, and heat. Electric arcs, fluorescent bulbs, or other sources of ultraviolet light, water spray, and heating elements are used to simulate the natural conditions of sun, rain, and temperature changes.

A test that exposes coated specimens to a cycle consisting of fluorescent ultraviolet light and condensing humidity to accelerate the effects of sunlight and moisture.

The capability of a coating to resist the combination of exposures created by weather, such as heat, cold, thermal cycling, rain, and sunlight.


White oxidation products (oxide, hydroxide, carbonate) of zinc formed on galvanized and other zinc coated surfaces.

A defect that creates small furrows or ridges in a coating film. Wrinkling usually occurs with thick films of oil-based paint.

The formation of a yellow color or cast on a white or light-colored coating.



July 2000

defects in paint coatings

by CM Staff based on information supplied by Wattyl Paints

systems, with detailed descriptions of a wide range of generic paint types, their suggested uses and characteristics. In some cases, paint failures can be traced to the incorrect selection of paint for the particular application.One of the most common examples of incorrect paint selection is the use of alkyd (oil based) paints, for painting galvanized coatings. The paint reacts with the zinc in the galvanized coating and loses its adhesion, resulting in the common phenomenon of flaking or peeling paint. Many paints have poor UV resistance, and again, oil based paints, unless they are specially formulated will rarely give the same durability as water-based acrylic paints, which have excellent UV stability over time, or two-pack uretahne or acrylic systems. Water based acrylic paints have very good compatibility with galvanized coatings and rarely have adhesion problems on properly prepared surfaces. Industrial or marine applications are critical applications where the performance requirements of the paint system must be clearly understood. Epoxy coatings are often considered the cure-all for most industrial applications, but may perform poorly in highly acidic exposures or where movement or vibration may result in cracking of the relatively infexible paint film. It is therefore important for specifiers to clearly identify the environment in which the coating has to operate and ensure that paint systems selected are capable of delivering the life cycle performance expected. There is always a reason for every coating failure, and frequently, coating defects do not always affect the coating’s performance, but only its appearance. The following catalogue of paint defects has been assembled with associated descriptions of causes and remedies to assist in identifying problems and dealing with them to ensure a quality coating.

Recognising the type of paint failure encountered in the field is an important mechanism in ensuring quality coatings and coating application. Identification of causes of problems can be fed back into the specification and application process to avoid repetition of failure events. Causes of paint coating failure are frequently associated with either: • • • • incorrect specification faulty material incorrect application incorrect curing/post handling procedures.

All paints eventually fail by weathering and the life expectancy of a paint system will be well defined by the manufacturer or within performance standards such as AS/NZS 2312 - Guide to the Protection of Iron and Steel from Atmospheric Corrosion. Those that fail prematurely will have done so because of an identifiable problem associated with their application. A great deal of research has gone into paint technology development by the major Australian and international paint companies as they compete with each other and with other coatings and materials to produce better performing products. Environmental pressures on paint manufacturers to eliminate potentially hazardous pigments and reduce the amount of volatile organic greenhouse-causing solvents in paint coatings has accelerated the development of new types of paint coatings. Water based, low solvent or solventless coatings have replaced many of the standard industrial coatings of yesteryear. Hybrid organic/inorganic binder systems have also been developed that, while expensive, offer advances in durability over traditional technologies. Again, AS/NZS 2312 provides one of the most valuable reference works for paint coatings and paint

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DESCRIPTION SAGS - also called runs or curtains. Excess flow of paint CAUSE Spray gun too close to work; too much thinner; too much paint; or surface too hard or glossy to hold paint. Paint too viscous; gun too close to surface; solvent evaporated too fast; or air pressure too low for proper atomization. Particles reaching surface not wet enough to level because of too rapid solvent evaporation; gun too far from surface; or paint particles falling outside spray pattern. Solvent evaporating too rapidly. Most common with fast evaporating lacquers, such as vinyls and chlorinated rubbers. Air pockets trapped in wet film during spraying. Application over oil, dirt, silicon, or incompatible coating. REMEDY Before cure, brush out excess paint and modify spray conditions. After cure, sand and apply another coat. Before cure, brush out excess paint and modify spray conditions. After cure, sand and apply another coat. Before cure, remove by dry brushing followed by solvent wiping. After cure, sand and apply another coat.

ORANGE PEEL - hills, valleys in paint resembling skin of orange

OVERSPRAY - also called dry spray. Dry, flat, pebbly surface

COBWEBBING - thin, stringy paint, spider web-like particles

Use slower evaporating solvent or apply when cooler. After cured, sand and apply another coat. Sand or blast to smooth finish and apply additional coats. Sand or blast remove; brush apply a fresh coat plus topcoat.

CRATERING - also called pitting. Small, uniform identations in film FISH EYES - separation or pulling apart of wet film to expose underlying finish or substrate BLUSHING - flat finish with milky appearance

Moisture condensation in high humidity with fast evaporating or unbalanced thinner in spray application. Non uniform film thickness; moisture in film. Temperature change during curing; or paint applied over soft or wet undercoat. Ultraviolet light degradation; or moisture behind paint film. Surface skinning over uncured paint because of too much thickness and/ or too warm weather, especially with oil-based paints. Solvent entrapment; oil, moisture or salt-contaminated surfaces; or cathodic disbonding. Insufficient paint spray atomization; coarse atomization; or settled pigment. Pinholing or too high a steel surface profile for coating thickness.

Sand or blast remove; respray with retarder added to thinner.

UNEVEN GLOSS - non uniform sheen, shiny spots

Allow to dry and apply another finish coat under acceptable conditions for moisture and humidity. Repaint and avoid possible sources of moisture. Scrape off wrinkles and apply thinner coat; avoid intense sunlight.

FADING - colour changes or irregularities WRINKLING - rough, crinkled surface

BLISTERING - small to large broken or unbroken bubbles

Blowers in enclosed areas to accelerate solvent release; adequate cleaning of surface contamination; proper levels of cathodic protection. If uncured, brush out and apply additional coat. If cured, apply additional coat. Use holiday detector for early detection of pinholes; apply additional coats after mechanical or blast cleaning.

PINHOLING - tiny, deep holes exposing substrate PINPOINT RUSTING - rusting at pinholes or holidays

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DESCRIPTION CHECKING - narrow breaks, usually short, in topcoat that expose undercoat CRACKING - deep cracks in paint that expose substrate CAUSE Limited paint flexibility; too thick a coat; or applied at too high a temperature. Paint shrinkage; limited flexibility; excessive thickness (especially zincrich paints); or applied/cured at too high a temperature. Corrosion products formed where steel is exposed, undermining and lifting paint. Contaminated surface, spray, or work area. Separation/lifting of paint from chalky substrate or smooth, poorbonded undercoat. Critical pigment level exceeded (sometimes by tinting white paint rather than tint base). Difficult to coat surfaces; or configurations that permit collection of moisture, salt, and dirt. Physical damage by abrasion (also impact). Barnacles, etc, penetrating soft coatings (eg. coal tar); weight of fouling peeling poorly bonded paint. A relatively inflexible coating applied too thickly (especially common with inorganic zincs). Stress from weathering (contraction of total system) exceeds adhesion to substrate. REMEDY

July 2000

Sand or mechanically remove checked coat and apply another coat. Sand, blast, or mechanically remove total paint and apply new coat.

UNDERCUTTING - blistering and/ or peeling of paint where exposed steel is rusting DIRT UNDER PAINT - peeling; dirt dried in paint film DELAMINATION - peeling from undercoat or substrate PIGMENT OVERLOAD - also called pigment float, mottled surface IRREGULAR SURFACE DETERIORATION - deterioration at edges, corners, crevices, channels, etc. ABRASION DAMAGE - mechanical damage FOULING DAMAGE - penetration or peeling by action of marine fouling organisms MUD CRACKING - deep, irregular cracks as with dried mud

Early detection of defects with holiday detector and correction; use inhibitive pigments in primer. Sand, blast, or mechanically remove paint and re-coat. Sand or mechanically remove all loose paint, clean and roughen smooth surface, and re-coat. Apply properly prepared finish coat.

Round edges; fillet weld seams and crevices; avoid configurations that permit collection of contaminants; provide drainage. Provide fendering protection; spot repair and use more abrasion or impact-resistant coatings. Remove and replace damaged paint with one tougher or more adherent; use antifouling paints for fouling control. Remove coating and abrasively blast steel before reapplying lesser thickness; sanding/mechanical cleaning may be acceptable on older substrates. If limited, spot-remove loose paint and apply flexible paint (e.g. latex); if extensive, scrape, sandblast, mechanically or chemically remove paint to substrate before re-coating. Same as above

PEELING OF MULTIPLE COATS peeling of heavy paint build-up from substrate

PEELING OF THICK, INFLEXIBLE PAINT - peeling of thick paint from substrate PAINT APPLIED TO DAMP SURFACE - heavy wrinkling MOISTURE DAMAGE - peeling of paint by underlying moisture

Stress from cured, weathered (contracted) paint exceeds adhesion to substrate. Moisture on substrate distorts wet film. No means by which interior moisture can be vented to exterior.

Remove by scraping or sanding and re-coat under dry conditions. Use wedges between adjacent lap boards, vents, etc, for migration; clean painted vent holes.

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DESCRIPTION EFFLORENSCENCE DAMAGE paint disbonding and peeling by loose, powdery material CAUSE Moisture through concrete, masonry, or brick picks up soluble salts and deposits them on the surface from the interior (can be on interior or exterior well of building). Vines so close to structure that tendrils penetrate paint for support. Microorganisms grow, especially on damp, shaded paint, defacing and degrading it. Degradation of coating resin by sunlight leaving loose residue; especially bad with thin coats, epoxies, and substrates where chalk is frequently removed. Organic solvent in wet paint or fresh asphalt dissolves bituminous material and causes it to migrate through paint. Improper storage of paint (e.g. in sun and rain), especially fast drying paints. REMEDY Treat as in NCEL Tech Data Sheet 77-10 or NAVFAC MO-110, for concrete/masonry before painting; seal more humid side of wells. Relocate vines away from structure; sand and re-coat damaged areas. Clean and repaint as described in NAVFAC MO-110, and Remove loose chalk and apply chalkresistant finish coat.

VINE PENETRATION OF PAINT vine tendrils penetrate paint MILDEW GROWTH - black fungal growth CHALKING EROSION - gradual thinning of finish coat to expose undercoat

BLEEDING - brown staining of paint in asphalt or coat tar coating

Use latex paint over bituminous materials; allow asphalt pavements to cure 21 days before applying paint. Store indoors in cool environment; avoid opening and resealing of large containers.


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July 2000

Description: Flaking paint over galvanized surface. Cause: Incorrect surface preparation. Incorrect primer/topcoat. Remedy: Remove flaking paint by scraping or wire brushing. Highb pressure water wash surface. Apply appropriate water based or epoxy priming systems.

Description: Flaking two-pack epoxy paint on crane rails in galvanizing plant pre-treatment building. Cause: Low pH condensation (pH1) and flexing and vibration of crane rails in service cause brittle paint film to crack and promote underfilm corrosion. Remedy: Wet abrasive blast back to remove surface contamination and old paint. Apply flexible, acid resistant recoatable mastic type coating

Description: Efflourescence bleeding through pinholes in paint film in marine exposure. Cause: Pinholes in paint film caused by solvent entrapment or single coat application. Remedy: Ensure piant is currectly applied and cured. Use multi-coat system to eliminate pinholes.

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Description: Underfilm corrosion in defined regions of coating.This large tank has areas of clearly defined paint system performance. Cause: Area on far left has severe local underfilm corrosion indicating initial poor surface preparation/priming. Centre zone is in good condition. Right hand zone shows general overall deterioration consistent with normal weathering but ealy failure indicative of low initial dry film thickness for the system. Remedy: Apply as for centre zone.

Description: Early failure of maintenance topcoat system along beam edges. Cause: Adhesion of old paint insufficient to accommodate surface tension effects of new two-pack system epoxy topcoat. Remedy: Completely remove old paint prior to re-coating or use more flexibible re-coating system compatible with old paint.

Description: Blistering of paint on handrail. Cause: Areas of contamination on surface interfering with primer adhesion. Remedy: Ensure surface cleanliness prior to application. On existing item, mechanically remove any blistered areas and feather back to sound paint. Re-apply primer and topcoat.

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Chapter 12 Coating Failures
Richard W. Drisko
All coatings have limited service lives. Unfortunately, there are occasions when coatings fail much sooner than they should. When this occurs, it is necessary to determine the causes of the failure and what actions must be taken to correct this condition and prevent its recurrence. There are numerous causes of coating failure. These may be related to structural design, the substrate, the coating itself, surface preparation, coating application, or coating curing, or combinations of these basic causes. Historically, improper or inadequate surface preparation has been the most commonly reported cause of coating failure; more recently, governmental restrictions on coating VOCs and toxic constituents (e.g., solvents, pigments, and biocides) have restricted coating formulations and made them more difficult to apply successfully. This chapter will address the common causes of coating defects on industrial structures and the associated preventative or corrective actions.

Failure of Coating. Loss of a coating’s function or
purpose, i.e., when it no longer protects the substrate, provides an attractive appearance, or serves some other function such as providing a non-slip surface. The time of failure is considered to occur when some action is needed to restore its properties to the level necessary to again provide its intended purpose(s).

Failure Analysis. Systematic investigation conducted
to determine the causes and responsibilities of coating defects, loss of function, and/or corrosion, if present.

Premature Failure. Failure that occurs significantly
before a coating’s life expectancy.

Service Life of Coating. The period of time during
which a coating provides its intended function(s). This will vary with different exposures and services.

Effects of Structural Design on Metal and Coating Deterioration
It has been shown that structural design may be an important factor in metal and coating deterioration.2-3 It is important that these design factors be recognized and corrected at the planning stage rather than later when their adverse effects have become apparent. Although each of the major design factors leading to early coating deterioration will be discussed separately, they often occur in conjunction with other factors that further aggravate the deterioration. Contact of Dissimilar Metals Resulting in Galvanic Corrosion When two dissimilar metals are in physical contact with each other in an electrolyte (electrically conductive medium), the more active metal will corrode preferentially, while protecting the other metal from corrosion. The greater the difference in electrochemical activity between the metals, the greater will be the rate of dissimilar metal corrosion. The relative surface areas of the touching metals may also greatly affect the corrosion of the more active metal (the

Commonly Used Failure Terms
Many different terms commonly used to describe coating failures mean different things to different people. SSPC’s Protective Coatings Glossary defines failure terms and these definitions are used for all failure terms in this chapter.1 Some of the definitions of general terms commonly associated with coating deterioration/degradation are: Catastrophic Coating Failure. A coating failure that is sudden, very dramatic, and serious.

Defect. A surface or film imperfection (flaw), deficiency,
or incompleteness that deviates from a specification or industry-accepted condition.

Degradation. A gradual loss of coating materials and/or
properties resulting from service conditions and weathering.

Deterioration. See degradation above.

anode in the reaction). A small anode area and a much larger cathode (protected) area may result in extremely rapid corrosion of the smaller anode area. Thus, in painting, care should be taken to ensure that all cathode areas are especially well covered. Galvanic corrosion may also be minimized by using metals of similar composition, or using a non-conductive insulator between them. Crevices Crevices are likely to occur in structural components that are bolted, riveted, or skip-welded together. Inside crevice areas, there is invariably a lower concentration of oxygen as compared to the air outside the crevice. This results in a corrosion cell with accelerated corrosion occurring within the crevice area. Thus, continuous welding is the preferred method of joining metal components. Welds should be ground smooth and weld spatter removed before coating in order to obtain good coating adhesion in these areas. Also, back-to-back angle designs should be avoided because they have crevices between them. Water Traps Water traps are design features, such as upward facing angle iron, that collect the rain that accelerates deterioration of coatings and corrosion of metals. Such designs should be oriented downward so that the water drains. Drill weep holes into existing water traps to permit collected water to drain. Sharp Edges When sharp edges are coated, the paint tends to draw back from the edge to leave a much thinner coat of paint there than on flat areas. In order to produce a coating film of more equal thickness (and thus equal barrier protection) on all surfaces, edges are usually striped (brushed with an additional coat of primer) before or after applying a full coat to the substrate. Relatively recently, new edge-retentive coatings (usually amine-cured, solvent-free epoxies) have been developed to address this problem. Faying Surfaces Faying surfaces are contacting surfaces where joints in steel structures are formed by riveting or by the use of high-strength bolts. Most coatings are unsuitable for use in the joint itself, because they do

not provide the proper coefficient of friction to maintain the joint in a static state. However, inorganic zinc-rich silicate coatings have adequate coefficient of friction to perform well in this service. Limited Access to Work Limited access to surfaces to be cleaned and coated often results in poor quality work and consequently early coating deterioration. Thus, structures should be designed for access both for the original work and for subsequent maintenance painting.

Effects of Substrate Properties on Coating Performance
It has been shown that the chemical and physical natures of a surface to be coated may have a very profound effect on the performance of the coating system.4 It should be noted that, in general, textured surfaces provide more bonding sites and thus have greater coating adhesion than smooth areas of similar composition. Hot-Rolled Steel Most structural steel is made by the hot-rolling process. This process results in a loosely bonded layer of iron oxide called mill scale. Mill scale must be removed before the steel is coated, or its subsequent loss with time will result in coating deterioration. Coatings on metal structures are susceptible to underfilm corrosion. Undercutting of a coating film by corrosion at breaks or pinholes in the barrier film may result in rapid loss of coating and its protection. Cold-Rolled Steel Cold-rolled steel is used more for manufacturing office furniture, appliances, and automobile bodies than for applications where structural strength is required. Cold rolling produces a denser, smoother surface than hot-rolling. Coatings do not bond as well to these surfaces. Thus, chemical treatments such as phosphating are often used to promote coating adhesion. Abrasive blasting can also be used to produce a profile to improve coating adhesion. High-Strength Alloy Steels In some environments, high-strength alloy steels may require a coating system to supplement its natural corrosion resistance. In these cases, the


cleaning requirements are similar to those of conventional steels, but harder abrasives (e.g., silicon carbide, aluminum oxide, or garnet) may be necessary to produce the desired surface profile. Because of their inherent corrosion resistance, they will normally have less corrosion and undercutting of coating at film holidays.

following treatments may be used: • Chemical treatment such as phosphating • Wash priming (good with alkyds) • Blasting with a soft abrasive (e.g., plastic) to produce a suitable profile Aluminum is susceptible to exfoliation, an advanced stage of intergranular corrosion characterized by a delamination of metal along grain boundaries. Rolled metal products such as aluminum alloy plate are especially susceptible to exfoliation due to their longitudinal grain structure. Coated aluminum is particularly susceptible to a form of corrosion called filiform. It is characterized by threadlike directional growths proceeding away from damaged areas. In the past, chromate inhibitive pigments were widely used to control filiform corrosion; chromate-free inhibitive pigments are now used.

Figure 1. Corrosion undercutting of coating at scratch.

Zinc-Coated Surfaces Zinc-coatings, both galvanizing and zinc-rich, always have alkaline surfaces created by the natural corrosion of zinc. This alkalinity will saponify (hydrolyze) alkyds and other coatings that cure by oxidation of drying oils. New galvanized surfaces are sometimes given a thin coat of oil or chromate conversion coating to protect them from corrosion called wet storage stain or white rust during exterior storage. These treatments must be removed prior to coating to permit good coating adhesion. The oil is best removed by solvent cleaning (i.e., SSPC-SP 1), and the chromate conversion coating can be removed chemically or by prolonged weathering. Aluminum Epoxies normally bond quite well to aluminum. For other coatings that do not, one the

Figure 2. Filiform corrosion.

Concrete Concrete has unique properties (e.g., alkalinity and porosity) that make its coatings especially susceptible to certain defects. These are described extensively in SSPC’s The Fundamentals of Cleaning and Coating of Concrete.5 Wood The properties of woods vary greatly with the types of tree from which they came. Soft woods such as redwood and fir are penetrated by coatings to permit good bonding much more easily than are hard (dense) woods such as ash and oak. Pine and fir have variable grain structures, while redwood and cedar have uniform grain and brown color. The brown color of the latter two woods comes from water-soluble dyes that may bleed through latex coatings to cause staining, unless sealed 555

before painting. An oil-based or water-borne stainblocking primer can be used for this purpose. Resinous materials in some trees, such as lower grades of pine, may seep to the wood surface after painting to cause staining and paint deterioration. This can be minimized by using weathered wood and sealing it before use. Woods are very sensitive to moisture so that they swell during periods of high humidity and shrink during periods of low humidity. Rigid coatings on wood may crack when they are unable to expand and contract with dimensional changes. Coatings hide wood grain and greatly reduce water permeability. However, water that enters into the wood interior may try to escape through impermeable coatings to cause blistering and/or delamination. For this reason, latex coatings that permit the passage of water vapor (sometimes called breathing) may minimize this problem. Many people prefer to use semi-transparent stains that do not seal the surfaces of wood.

Limitations of Coating Formulations All coating formulations have some limitations that restrict their uses to appropriate environments and services. In this section, some of the more important limitations are addressed.

Figure 3. Chalking.

Chalking. Chalking is the formation of loose powder on
the surface of coatings. It is typically caused by deterioration of the organic coating binder by ultraviolet light (usually from the sun) to leave a loose residue of pigment and oxidized binder. All organic coating binders chalk to some extent, but those containing aromatic chemical groups (e.g., epoxies and phenolics) chalk much faster than others. Some pigments such as the anatase form of titanium dioxide chalk very freely, while other pigments such as rutile, another crystalline form of titanium dioxide, are quite chalk-resistant. Opaque pigments, of course, reduce chalking of underlying organic binders by shielding them from sunlight. Leafing aluminum pigments formulated to float to coating surfaces protect underlying binders especially well. Chalking of finish coatings can best be controlled by proper selection of pigments and binders and by use of additives such as ultraviolet light absorbers.

Defects/Failures Associated with the Coating Itself
Some coating defects and failures are directly related to the coating itself. These include: • Errors by the manufacturer in production of the coating • Coatings that have exceeded their shelf life • Inherent limitations of properly formulated coating • Incompatibility of a coating with its substrate or undercoat Coatings with Errors in Manufacture or that Have Exceeded Their Shelf Life Errors in coating manufacture do not occur very often. They can usually be detected in the field before use by testing for condition in container, as described in Federal Test Method Standard 141. If the viscosity does not appear to be at the proper level, it can be checked in the field using a viscosity cup. Also, a test patch of coating can be applied to the intended substrate to check for such properties as ease of application, hiding, leveling, and complete curing. If a stored coating has exceeded its shelf life, it may have deteriorated to the extent that it can no longer be successfully utilized. Such coatings should be checked for condition in container before use.

Erosion. Erosion is the gradual loss of coating by wear or weathering. Thus, coatings that chalk freely are more susceptible to erosion than are coatings that are more chalk-resistant. Erosion may also be caused by wind-blown sand or rain. Accelerated erosion may significantly reduce coating thickness and even expose undercoats. Erosion may be minimized by selecting a

chalk-resistant coating with good leveling properties.

Figure 4. Erosion of topcoat on deck of a ship.

Discoloration. Discoloration is the change in coating
color after application (usually an undesirable darkening), normally caused by exposure to sunlight or chemical atmospheres. Thus, lead pigments are blackened by the attack of hydrogen sulfide gas. To minimize discoloration, coating formulations should have stable pigments and binders.

Fading. Fading is the reduction of color intensity,
usually by sunlight. This adverse cosmetic effect can also be minimized by using formulations with stable pigments or binders.

Figure 5. Uneven loss of gloss.

Loss of Gloss. Loss of gloss is still another defect that
is caused by sunlight and can best be minimized by selecting ultraviolet-resistant coating components. All coatings lose gloss in sunlight to some extent, but some do much more than others. This cosmetic defect, as well as discoloration and fading, is especially distracting when it occurs on the side of a structure that is partially shaded so that there is an uneven loss of gloss or color.

Figure 6. Mildew defacement.

Mildew Defacement. Mildew defacement is an unsightly appearance on coated or uncoated structures caused by the growth of micro-organisms, particularly fungi. This is more of a cosmetic effect than one that adversely affects coating film properties. Mildew defacement may be controlled in architectural coatings (i.e., drying oil and water-borne latex coatings) by using EPA-approved mildewcides. Also, smooth, chalk-free coating surfaces in dry locations exposed to sun light are less susceptible to mildew than other coated surfaces.

Moisture Blushing. Moisture blushing is the formation
of a milky opalescence that may occur in humid environments where solvent evaporation reduces the temperature of an uncured coating to the dew point so that moisture condensation occurs on it. This cosmetic defect most commonly occurs with fast evaporating coatings such as vinyl lacquers. Moisture blushing may also occur by the reaction of moisture in the air with polyurethanes and other moisture sensitive coatings on humid days. Moisture blushing can best


be prevented by avoiding the application of moisturesensitive coatings on humid days.

greater film thickness.

Orange Peel. Orange peel is similar to brush marks in
that it is caused by insufficient leveling of the wet film. However, this defect occurs with spray rather than brush application of coatings.

Figure 7. Moisture blushing.

Amine Blushing. Amine blushing is the formation of a
milky opalescence on the wet-film surfaces of aminecured epoxies by the reaction of the amine with carbon dioxide and water in the air to form an amine carbamate. This film may cause adhesion problems for topcoats if not removed as recommended by the epoxy manufacturer.

Figure 9. Orange peel.

Wrinkling. Wrinkling is a defect that results in the
formation of small furrows or ridges in coating films. It occurs most commonly with thick films of alkyds and other drying oil-curing coatings. In these cases, curing by air oxidation occurs much more rapidly at the coating surface than below it, and a surface skin is formed that prevents further curing of the underlying binder. Contraction of the surface skin causes the wrinkling. Through-dry metal driers will help accelerate complete film curing, but the use of lead driers (some of the best through-driers) is now greatly restricted. Wrinkling can also be minimized by avoiding thicker film than recommended by the manufacturer.

Figure 8. Brush marks.

Chemical Attack on Coatings. Chemical attack on
coatings will occur when the coating system is not resistant to the environment. This most commonly occurs to linings in storage tanks where they come into contact with stored chemical liquids. Chemical attack may also occur in atmospheric service where harsh chemical fumes or vapors come into contact

Brush Marks. Brush marks may occur in brushapplied coatings with insufficient leveling for the wet film to flow together to form a film of uniform thickness. Localized areas of lesser film thickness almost always exhibit deterioration before areas of


with the coating.

High-Temperature Attack on Coatings. Hightemperature attack is likely to occur to organic coatings even during intermittent high-temperature service. Thus, heat-resistant inorganic coatings are usually used at temperatures above 450°F (230°C).

having significant water solubility. This is especially likely to occur during water immersion service. These pigments can be detected during a laboratory failure analysis of the water (sometimes colored) in filled blisters. Osmotic blistering may also occur if soluble salt contaminants are not completely removed from substrates during surface preparation.

Flooding and Floating. Flooding and floating are two
cosmetic formulation defects that are sometimes confused with each other. Flooding is the segregation of pigments in a coating system caused by different rates of settling in the wet film to form a uniform appearance different from that expected. Floating is the segregation of individual pigments in a coating system during curing related to differential movement in the surface tension currents caused by solvent evaporation to produce a varigated paint surface.

Figure 10. Wrinkling.

Figure 12. Cracking.

Figure 11. Mottling.

Cracking. Cracking is a general term for the splitting of
a coating film to relieve stresses. Most of these stresses originate by shrinking during curing, by solvent evaporation, and/or polymerization. Stresses increase with further polymerization and weathering. When stresses exceed the cohesive strength of the coatings, they crack to relieve the stress. The greater the coating thickness, the more rigid it is and thus the greater its tendency to crack. Different types of cracking, other than common cracking, include hairline cracking, checking, crazing, 559

Mottling. Mottling is the presence of differently colored
spots or blotches on a painted surface. It is commonly caused by pigment overload (using more pigment than can be completely wetted by the limited amount of resin present).

Osmotic Blistering by Soluble Pigments. Osmotic
blistering may occur to coatings with primer pigments

alligatoring, other intercoat cracking, and mud cracking. Cracking usually occurs all the way through the coating to expose the substrate.

Figure 14. Alligatoring with bleeding. Figure 13. Checking.

Checking. Checking is the fine surface cracking that
develops in coating films during prolonged curing and/ or weathering that does not penetrate to the underlying substrate. Wetting and drying, heating and cooling, and exposure to sunlight all contribute to checking.

Alligatoring. Alligatoring is a type of crazing or surface
cracking with a definite pattern, as indicated by its name. The effect often occurs when a relatively rigid coating is applied over a more flexible undercoat. The resulting stresses cause the topcoat to crack to expose the undercoat but not the substrate.

Intercoat Cracking. Cracking from intercoat stresses may occur when a relatively rigid topcoat is applied over a more flexible undercoat. These stresses are similar to those previously described for alligatoring, but cracking does not always occur in such a regular pattern. Mud Cracking. Mud cracking is a cracking pattern that
resembles the irregular cracking of drying mud. It typically occurs when a rigid coating is applied too thickly. This defect often happens with inorganic zincrich coatings, which are very rigid.

Figure 15. Mud cracking of inorganic zinc-rich coating.

Coating Incompatibilities Incompatibilities may occur between individual coats in a total coating system or between an existing system and a topcoat to be applied over it. It is wise to obtain all coatings for a total system that are known to be compatible with each other and that are produced by the same manufacturer. Five types of


incompatibility between coatings are described here.

forms of cracking.

Topcoat Solvent Attack on Undercoat Binder. Topcoat
solvent attack on undercoat binder may cause the latter to soften, swell, or disbond. In any case, the intercoat adhesion is significantly diminished. An example of this is a chlorinated rubber or an epoxy coating with a strong solvent being applied over a vinyl dispersion (latex) coating.

Saponification (hydrolysis). Saponification may occur
to an alkyd or other drying oil applied over a zinc-rich primer. As with concrete, the surface alkalinity on the zinc-rich primer causes this chemical degradation.

Figure 16. Bleeding of alkyd coating on asphalt pavement. Figure 17. Saponification of alkyd coating.

Bleeding. Bleeding often occurs when a topcoat with a
strong solvent is applied to a coal-tar or asphalt coating. The solvent dissolves some of the colored material in the existing coating and allows it to migrate through the topcoat to impart a brown surface discoloration. This defect is somewhat similar to the previously described bleeding from an asphalt pavement and migration of water-soluble dyes from wood through latex coatings. Incompatibilities with Cathodic Protection There are three basic mechanisms by which coatings may be deteriorated by cathodic protection systems. Coatings to be used in conjunction with cathodic protection to control the corrosion of steel must be resistant to these problems.

Saponification of Coatings. Alkalinity is always produced on cathodically protected surfaces. If coatings on these surfaces are not alkali-resistant, they are subject to saponification.

Limited Adhesion. Limited adhesion and subsequent
peeling may occur to a water-dispersed (latex) coating applied over a smooth oil-based enamel. There is often insufficient solvent in the topcoat to penetrate the existing coating to achieve good intercoat adhesion.

Blistering of Coatings by Hydrogen Gas Evolution.
Blistering of coatings by hydrogen gas evolution may occur on cathodically protected surfaces where the voltages are excessively high (e.g., in excess of –1.1 volts). This seldom occurs if steel-to-soil or 561

Intercoat Cracking. Cracking from intercoat stresses
was described earlier in the discussion of different

steel-to-water potentials are regularly monitored.

Electroendosmosis. Electroendosmosis is a mechanism of coating deterioration in which excessive cathodic potentials causes electrolyte to penetrate rapidly through a coating film. It normally results in coating blistering and peeling.

uniformly thick layer to form areas of little, if any, thickness. It occurs when the surface tension of a coating is greater than the surface tension of the substrate. Crawling is caused by substrate contamination with oil or some other low surface energy contaminant.

Coating Defects/Failures from Inadequate Surface Preparation
Inadequate surface preparation is generally recognized as being the chief source of coating defects and failures. Surface preparation inadequacies are either caused by inadequate removal of contaminants or by improper profile height. Each commercially available primer has a surface preparation recommended by its manufacturer. These recommendations should be carefully followed. One of the best ways of minimizing adverse effects of surface preparation is by careful inspection of the cleaned surfaces and immediate correction of any deficiencies found. These deficiencies cannot be corrected after coating application. The coating manufacturer also provides the recommended ranges of ambient conditions suitable for successful application of each company product. These recommendations may be as important as any other manufacturer recommendation. Inadequate Surface Cleanliness Inadequately cleaned surfaces are very difficult to wet with coatings, because the remaining contaminants reduce the number of bonding sites. Intimate contact between coating and substrate is necessary for good adhesion.
Figure 18. Crawling (fish eyes).

Disbonding, Peeling, and Blistering. Disbonding,
peeling, and/or blistering may result from incomplete removal of rust, mill scale, dirt, or other loosely held contaminants from the substrate surface or from the presence of moisture. Flash rusting of properly cleaned steel before coating is another source of these defects. Incomplete removal of contaminants from an existing coating before topcoating may result in intercoat disbonding, peeling, and/or blistering.

Figure 19. Osmotic blistering caused by inadequate removal of soluble salts.

Crawling (Fisheyes). Crawling, sometimes called fish
eyes, is the drawing back of a liquid film from a

Osmotic Blistering by Incomplete Removal of Soluble Salts. Incomplete removal of soluble salts during

surface preparation may result in osmotic blistering of coatings subsequently applied. These salts are usually not readily visible and so must be removed and analyzed using special techniques.6 The adverse effects of soluble salts are much greater on coatings in immersion service than in atmospheric service. Improper Surface Profile Each primer has a profile height recommended by its manufacturer for best performance. Any significant deviation from this recommendation may result in reduced coating system performance. In general, recommended profile heights vary directly with the primer film thickness. Thus, primers with greater film thickness usually have higher recommended surface profiles.

detection of defects and their immediate correction. It is much easier to prevent coating problems associated with improper spray application than to correct them after application. When applying two-component thermosetting coatings, careful attention must be paid to the manufacturer’s recommendations for induction, pot life, and recoat times. If this is not done, catastrophic failure may occur. Mixing Coatings Although coatings are prepared ready to apply, settling of the heavier pigment portion may occur during storage. Thus, all paints should be thoroughly mixed before application to ensure that the material being applied is the homogeneous blend originally manufactured. Improper mixing can lead to uneven color in cured paint, inadequate film thickness, poor coating adhesion, and checking or cracking of the paint film.7 Coatings should not be overmixed to avoid entrapping air into them. Thus, a mechanical mixer should be used at a speed set so that a small rather than a large vortex or depression on the paint surface is created in the center of the can. Use of paint shakers is not recommended. Allowing stirred paint to set for several minutes before application may permit the release of entrapped air. Two-component coatings such as thermosetting epoxies and polyurethanes are normally supplied in kits composed of Component A and Component B. The components of each kit must be properly proportioned for mixing together to achieve proper curing and optimum coating performance. Therefore, use of complete kits rather than partially filled kits are recommended. Each component should be mixed separately and then mixed together in the order specified by the coating manufacturer. Plural-component spray application systems combine Components A and B together automatically in a specific ratio. However, the proportions should be checked before beginning coating application to be sure that the proportions are those specified by the manufacturer. When spraying with plural-component equipment, it is common practice not to use the triggering technique commonly used with other spray equipment because the ratio of components may vary significant at the start and stop of each trigger stroke. Skilled applicators are required for the successful use

Insufficient Profile Height. Insufficient profile height of
cleaned surfaces may provide insufficient bonding areas for adequate coating adhesion. This, in turn, usually results in early coating loss by disbonding and peeling.

Figure 20. Pinpoint rusting.

Excessive Profile Height. Pinpoint rusting may occur
on coated steel structures where abrasive blast cleaning has produced so high a profile that it is not adequately protected by a relatively thin primer. Pinpoint rusting may also occur when erosion significantly reduces coating film thickness.

Coating Defects/Failures from Improper Coating Application
As with surface preparation, the best way to avoid coating failures resulting from improper coating application is by (1) carefully following the coating manufacturer’s recommendations for application and (2) carefully inspecting the work to permit early


of plural-component application equipment. Thinning Coatings are manufactured for application as received without thinning. However, low temperatures or other conditions may necessitate thinning to reduce the viscosity for effective application. When necessary to use a thinner, it should be of the type and in the amount recommended by the coating manufacturer. Thinner should be added to the coating slowly and with thorough mixing to avoid overthinning one portion of the paint and the possibility of curdling the coating or flocculation of the pigment.

Insufficient Coating Thickness. If a coating is applied with less than the specified minimum thickness, its barrier protection will be lessened, and thus its service life will be reduced. As discussed earlier, a thinner than desired coating may contribute to pinpoint rusting on steel surfaces. Excess Coating Thickness. If a coating is applied too
thickly, its weight may cause the wet coating to flow downward to form sags, runs, or curtains. Such defects should be detected and corrected as soon as observed. Excessive coating thickness may lead to the acceleration of common cracking, mud cracking, and/ or disbondment of relatively rigid coatings. As described earlier, thicker films have more rigidity than thinner films and thus are less able to expand and contract with substrate dimensional changes. Excess coating thickness may be gradually built up by application of additional coats to an existing coating system during periodic maintenance painting. When the total stress built up in the coating system exceeds the adhesion at its weakest point (usually primer to substrate), disbondment will occur. Disbondment may take the form of chipping, flaking, peeling, or delamination. As described earlier, wrinkling occurs more often with thicker than thinner coatings that cure by oxidation of drying oils. Excess thickness may also result in other types of incomplete or improper curing.

Figure 21. Sagging.

Non-Uniform Coating Thickness. If coating thicknesses
vary significantly outside the specified range, the first signs of deterioration invariably occur in areas of low film thickness. Thus, low thickness areas limit the performance of the total coated area. Coatings with variable film thicknesses tend to be resin-rich in localized areas of greater thickness. This often results in unsightly glossy areas sometimes called hot spots. Effects of Improper Spray Techniques The most uniform coating application and the best looking finishes are achieved by spray application. Deviation from the recommended gun-tosubstrate distance, constant rate of gun travel, proper spray pattern, and standard triggering can results in defects and early coating failure.

Straining Coatings should be strained after mixing to eliminate any skins, lumps, or other foreign matter to avoid clogging spray equipment. Inorganic zinc-rich coatings are especially susceptible to clumping. Effects of Improper Coating Thickness It is important that coatings be applied uniformly, holiday-free, and in the thickness range specified by the manufacturer. Otherwise, maximum coating performance will not be achieved. Use of a wet film thickness gauge, as described in ASTM D 4414,

Practice for Measurement of Wet Film Thickness by Notch Gages, will help ensure that the desired dry film
thickness is achieved.


Figure 23. Pinholing. Figure 22. Dry spray.

Dry Spray. Dry spray is a rough, powdery, noncoherent film produced when an atomized coating partially dries before reaching the intended surface so that the coating cannot flow to form a uniform continuous film. This condition most commonly occurs with fast drying coatings. Holding the spray gun too far from the substrate may also contribute to dry spray. Dry spray film have little, if any, protective value. Dry spray should not be confused with overspray. Overspray consists of atomized paint particles that deflect from or miss the surface being sprayed and fall on unintended surfaces.

the topcoating of inorganic zinc-rich coatings on warm days. Topcoat solvent that enters the naturally porous film of the inorganic zinc-rich coating evaporates in the warm environment, and the resulting vapors rise to the surface of the uncured topcoat to form pinholes. This phenomenon is somewhat similar to outgassing of wet coatings on concrete, in which, during periods of rising temperature, interior air and solvent vapors rise to the concrete surface to form small bubbles in the topcoat. Cratering is a special form of pinholing caused by foreign matter in or deposited on the wet film.

Coating Holidays. A holiday is a pinhole, skip, discontinuity, or void in a coating film that exposes the substrate. Unless detected and corrected, holidays constitute a source of early electrolyte penetration and coating deterioration. Holidays in coatings are best discovered using holiday detectors, as described in the chapter of this book on coating inspection. Topcoating Outside of Recommended Recoat Window Manufacturers of two-component thermosetting coatings specify a window of time during which

Pinholing. Pinholing is the formation of small holes that
extend through the entire thickness of a coating. It occurs most often with lacquers and other coatings that contain fast evaporating solvents. Solvent imbalance is an important source of pinholing. Pinholing is sometimes caused by holding the spray gun too close to the surface with excessive atomization pressure or a combination of a low atomization pressure and excessive material pressure. A special case of pinholing often occurs during


their coatings can be successfully topcoated. If topcoated too soon, the curing of both coats may be adversely affected. If topcoated too late, the topcoat will have limited adhesion to the undercoat.

1. Protective Coatings Glossary; Richard W. Drisko, ed; SSPC: Pittsburgh, 2000. 2. Drisko, Richard W.; Jenkins, James F. Corrosion and Coatings; SSPC: Pittsburgh, 1998. 3. Munger, Charles G.; Drisko, Richard W. A Review of Common Failures of Paint Coatings: Part I, Design Factors. Journal of Protective Coatings and Linings; July 1989, pp 36-41. 4. Munger, Charles G.; Drisko, Richard W. A Review of Common Failures of Paint Coatings: Part II, Factors of Uncoated and Coated Substrates that Affect Coating Performance. Journal of Protective Coatings and Linings; May 1990, pp 62-66. 5. The Fundamentals of Cleaning and Coating Concrete; Randy Nixon and Richard W. Drisko,eds.; SSPC: Pittsburgh, 2001. 6. SSPC-TU 4. Field Methods for Retrieval and Analysis of Soluble Salts on Substrates; SSPC: Pittsburgh. 7. Skinner, Jim. Applicator Training Bulletin: Mixing and Thinning; Technology Publishing Company: Pittsburgh, 1992, pp 65-68. 8. Hare, Clive H. Protective Coatings, Fundamentals of Chemistry and Composition; Technology Publishing Company: Pittsburgh, 1994.

Coating Defects/Failures from Improper Curing
Most coatings require special conditions for proper curing. These include ranges of temperature and relative humidity. Curing wet coatings at temperatures significantly above or below the recommended range may result in improper or incomplete curing. Moisture-curing polyurethanes and alkyl silicate inorganic zinc-rich coatings cure to a solid film by reaction of their binders with moisture from the air. They must cure within a specific relative humidity range to achieve complete and proper curing.8 Moisture-blushing of coating surfaces during periods of high humidity was discussed earlier in this chapter. Coatings applied in confined spaces such as storage tanks may require both heating and ventilating to remove coating solvents and permit complete curing or curing to the extent required for topcoating. Otherwise, osmotic blistering may be caused by the entrapped solvent.

There are many causes of coating deterioration. In order to avoid or minimize deterioration, the following actions should be taken: • Proper selection of a high-performance coating system appropriate for the particular environment and service • Preparation of a job specification that includes all requirements necessary to achieve long-term coating performance • Appropriate surface preparation for the environment, service, and coating system, as recommended by the coating manufacturer • Appropriate application of the coating system, as recommended by its manufacturer • Thorough inspection of all phases of the work to ensure that all specification requirements are met • Rapid corrective actions to address any deviations from recommendations or early signs of coating defects.

About the Author
Dr. Richard W. Drisko Dr. Richard W. Drisko has been the senior technical advisor to SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings since January 1995. Prior to this, he was employed for over 40 years at the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory, Port Hueneme, California, where he conducted research, evaluation, and testing, and served as the Navy’s center of expertise on coatings for shore structures. He is a professional engineer in the state of California, an SSPC certified protective coatings specialist (PCS), and a NACE International certificated corrosion specialist. Dr. Drisko received his BS, MS, and PhD degrees from Stanford.



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