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By Concrete Construction Staff

Q.: If reinforcing bars have been stored outside and have a coating of rust, how much
rust is acceptable?
A.: Section 12 of ASTM A 615-96a, "Standard Specification for Deformed and Plain Billet
Steel Bars for Concrete Reinforcement," says that rust shall not be cause for rejection
provided the weight, dimensions, cross-sectional area, and tensile properties of a hand-
wire-brushed test specimen aren't less than the ASTM specification requires.
Section 7.4.2 of ACI 318-95, "Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete," has
a similar statement indicating that reinforcement with rust shall be considered
satisfactory, provided the minimum dimensions (including height of deformations) and
weight of a hand-wire-brushed test specimen aren't less than applicable ASTM
specification requirements.

Rusting/Corrosion are mainly caused due to:

1. Prolonged exposure of rebar to atmosphere/rainfall without any precaution.

2. Aggressive/saline/toxic environment.

RUST is caused by the reaction of air (O2) and moisture (H2O), and it is a common and natural
phenomenon for most steel products. IT SHALL NEVER BE CAUSE OF CONCERN/REJECTION OF
CORROSION is an electrochemical reaction between a metal and its environment.
Corrosion occurs when steel reacts with chloride ions (Cl-), CO2 in presence of toxic
environment. Corrosion is uneven erosion/pitting of metal surface/ribs due to intense
rusting and is harmful to the intended service performance of rebar.NEVER USE

Fig : Rusted rebar (fit for use)

Fig : Corroded rebar (unfit for use)

Precautions against Rusting / Corrosion during construction

5. Existing RCC structures may be protected from reinforcement corrosion in aggressive

atmospheres by applying protective surface coatings to the exposed surfaces of
concrete. Such coatings may be of following types: (i) Cement-sand-asphalt/coal tar
pitch mixture coating (cement : molten asphalt or coal tar pitch : dry sand = 1:1:3), (ii)
Cement-sand-mortar with neat cement finish (cement: sand mortar=1:3, cement: water
slurry=1:2), (iii) Epoxy coating or epoxy mortar rendering. Please check BIS9077 for
more details on application.

6. Heavy rusting of reinforcement should be removed by wire brushing or application of

commercially produced derusting and phosphating jellies of approved quality.

7. Since it may not be possible to restrict the chloride and sulphate content within the
tolerable limits in marine atmospheres or in contact with sea water, the reinforcement
bars should be coated with a protective coating of inhibited cement slurry (for guidance
on application, please refer appendix-B of BIS9077). It should be ensured that no oil or
paint is applied as a protective coating to the reinforcement bar.
Steel that has been stored outside for a long time may have rusted so much that its
diameter is reduced; if there is any doubt, the diameter should be checked. Any
reinforcement that is deeply pitted with rust should be discarded.

A little rust is not harmful, but loose mill scale and excess flaky rust should not be left in
place. This need not be a difficult problem since both will usually drop off during normal
handling. If loose rust is still in evidence when the reinforcement cage has been
assembled it should be removed, e.g. with a wire brush, but care should be taken to
ensure that soffit and other formwork is not contaminated in the process, which could
lead to staining of the concrete.

Reinforcement Contamination and rust

The strength and performance of reinforced concrete depend on a
good bond between the steel and the concrete. It is only possible
to achieve this if the steel is in good condition. All reinforcement
should be protected from contamination by grease, oil, mud,
mould oil, excessive rust (especially if it is flaky) and ice, plus any
mill scale or concrete that is loose.

Once the reinforcement has been fixed, do not leave it exposed to

the weather for long otherwise rust might form.