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Concrete Rust Remover – Special Acid – How to Prevent Rust

rusty concrete steps

Concrete Rust Remover | What a sad situation to see rust stains on these concrete steps! The rust could have been prevented with a small amount of paint and a few extra minutes. Copyright 2021 Tim Carter

Concrete Rust Remover - Special Acid Just Below

You may be like me and notice things about who knows what. For example, you may pay attention to decorating things and color coordination. Or, you may focus on landscaping and outdoor furniture arrangements. The list of things to look at in and around homes is almost endless. My eye is attracted to any and all defects that I see. It almost ranks as a disease because instead of enjoying looking at a home, I tend to feel like I’m inspecting it.

Recently, I had to travel from my home in central New Hampshire to Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati is my hometown and in some ways, it was great to be back. But I quickly discovered there are more traffic lights, potholes, and low manhole covers in a 2-square-mile area in the east side of town than we have in all of Belknap County in NH! If you want to make a good living, open up a shock-absorber and wheel-alignment shop in Cincinnati.

One of my stops was the church I got married in. I had a few extra days to wander around taking photos of the places that mean lots to me. Once at the church, I was saddened to go up a flight of concrete steps that had horrible rust stains. I shook my head thinking, “What a shame! If only the contractor had taken the time to spray paint the reinforcing steel, there would be no stains.

Oxalic Acid = Magic Rust Remover

My first thought was, "I wish I had some oxalic acid with me. That rust would disappear in minutes." All you have to do is mix the oxalic acid crystals with water, dissolve them, and apply the solution to the rust stains. Scrub and magic will happen. Pay attention to the safety instructions on the label of the oxalic acid! Rinse well with clear water.

Rust Ruins Concrete - Expansion

My second thought was how the rusting steel was expanding. That’s what happens to reinforcing steel when it starts to rust. Within a few years, these wonderful concrete steps that should have lasted seventy years, or more, will be cracked and falling apart.

Have you taken the time to get any bids lately for work? Are you shocked by the prices and how inflation is raging in home building, remodeling, and repair? I know I’m stunned. It’s a good thing I can do just about all repairs to my own home.

Prevent Rust Rather than Replace Concrete

The issue is it’s going to be thousands and thousands of dollars to replace these concrete steps in a few years when they start to fail. The expenditure could have been avoided if the concrete contractor who installed the steps had taken a few extra minutes to roll on or spray on some metal primer and then add a coat of finish paint to the steel rebar.

This is so easy to do and the paint might have cost just $50. The reasons are plenty as to why it wasn’t done. It most likely is the Building Committee members who advise the parish priest just don’t know to do this. If a young architect did plans years ago for the steps, he might not have put in the written specifications telling the contractor to paint the rebar.

I tend to do autopsies on failures like this and then try to share what happens so I can help you avoid the same problem. This is an easy one only from the standpoint that it’s so simple to stop the rust.

You Must Tell Contractor What To Do

What’s the biggest takeaway from this simple rust stain situation? I know you’re not going to like this, but you should be thinking about taking on a more active role in sharing with contractors what you want to be done at your home and more importantly, how it should be done. You may think this is confrontational, but it’s not if you make it clear what you want in the plans and written instructions contractors use to bid your work.

My guess is you’re like most people, including me! You don’t know what you don’t know. And to add to that, you may not know the lexicon of building terms. In some respects, it can be similar to a different language.

Get Specs From Associations

But the Internet has made your job so much easier. You can easily get great advice from a plethora of associations that publish easy-to-understand documents about how products should be installed. The same is true for manufacturers. A smart and wise homeowner selects all the things they intend to use on the job long before the contractors arrive to look at things.

Read Product Installation Instructions

That same homeowner then reads all the installation instructions and notes the really important parts about what needs to be done. Here’s an example. Let’s say you want a few very expensive french doors installed that lead out to a deck. Manufacturers now have very detailed information about how to flash the doors, how to install them, and exactly what needs to be done to make sure they operate like a Swiss watch. Often they have great videos you can watch.

Absorb all this information. Put in your contracts that products must be installed according to the written manufacturer’s instructions. If you’re not able to see the work happen, put it in writing that the contractor has to take photos of important steps before they get covered up. Have him email those photos to you daily.

Technology has made it so very easy to do all of this. Make use of it so your investment doesn’t fall apart like the concrete steps 20 or 30 years before it’s supposed to happen.

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