Don't Give In to Shortcuts When Battling Rust


While most homeowners know how to treat and prevent rust spots on Junior's tricycle or wagon, preventing rust and corrosion in the home is more important--and more of a mystery.

Here are typical areas of the home that are subject to corrosion, and preventive measures you can take.

* Flashing: Suppose a piece of flashing works its way loose from your chimney. Disregarding the fact the flashing was improperly installed, your first inclination is to quickly refasten the loose flashing by driving a couple of steel masonry nails into the mortar joints and then caulking over the nailheads.

Don't do it, as galvanic corrosion will result, especially when the caulk breaks down. The steel nailheads in contact with the stainless steel will corrode quickly, and the flashing will become loose and fall off. Also, the nail will rust, expand and break apart more mortar, damaging the chimney. Instead, tuck point the joints where the flashing loosened.

* Gutters: If you have old-fashioned steel gutters on your house, clean them well. Tannic acid leaches out of leaves as they lie in your gutters. This acid is corrosive to steel gutters and stains aluminum, so keep the gutters clean.

Don't hold up sagging aluminum gutters with steel nails. Caulking over the nailheads only buys you a little time. Instead, use aluminum gutter spikes.

* Outdoor woodwork: Galvanized nails are better than non-coated nails, known as bright finish. Countersink nail holes where possible, and putty the holes. Screws with weatherproof coatings are also available.

If you live in a humid area, or near salt water, a marine supply store nearby may be able to furnish stainless steel fasteners.

Galvanized hinges, hasps and bolts are likewise preferable to non-galvanized.

* Plumbing: Avoid connecting copper to steel pipe. Galvanic corrosion of the steel threads will cause plumbing leaks. If you must join the two materials, separate the metals with a nylon insulation union, available at plumbing supply stores.

No, Teflon tape is not enough to isolate the two metals. Threaded connectors will often pierce the Teflon.

Use plastic pipe when you have a choice, especially with in-ground plumbing, such as sprinkler systems.

Hard water conducts electricity better than soft water. Copper and steel plumbing will last longer if you install a water softener to deal with hard water. The steel-copper plumbing connections mentioned above corrode more quickly in hard water than in soft water.

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