Watching paint dry

News October 18, 2001
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Why bother to pay for certified independent inspection of bridge painting projects when the contractor offers to provide inspec

Why bother to pay for certified independent inspection of bridge painting projects when the contractor offers to provide inspectors at no additional charge? The contractor has to warranty his work anyway, right? The reason is that certified independent inspection services can save hundreds or even thousands of times their cost by ensuring that the job is done right -- which can translate into many years of extra life.


Here's an example of how inspection can save money. A major bridge in the northeast was repainted at a cost that ran well into the millions. A year later, paint was de-bonding in large pieces and the contractor offered to perform a touchup at no additional charge. The next year, the problem was even worse so an independent inspector was finally brought in to survey the contractor's work after the fact. The inspector determined that the 12 or so layers of paint that had previously been applied to the bridge were never removed as had been specified in the original contract and recommended that the entire bridge be blast cleaned and repainted again.


How can an independent inspector help avoid pitfalls like this one - admittedly an extreme case - as well as dozens of other potential problems that can subtract years or decades from the life of a bridge painting job -- and moreover add significant maintenance costs over the years?


The inspector's job starts long before painting starts by examining the existing coating and determining the type and thickness of existing coatings, presence of rust and mill scale and any other special conditions that will affect surface preparation and painting requirements. The inspector, as agent for the professional engineer, also meets with the contractor to take an inventory of their equipment, personnel, planned procedures and the coating itself. At this point, the inspector has the opportunity to voice any concerns and also make clear the specified standards that are to be met on the project such as in the containment system, quality of surface preparation, coating methods, etc. This meeting helps to make sure that the contractor knows exactly what is expected to comply with specified bridge painting approach.


For more on the story, read the November issue of ROADS&BRIDGES.



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