Bituminous coatings

Bitumens have been defined as mixtures of hydrocarbons of natural or pyrogenous origin or combinations of both (frequently accompanied by their nonmetallic derivatives), which can be gaseous, liquid, semisolid, or solid and which are completely soluble in carbon disulfide.

Bitumens used in the manufacture of coatings are of the semisolid and solid variety and are derived from three sources:

1. Asphalt produced by the distillation of petroleum

2. Naturally occurring asphalts and asphaltites

3. Coal tar produced by the destructive distillation of coal

It is customary to classify bituminous coatings by their application characteristics as well as by their generic composition. All of the coatings can be divided into two classes depending on whether or not they require heating prior to application.

1. Hot-applied coatings. These are either 100% bitumen or bitumen blended with selected fillers. A common loading for coatings employing fillers is 10 to 20% filler. Hot-applied coatings are brought to the desired application viscosity by heating. The majority of buried pipelines are coated with this type of bituminous coating.

2. Cold-applied coatings. These employ both solvents and water to attain the desired application viscosity. A wide range of solvents is used and the choice depends mainly on the drying characteristics desired and the solvent power required to dissolve the particular bitumen being used. Various fillers are also used in cold-applied coatings to obtain specific applications and end-use properties.

Bituminous coatings can be formulated from many combinations of bitumens, solvents, or dispersing agents and fillers. This makes possible a great variety of end products to meet application and service requirements. The coatings that can be produced range from thin-film (3-mil) coatings to protect machined parts in storage, up to thick (100-mil), tough coatings to protect buried pipelines.

As with all other coatings, the conditions of the surface to which a bituminous coating is applied is an important, life-determining factor. A good sandblast is preferred, especially if the surface is badly corroded and the exposure is severe. In any case the surface should be free of moisture, grease, dust, salts, loose rust, and poorly adherent scale. A thin, penetrating bituminous primer can be beneficial on rusty surfaces that can only be cleaned by wire brushing and scraping.

End-Use Requirements

The application will dictate which performance properties of a coating should be given greatest consideration.

Service Temperature

Many applications of bituminous coating require a moderate service temperature range, often no greater than that caused by weather changes. However, other applications, such as coatings for chemical processing vessels, may require much wider service temperature ranges. In any event, it is possible to obtain good performance with bituminous coatings over a range of -73 to 163°C.

Thermal and Electrical Insulation

Bitumens themselves are relatively poor thermal insulators. However, by using low-density fillers, coatings with good insulation properties can be formulated. These coatings both protect from corrosion and provide thermal insulation. An added advantage of the coatings is that the insulating material (low-density filler) is completely surrounded by bitumen and is permanently protected from moisture. Thus, they are not subject to a loss in efficiency (as are conventional insulating systems) from damage or failure of the protecting vapor barrier.

Bitumens are naturally good electrical insulators. This is an important consideration in systems using cathodic protection as a complementary corrosion-prevention device.

Abrasion Resistance

Many bituminous coatings need to have high abrasion resistance. Automotive undercoat-ings, for example, need high abrasion resistance because they are continually buffeted by gravel and debris thrown up by the wheels of the vehicle.

Abrasion-resistant coatings are also used to protect interior surfaces of railroad cars or other vessels handling chemical solids or abrasive slurries.

Weathering Resistance

Asphalt-base bituminous coatings generally weather better than coal-tar-base coatings. Also, there is quite a wide difference in the performance of asphalt coatings derived from different petroleum crudes. By critically selecting the crude and the processing method, asphalt coatings can be formulated that will weather for many years.

In industrial areas, corrosive solids, solutions, and vapors will affect weathering performance. In general, the resistance of bituminous coatings to corrosive media is equal to that of the best organic coatings. Bituminous coatings have good resistance to dilute hydrochloric, sulfuric, and phosphoric acids as well as to sodium hydroxide. They also have good resistance to solutions of ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate. However, they have poor resistance to dilute nitric acid, and most coatings are not resistant to oils, greases, and petroleum solvents.

Mechanical Impact and Thermal Shock

Bituminous coatings generally have good adhesion when subjected to mechanical impact. However, where severe mechanical impact is expected, the coatings should first be field-tested or tested in the laboratory under simulated service conditions.

Resistance to thermal shock is an important consideration in coatings used on some types of processing equipment. Laboratory tests in which a coated panel is transferred back and forth between hot and cold chambers can be used to predict field behavior. Bituminous coatings are available that will withstand thermal shock over a temperature range of -51 to 60°C.

Types of Coatings

Because bitumens are very dark in color, heavy loadings of pigments are required to produce colors other than black. However, if color is an important consideration, certain colored paints, including whites, can be used as topcoats. Granules can also be blown into the coating before it has completely cured to produce a wide range of decorative effects.

Thin-Film Coatings

Coatings less than 6 mils thick are arbitrarily included in this group. For the most part, these are solvent cutback coatings. They are black except in the case of aluminum paints employing bituminous bases. The coatings are inexpensive and can be used to give good protection from corrosion when color is not important.

Asphalt coatings of this type are used extensively to protect machined parts in storage. Because the coatings retain their solubility in low-cost petroleum solvents even after long weathering, kerosene or similar solvents can be used to remove a coating from the protected part just prior to placing it in service. Coal-tar-base coatings are much more difficult to dissolve and cannot be used for this purpose. However, this property makes coal tar useful for protecting crude-oil tank bottoms and in other applications requiring resistance to petroleum fractions.

Industrial Coatings

Heavy-bodied industrial coatings incorporate low-density and fibrous mineral fillers. Coatings can be formulated that will not slump or flow on vertical surfaces when applied as thick as 250 mils. However, they are usually used in thicknesses from 6 to 120 mils.

The coatings are used extensively in industrial plants to protect tanks and structural steel from such corrosive environments as acids, alkalis, salt solutions, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide gases.

Industrial coatings are also used in large volume by the railroad industry. Complete exteriors of tank cars carrying corrosive liquids are often coated and provide good protection of the saddle area where spillage is likely to occur. Coatings on the exteriors and interiors of hopper cars in dry chemical service also provide protection from both corrosive action and abrasive wear.

Railroad car bituminous cements are used to seal sills and joints in boxcars. An application of this material followed by an overcoating of granules makes an excellent roofing system for railroad cars.

Coatings for use over insulation

Practically all industrial insulating materials must be protected from the weather and moisture; otherwise they would lose their efficiency. Bituminous coatings formulated to have low rates of moisture vapor transmission give best results on installations operating at low (-73°C) to moderate (82°C) temperatures. Coatings that allow a higher rate of moisture transmission (breathing type) are needed to protect the insulation on systems operating at 82°C and above. This is necessary so that moisture trapped beneath the coating can escape when the unit is brought to operating temperatures.

Thermal Insulating Coatings

Low-density fillers can be employed in bituminous mastics to produce coatings with relatively good insulating values; a k value of 0.6 Btu/ft2/h/°F is typical. Insulating coatings are usually applied somewhat more thickly than conventional mastics to obtain the insulating value desired. They are commonly used in thicknesses of 250 to 375 mils and because of their thickness and resiliency they have excellent resistance to mechanical damage.

Automotive Underbody Coatings

These are mastic type coatings containing fibrous and other fillers. They are used to coat the undersides of floor panels, fenders, gasoline tanks, and frames to protect against corrosion and provide sound deadening and joint sealing.

The coatings have high resistance to deicing salts, moisture, and water. They also have sound-deadening properties that noticeably reduce the noise level inside an automobile. This provides for a more pleasant and less-fatiguing ride. The sealing and bridging action of the coatings is also especially effective in reducing drafts and dust infiltration.

Sound-Deadening Coatings

High-efficiency, sound-deadening coatings can be formulated from selected resinous bases and high-density fillers. They have better sound-deadening properties than automotive under-body coatings and are used on the wall, roof, and door panels of automotive equipment where sound deadening is the primary need, rather than abrasion resistance or protection from corrosion. They are also used on railroad passenger cars, house trailers, stamped bathtubs, kitchen sinks, air-conditioning cabinets, and ventilation ducts.

Pipe Coatings

Industrial coatings are excellent for protection of pipe above ground. However, the environment of underground exposure and the complementary use of cathodic protection make it necessary to use specially designed coatings. The stresses created by shrinking and expanding soil require that the coating be very tough. Rocks and other sharp objects can be expected to cause high localized pressures on the coating surface. A coating must have good cold-flow properties to resist penetration by objects, which can cause localized pressures as high as 690 MPa.

Cathodic protection (an impressed negative electrical potential) is widely used to prevent the corrosion processes from occurring at flaws in the pipe coatings. Both asphalts and coal tars are good electrical insulators and make excellent coatings for cathodic protection applications.

Coatings for pipe are usually of the hot application type. Application can be made at the mill, at a special pipe-coating yard, or over the ditch, depending on the terrain, size of pipe, and other factors. The coating may be given added strength by embedding it with a glass fabric while it is still hot. Outer wrappings of rag, asbestos, and glass felts are sometimes used to give added resistance to damage by soil stresses.


Bituminous coatings that are cut back with solvents or emulsified with water can be produced to consistencies suitable for application by dipping, brushing, spraying, or troweling at ambient temperatures.

Dipping is usually used to coat small parts. As a rule, coating viscosity is adjusted to produce a thickness of 1 to 6 mils.

Brushing is used on areas that cannot be reached by spraying and on jobs that do not warrant setting up spray equipment. Coating thicknesses can range from 1 to 65 mils.

Spraying is the most popular method for applying cold coatings. The thickness required in one application determines the consistency of the formulation, and thicknesses of 1 to 250 mils are obtainable by spraying. Conventional paint-spray equipment can be used for coatings up to 6 mils thick. Heavier coatings require the use of mastic spray guns fed from pressure pots or heavy-duty pumps. Heated vessels and feed lines can also be used to decrease viscosity and permit faster application and the buildup of thicker films in one application.

Troweling is usually used in inaccessible areas or where it is necessary to produce a very heavy coating in one application. Trowel coats are usually applied in thicknesses above 250 mils.

Bituminous coatings can also be applied hot without the need for any diluents. Such coatings are widely used on piping in thicknesses of about 95 mils. They are heated to 177 to 288°C and then pumped into a special apparatus that surrounds and travels along the pipe.

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