Zinc-rich Primers Made Simple

Zinc-rich primers are an excellent form of corrosion protection for facility owners and paint contractors to consider. Let’s first address how zinc primers work to ensure a complete understanding of these coating systems.

zinc coating on marine surface

How do zinc-rich primers work?

Zinc-rich primers are part of a group of coatings known as galvanic protection systems. Galvanic systems are also know “sacrificial” systems because the coating used corrodes instead of the integral structure or component.

Zinc is more electrically active than steel and other structural materials. When the corrosion cell is formed (whenever the structure interacts with moisture, i.e., the electrolyte), the zinc primer acts as the sacrificial anode, protecting the structural material. Magnesium, aluminum and zinc can all be used as galvanic coating systems because they’re all active metals.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of zinc-rich primers?

Zinc-rich primers, and all galvanic systems, are perfect primers for steel assets in highly corrosive environments. Zinc is particularly useful in marine, tanker and underground applications, i.e., immersive environments. Any environment exposed to constant moisture will benefit from a zinc primer.

The main drawback of zinc primers is that they are consumed while providing protection. This means they have a relatively limited lifetime.

Types of zinc primers

Zinc primers come in two basic forms: inorganic and organic zinc-rich coatings.

Inorganic zinc coatings:

  • Can be used without a topcoat in mild atmospheric environments
  • Usually only use silicate as a binder
  • Contain more zinc and provide better galvanic protection
  • Require abrasive blasting or near-white blasting to be long-lasting and effective
  • Are usually applied in shops via a spray

Organic zinc coatings:

  • Must be top-coated to provide long-lasting protection
  • Use a wide variety of binders from epoxy to alkyd
  • Are easier to apply
  • Are usually applied in the field via a brush or roller

Organic zinc coatings usually act as maintenance coatings for inorganic coatings due to their relative ease of application.

Zinc-rich primer suppliers

Below you can find a list of supplier product data sheets for various zinc primer formulations.

PPG Marine product data sheets

Carboline product search

Tiger Coatings Epoxy DryZinc

Specialty Polymer Coating SP-5818

US Coatings ZincGard 1000

Jotun Barrier Plus

Clearco