Cleaning metal deck posts that are 20 feet tall

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Old 03-28-17, 10:32 PM
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Cleaning metal deck posts that are 20 feet tall

My deck is about 20 feet off the ground, no stairs, on a slight slope with dirt underneath. The deck is about 2 years old and the four metal pillars that hold it up are covered in rust. I have no idea how to reach the top of the pillars so I can clean and paint them. Does anyone have any suggestions?
 
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Old 03-29-17, 04:12 AM
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Welcome to the forums!

If you post a pic or two showing the posts and the lay of the ground we'd have a better idea of what you are dealing with.

I'd probably use a step ladder to get as high as I could and then an extension ladder set against the deck's outer floor joist to reach down as low as I could. Scaffolding would work well although it might not be worth the expense and effort to erect it.
 
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Old 03-29-17, 04:29 AM
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I am curious, too, about the metal pillars. I have never seen them used, and I live in the North Georgia Mountains, where our decks are mostly 20 or so feet off the ground. Post a couple of pictures so we can see what you see. http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...your-post.html
 
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Old 03-29-17, 06:05 AM
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I'm thinking scaffolding would be the best and safest but the most work to erect. Most tool rental stores rent is by the week and it's pretty inexpensive. Transporting and erecting the scaffolding is a pain though. Since you'll likely have to sand, scrape or wire brush the posts to remove the rust you'll be up there doing a fair bit of work and the good footing of scaffolding will allow you to work quickly and safely. Then as a far second I would consider working off of a ladder.

I suggest the scaffolding because your posts are rusting after only two years. They were likely not properly prepared before they were initially painted. If you bear down and do a good job properly prepping and painting now then the posts could go a very long time before they need attention again. If you go quick and easy I'm afraid you'll be facing the same problem again in two years.
 
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Old 03-29-17, 08:56 AM
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thanks all for the suggestions. I also live in northwest georgia.
I'm originally from california so the things i'm encountering with housing in georgia is all very new to me.
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Old 03-29-17, 09:13 AM
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Looks like those posts were never painted Ideally you'd sand them down to shiny metal and apply a good coat of an exterior oil base primer followed by an exterior oil base finish paint. If you get most of the rust off, Rustoleum's rusty metal primer does well.
 
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Old 03-29-17, 10:35 AM
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Not so bad. An extension ladder well secured will most likely be the easy choice. You could however, build your own "window washer " deck that could be lowed up and down across the span. BUT be careful and be sure you have it well secured. A safety harness tied off to a stationary support above deck would be advised. If you design it right, it could be a regular tole to do maintenance in the future.
 
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Old 03-29-17, 11:46 AM
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I dont think they were ever painted and unfortunately it didnt occur to me until someone recently mentioned all the rust. thanks all!
 
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Old 03-29-17, 02:49 PM
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The hardest part will be getting it all sanded. While I'd use ladders, scaffolding makes for more comfortable working conditions. Once it's sanded - the primer/paint can be applied with a 4" roller and roller pole.
 
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Old 03-29-17, 03:58 PM
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I'd suggest rent a tow behind bucket lift and a sand blaster. I don't see a good way to easily get the back sides from a ladder.

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Of course there is some Navy guy out there yelling use a boatswain chair but I wouldn't recommend that without training in use.
.
 
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Old 03-29-17, 04:09 PM
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I like Ray's idea, but our terrain often isn't conducive to that. On grade one minute and 20 feet down in 8'. Quite steep.
 
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Old 03-29-17, 10:56 PM
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it'd likely be cheaper and easier to hire it out vs renting and transporting and erecting a scaffold.

you could buy a used extension ladder and then resell it, or rent one from HD or maybe borrow one if you don't have one.

I don't like ladders/roof over much of a height. If I absolutely had to do this I'd place the ladder, then spike 2x4s in the ground to secure the bottom from kicking out and to the sides, and then put blocking on the deck with removable screws on the rim joist to keep the ladder in place, plus use a ~$100 harness tied to the deck. Ideally remove a decking board so you can tie the harness to an actual joist and not a 4x4 post. I don't know if that's adequate support for a fall as if it would make the whole deck fall on you but if I absolutely had to do this, I'd use a harness. Remove the slack in the harness as you go up the ladder. You can likely return the harness to Home depot if you keep it like new. They have break-away straps that know if it was used in a fall and should be thrown away if fallen with. You won't fall though.

Now for actually renovating the rust. I dunno the best way, luckily it's not scaling, in which case I'd say you have to replace the poles. But maybe a small orbital sander would do it, or an angle grinder wire brush wheel or possibly even wire cup. Then spray/brush on something specifically for rust like rustoleum rust reformer which says it's also a great primer and then a top quality finish coat.
 
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Old 03-29-17, 11:03 PM
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side note, you can also probably rent a spray paint gun, and buy/rent (sell after don't possibly) a long ~12'extension wand for it and just spray rust reformer and then top coat. Without sanding the rust first, it won't be as good but might be good enough to maintain it.

But if you get crafty, you can figure out a way to attach a belt sander or something to a pole.. or if you can use sandpaper for something like this, basically just use a drywall sandpaper pole and extend it like 14 feet and go from top and bottom possibly using a low safe ladder if needed. then spray with extension wand.
 
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Old 03-29-17, 11:08 PM
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I can't edit on IE11. but if you actually use a drywall sanding pole, to get the tough to reach places on the 'insides' of the poles, when sanding from the top, you'd have to remove some decking boards.
 
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Old 03-30-17, 04:11 AM
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It isn't that you can't edit with IE11. You keep bringing that up. At the bottom of the post is a clickable block that allows you to edit post. Use that........but sparingly, as your posts get quite lengthy. OR you could graduate to the 21st century and use a non-problematic browser such as Chrome or Firefox. IE is horrible as a browser. Using a pole and a sanding mechanism is fool hardy, heavy, unwieldy, and purely dangerous.
 
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Old 03-30-17, 04:41 AM
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The edit button will disappear after a few hours. It is a Spam prevention. Perhaps you're waiting to long to edit. I've been on the net since the 90's and yet to read anyone but MS recomend IE but in this case it may be you are waiting too long to edit.

I think because of safety issues your best bet is to find a commercial painting company that has the equipment to do it safely. I say commercial not house painter because of the situation.
 
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Old 03-30-17, 05:15 AM
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Many residential house painters can do the job - just make sure they are licensed and insured!

I wouldn't have any qualms about doing the work off of ladders. IMO the time savings beats the effort involved in setting up and tearing down scaffolding. You do want to make sure the ladder is set well! Maybe even set the top under the deck against a floor joist. You don't have to see all of the post from your working position as you can reach around to the other side. Once the rust is cleaned up, the painting is the easy part.

I wouldn't recommend spraying! too hard to contain the overspray! While an electrostatic sprayer would work well, not many commercial companies have them. An electrostatic sprayer energizes the paint where it's attracted to the steel limiting the overspray.
 
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Old 03-30-17, 05:26 AM
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Of course there is some Navy guy out there yelling use a boatswain chair but I wouldn't recommend that without training in use.
Ray,

Never knew that was the proper name for that kind of thing. Learn something new everyday.
 
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Old 03-30-17, 06:43 PM
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You've all been really helpful, thanks!
 
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Old 03-30-17, 06:58 PM
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You remember the Omni? It was a raw steel structure for professional basketball. They let it rust. Rust is oxidation, and let to its own, it will eventually starve itself of air and stop rust growth.
 
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Old 03-30-17, 07:31 PM
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it will eventually starve itself of air and stop rust growth.
Larry that's true. But not for all steel. I think it needs be special steel or alloy for that to be true. I doubt that these post are treated. However, the OP did say he thinks they were never painted, so with that in mind you may be correct. Just say'n.
 
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Old 03-30-17, 07:34 PM
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They let it rust.
Officials here have used that explanation for why some bridges and overpasses were allowed to rust. Said it was special steel intended to rust. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weathering_steel
 
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Old 04-01-17, 04:44 PM
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How would I find out if it's the type of metal that can rust? I will attempt to contact the builder but that might be fruitless; they rarely responded to any of my enquiries in the past.
 
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Old 04-01-17, 06:08 PM
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Try calling as if you're a new possible customer. Or you might try calling you local town gov't building dept and see what codes are dictated.
 
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Old 04-01-17, 07:14 PM
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I can almost guarantee that you do not have a steel intended to be left unprotected. If I had to guess your posts are just standard 4" schedule 40 steel pipe. Thoroughly clean them and paint them.
 
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Old 04-03-17, 11:27 PM
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not that I know anything about metal pipes like these and using them outside etc, but I'm also willing to bet they weren't meant to rust. Although a part of me thinks it's possible. Because if the deck was built along with the house like you're possibly implying, then it would have definitely been inspected, so I really don't know what inspector on this planet would let it fly to put rust-prone posts on a frign ~20' high deck like that.

I've taken down many small decks (more like a platform and a set of stairs) that the home builder built with the house to replace them with custom decks. Half the time, they had no footings, just 4x4s in the dirt, but they were usually the lower one story decks (but still a great way to frost heave the deck with no footings and cause all types of rot in the wall, even if it doesn't heave to the point where the ledger board gives out with a group of people on the deck).


So it is possible that the inspector(s) just let it pass without being properly coated, but also very odd that any inspector wouldn't insist that they be coated properly (unless they're allowed to rust).



If I were you, I'd look further into this with the building department. Do they keep plans on file and would see specs for these posts being a type that is allowed to rust?
I'm not sure, but that height also looks strange that there was no bracing involved, so maybe the inspector(s) just ok'd everything and went back to take naps or something.


If there were a scrap piece available you could possibly sent to rust-allowable-metal post manufacturers to confirm if it is the type or not, and if not, go ahead and sue the builder. You might have to have a company with scaffolding and possibly a lift come in and replace all the posts properly. As you see from the replies, this is not a simple fix even to attempt a refurbish if they were supposed to be coated but weren't.

At 2 years old, the post shouldn't be rusted like that as if to say the coating wore off already.


how do the bases look? I see there's no concrete above grade making a slope to prevent water rusting out the base.

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Old 04-04-17, 06:28 AM
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If you really want to pursue the legal route (which I think is a blind alley that will end up wasting a lot of your time and money) you can check with scrap metal recyclers or steel distributors to see if any have a "gun" for checking metal. It's a very expensive hand held device that can be held up to almost anything and it determines it's composition. Since it's such an expensive tool nobody will let you borrow it but you may be able to hire them or bribe someone with a case of beer to come to your house and check the poles. In 30 seconds they will be able to tell you exactly what steel the posts are. My bet is still on common sch 40 steel pipe.
 
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Old 04-04-17, 06:51 AM
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I see steel used all the time that should be painted but is not, don't know why that is other than maybe nobody wanted to pay the painter. If it was mine, I'd sand the posts the best I could, prime and paint.
 
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Old 04-04-17, 08:12 AM
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Easiest it just to paint them regardless of the type of steel. That way you're sure they're protected and they look better. <opinion>
 
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