The Secret Cost of Corrosion on the Homestead

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
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Photo by Unsplash/Jen Theodore

In 2016, the corrosion of equipment and materials cost the United States more than $1 trillion, a number that has risen by $724 billion since 1998. The only two areas with higher total spending are healthcare and real estate. 

A few billion dollars is not an amount most can afford to pay, though some have little choice. Farmers earn their livelihood through the help of expensive machinery. Without it, their jobs are more complicated and time-consuming. They, along with homesteaders, must spend thousands on replacing corroded equipment each year. 

This issue is difficult to fix and often merits the purchase of new machinery. However, preventing corrosion is cheaper and easier than most people realize. 

How Much Will Corrosion Cost?

Replacing equipment is always expensive — it’s just a question of how expensive. How much did you pay for what you currently own? Was it new or pre-owned? Odds are, the price you initially paid has only gone up. If you have to purchase more than one item, the total adds up fast. 

If you need a new forklift, storage cabinets and handrails, for example, you’re looking at approximately $23,700 in replacement costs — and that doesn’t account for other farming expenses, like planting crops and maintaining livestock. By contrast, paint or a protective metal coating will cost a few hundred dollars at most. 

What Is Corrosion?

It’s important to note that corrosion and rust are not the same. Rust forms over metal as a result of its exposure to moisture. Corrosion, however, eats away at metal, compromising structural integrity. Due to its destructive nature, it’s to catch this defect early. If your equipment does corrode, it will lead to unsafe operation and costly replacements. 

Corrosion is a chemical reaction between materials and factors in the environment, such as rain, salt and stress. Once this reaction begins, it’s difficult to determine how quickly it will spread. How long your equipment lasts will depend on the type of corrosion and material. General or stress corrosion, for example, will occur after metal has rusted, while galvanic corrosion takes decades to form.

You can take steps to prevent corrosion. If you find it, however — no matter the type — give it immediate attention. Damage can go unnoticed or unchecked for long periods of time. By the time you open the shed after a damp winter, it could already be too late. 

Preventing Corrosion on a Farm

Preventing corrosion on your farm equipment and vehicles is easy and cost-effective. Discover the best ways to keep your machinery in tip-top shape, such as: 

1. Consider the design: Look for equipment engineered to withstand rust and corrosion. Components exposed to weather, for instance, should allow water and debris to fall off instead of collect. Avoid machinery with narrow gaps where fluid can enter and become stagnant. 

2. Think about indoor storage: An excellent way to prevent corrosion is to store your equipment indoors where it’s safe from elements like rain and snow. For the extra cautious, it doesn’t hurt to cover items with tarps when you’re not using them. Preventing rust is helpful, too, since it can lead to corrosion.

3. Apply metal coatings: Sometimes, moving something inside or shielding it from the weather isn’t an option. Metal coatings, however, are a corrosion-resistant solution. They create a barrier between metal and corrosives to ensure the weather doesn’t damage your equipment. 

4. Use paint alternatives: If your metal equipment has chipped paint or no coat at all, don’t let it stay that way. Cover over potential corrosion areas before they develop a problem. Issues could arise from anything that’s chipped or scraped.

5. Keep up with maintenance: Check your equipment periodically and see if you notice anything amiss, especially after periods of poor weather. If you have tractors or other vehicles that were exposed to salted winter roads, clean them immediately. Undercarriage corrosion is common because it’s easy to miss. 

6. Proper preparation is vital if you’re painting or using a metal coating on your equipment. Before you begin, make sure the surface is clean to ensure the coating adheres properly. You might need to scrub to remove caked on-dirt and dust. 

Corrosion on the Homestead — What’s the Secret Cost? 

Corrosion is costly, affecting both corporations and small-time homesteaders alike. For the average farm, however, the price to replace machinery is too much to afford. 

If you’re a homesteader, don’t let corrosion cut into profits and affect operations. With the tips above, it’s possible to prevent this expensive defect. Start by understanding the different types of corrosion and how they differ from rust.

Implement a plan to protect the machinery you already have, whether through adding indoor storage or applying metal coatings.

You should also keep up with maintenance and routine checks. If spotted early, you can conquer corrosion. 


Kayla Matthews has been writing about healthy living for several years and is proud to be a featured writer on a number of inspiring health sites, including Mother Earth News. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory.

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