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Steel Prison Door Corrosion Evaluation

A structural integrity evaluation of corroded steel prison cell doors was requested. It was reported that during very heavy spring rains, the lower edges of vertically stacked doors were submerged in water and mud. An overall view of the prison doors installed in modular cell units before permanent placement is shown in Photograph A.

Overall view of prison doors.
Photograph A   Modular prison cell units with installed steel doors.

Questions concerning the prison cell doors integrity were raised when the bottoms, sides and hinge areas of numerous cell doors visually exhibited external corrosion.

An overall view of stacks of the questionable cell doors is shown in Photograph B.

Stacks of questionable prison doors.
Photograph B   Stacks of prison cell doors with external corrosion.

A close-up view of the corroded bottoms of stacks of questioned cell doors is shown in Photograph C.

Close-up views of the bottoms of prison cell doors.
Photograph C   Bottoms of corroded prison cell doors.

A close-up view of the lower corner of one cell door and lower door hinge is shown in Photograph D.

Close-up view of bottom of prison cell door.
Photograph D   Bottom of lower door panel and door hinge.

A close-up view of the bottom of the lower cell door panel is shown in Photograph E.

Close-up view of bottom of prison cell door.
Photograph E   Corroded bottom edge of door.

A close-up view of a corroded hinge and hinge pocket is shown in Photograph F.

Close-up view of corroded hinge and hinge pocket.
Photograph F  Corroded hinge and hinge pocket.

The internal structure of the subject doors was quite remarkable.  The door panels were reinforced with an internal truss structure.  Columns of fiberglass insulation (for sound, not thermal insulation) were inserted into the truss structure interstices.  

A close-up view of this internal structure is shown in Photograph G.

Close-up view of internal structure of prison cell doors.
Photograph G   Close-up of door internal truss structure.

Corrosion of the door’s internal truss structure is clearly evident.  Lower sections of selected cell doors were cut for internal visual examination.

The corroded condition of a lower cell door after sectioning is shown in Photograph H.

Close-up view of section from prison cell door.
Photograph H   Section cut from the lower corner of one cell door.

Some cut sections had compressed dirt and mud residue as shown in Photograph I.

Close-up view of section cut from prison cell door.
Photograph I   Dirt and mud residue was found in the cut section of the cell door.

To view and examine the entire internal structure, including the truss structure and the extent of corrosion and moisture migration, the spot welds attaching the truss structure to the front and rear panels were marked and drilled.  Drilling was conducted in an attempt to remove the wall to truss spot welds, thereby enabling viewing of the door truss internal structure.

An overall view of the drilled lower section of one of the test doors is shown in Photograph J.

Overall view of prison cell door after drilling to remove spot welds.
Photograph J   Test door after drilling to remove spot welds.

The drill panel was removed and the subject door was separated as shown in Photograph K.

Internal structure corrosion of prison cell door.
Photograph K   The subject separated cell door revealing internal structure corrosion.

As can be seen in Photograph K, the fiberglass insulation acted as a “wick” allowing moisture and mud to soak up 12 to 18 inches inside the door from the door bottom.  In some cases, as seen in the light brown areas in Photograph K, the fiberglass did not get as wet at the bottom of the door and thus, much less wicking and moisture migration occurred. 

The final result of this investigation was an opinion that the internal structure had been completely compromised and that nothing could be done to mitigate or reduce future corrosion.  Thus, in order to ensure the prison cell doors function properly, it was recommended that the subject corroded cell doors be replaced and not salvaged.

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J.E.I. Metallurgical, Inc.

5514 Harbor Town
Dallas, Texas 75287

Phone: (972) 934-0493
Fax: (469) 737-3938
Email: r.c.jerner@metallurgist.com

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