It’s All in the Colour! The Painting of the Golden Gate

This post answers the following questions

1) When was The landmark Golden Gate Bridge opened?
2) Where does the name of the bridge came from?
3) When was a programme to re-paint the bridge initiated?
4) Who made the unusual color of the bridge?
5) What is the colour used on the bridge?

Construction

The landmark Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937 after a four year building project and was, at the time, the longest suspension main span bridge in the world. One of the most crucial elements of both the construction and the striking appearance of the bridge is the paint and its unusual colour.

The Name

It is a common misconception that the Golden Gate Bridge was named for its colour. In fact it was because the Structure straddles the Golden Gate Strait in the bay of San Francisco. The bridge has the most awesome setting and beautiful Art Deco design but it is the iconic colour of the bridge, known as International Orange, which sets it apart from all others.

Choice of Colour

The unusual choice of colour was made by the consulting engineer Irving Morrow. Bridges are usually grey or black but when Morrow saw the burnt orange colour of the sealant used during construction it sparked an idea. Morrow and the local people felt that the colour would fit well with the warm hues of the natural landscape and provide an excellent contrast with the cold blues and greys of the water and sky thus being more visible to shipping.

Corrosion

The infamous smog in the Bay area is very salt-laden and therefore highly corrosive. Indeed when the construction of the bridge was completed there was already extensive corrosion to the steel which had not been adequately pre-treated for the prevailing conditions. A lead primer and lead based topcoat were chosen to paint the Golden Gate Bridge to protect against the corrosive atmosphere. This was constantly touched-up where required until the mid-60s.

New Paint

In 1968 a programme to re-paint the bridge was initiated. Advancing corrosion necessitated the use of a different kind of paint. The original covering was removed and replaced with a zinc silicate primer and vinyl topcoat in a project that continued through to 1995. In 1990 use of an acrylic paint for the topcoat was introduced for improved air quality. The future may well see the use of new eco paint products on the structure as in the UK with the re-paint of the Forth Bridge.

On Going Work

Many people believe that the bridge is painted end to end each year when actually it is simply an on-going project of re-touching where required. It is the most important maintenance work at the bridge because of the imperative to protect the structure against corrosion. The task is handled by a team of some 30 workers who battle against the smog and high winds to apply the paint. 5000 to 10,000 gallons of paint are used each year, still in the famous International Orange colour. A project to re-paint the cables was started in 2011, the first in the 75 year history of the bridge. It is thought this will take four years to complete.

Sought After

The colour used on the bridge is not just International Orange but a bespoke colour-mix. This is now so well-loved and famous that details of the mix are often requested and now appear on the Golden Gate Bridge official website!

Attached Images:

If you’re looking for eco paint in the UK then take a look at Olive Loves Alfie – they even have colours closely matching International Orange a colour approximated on the Golden Gate Bridge!

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