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Eiffel Tower Repainting Could Restore Old Color

Thursday, March 22, 2018

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The iconic Eiffel Tower is due for its latest coat of paint, and French officials are debating bringing the monument back to its original color, a bright red.

The three-year project, slated to begin in October and continue through 2021, is also part of a larger endeavor that will see the addition of safety amenities.

Painting Project

According to The Local, after an original "Venetian red" shop-applied coating on its iron structure, the Eiffel Tower was painted an orange yellow at its base and light yellow at the top in 1899, and from 1907 to 1954, the monument was a yellow-brown. In 1968, it was repainted brown-red. To date, the structure has had 19 different paint jobs, and with the 20th set to start this year, bringing the structure back to its red roots is being discussed.

Cezary p, CC-BY-SA-4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The iconic Eiffel Tower is due for its latest coat of paint, and French officials are debating bringing the monument back to its original color, a bright red.

French civil engineer and architect Gustave Eiffel, best known for his work on the monument, noted in his writings early on in the structure's existence that the tower’s original red coating made it easier to protect the structure from rust.

The original coating was composed of bright red iron minium from Venice, linseed oil and flaxseed oil. 

Currently, the structure is painted a specially designed shade of brown.

Older colors on the structure will be uncovered and investigated to determine what color should be chosen for this project.

"We will rediscover and revive these old colours, like we do when we restore an old painting," a specialist from the Ministry of Culture and City noted. "This will give some food for thought as to whether or not to add nuances to the current hue."

If an older color is chosen, experts hope they will be able to recreate it.

According to Traveller, the Eiffel Tower is repainted every seven years, by hand, and will take 60 tons of paint to cover the 10,000-ton structure. The last repainting, which began in 2010, reportedly used an iron-oxide pigment from Lanxess AG to color a two-coat urethanized alkyd system.

This latest update to the Iron Lady is part of an overarching 15-year plan that will also provide additional safety amenities, namely a bullet-proof palisade around its base, which will prevent individuals or vehicles from storming the site. The security measure is in part a response to the heightened terror threat in Paris.

Eiffel Tower Structure

According to the monument's website, the structure was built out of puddle iron, a material with a long lifespan that only requires regular repainting in terms of upkeep.

When repainting is required, techniques dating back to Gustave Eiffel’s day, namely painting by hand, are used; the use of spray guns is ruled out, as is remote work, and 25 painters complete the work. For previous paint jobs, the budget has been around 4 million euros ($4.9 million). 

Editor's Note: Information in the article was corrected from 60,000 tons of paint to 60 tons of paint.


Tagged categories: EU; Europe; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Monuments; Paint application; Program/Project Management

Comment from Warren Brand, (3/22/2018, 8:17 AM)

Every seven years?!?!!? Wow. What a great deal and moneymaker for all the vendors, architects, painters, stagers and everyone else other than the people of France!

Comment from Simon Hope, (3/22/2018, 11:00 AM)

Things don't make a lot of sense there! 60,000 tonnes of paint!!! WOW!!! Litres more like? Paris is hardly the most hostile environment C4 to C2 probably depending on height from the ground, surely a decent marine or industrial system would provide 25 years to first maintenance and life expectation of 30 or even 40+ years. seems to me someone is profiteering and lifting the authorities legs! Time to bring in people who know what they are doing and deliver a properly assembled and competent package rather than a bunch of cowboys, look at the Forth Rail Bridge, similar era, infinitely more hostile with a 30 year system applied and still looking good!

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (3/23/2018, 11:31 AM)

Man, that's quite the engineering feat to put 60,000 tons of paint on a 10,000 ton structure. So, I know it is an icon and they don't want to close it, but hand painting...does this mean there is no stripping of past coatings and just a bunch of painters running around with brushes and rollers? With the nature of the material and current coatings technologies, I'd think you could close it once, for a brief stint, strip it (you'll have to eventually), re-coat it and then not have to do another coating for 4x the interval.

Comment from Laura Kemmerer, (3/23/2018, 11:54 AM)

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Michael and Simon! The information has been corrected. Thanks for reading!

Comment from Simon Hope, (3/23/2018, 12:05 PM)

Well done Laura, at least it shows we read and hang on every word!!

Comment from Wayne Senick, (3/24/2018, 9:40 PM)

This is a tourist attraction. They need to keep it looking good! The reason they paint so often is they keep doing the same thing allot of other people keep doing . Trying to “cover up active corrosion cells with a traditional barrier coating system” that has no chance of solving the corrosion problems. The crevice corroded and pack rusted joints and connections on the tower keep bleeding out all the time so the tower looks terrible. The rust bleed from all the wrongly treated joints and connections is the issue. The sad part here is that those joints and connections because they are improperly treated are continually corroding and section loss is occurring. In addition, the out of plain bending caused by the expanding corrosion product at the structure critical joints and connections will effect structure integrity. This tower was, as were most old structures, over built with allot thicker members then were required but time and the cancerous crevice corrosion is eventually going to cause major structure integrity issues and they will have to start to do some very costly steel repairs to the structure. If they do not re think there corrosion control strategy and continue to keep covering up the active corrosion cells allowing those joints and connections to be compromised paint and cosmetics will be the least of their problems. Our weather is starting to get weird. A big storm with high winds or a snow or ice storm with ice and sticky snow creating stresses and loads that the corrosion compromised joints and connections may not be able to handle. It is never about the paint, it should always be about stopping the corrosion using the right chemistries, so the structural integrity is preserved. The solutions are out there, they just need to re think what they are doing and ask for them.

Comment from Richard Burgess, (3/26/2018, 9:12 AM)

Carole (Supervisor) wonders why I am always taking pictures of rust and corrosion. October 24, 2014. I knew someday it would come in handy. Too bad I didn’t have a Tooke Gage Rich Burgess

Comment from Richard Burgess, (3/26/2018, 9:23 AM)

Pictures were sent to the Webmaster- Let me know if you would like to see them. Rich

Comment from trevor neale, (3/26/2018, 10:20 AM)

To confirm the suspected weight error I just calculated 10,000 tons of steel at 350 sq. ft. per ton would require 140 tons of coating at 150 sq ft per 12lb gallon per coat. All based on 2000lb tons; the metric tonnes of 2200 lbs. will require adjustment.. Also not sure why alkyd/ MIO was not selected originally, many rail bridges in the UK were protected with them for way over 7 year cycles in C2/3 conditions .

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/2/2018, 10:15 AM)

Side comment: Linseed oil is flaxseed oil. There is no need to list both.

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