Pinhole / Porosity Detection

Premature corrosion of a substrate is usually due to the failure of the coating. A major cause of failure is the presence of flaws in the finished coating. Collectively referred to as a coating’s porosity the main types of flaw are described below:

Runs and sags

The wet coating moves under gravity leaving a thin dry film.


Occurs when a coating does not re-flow to cover the voids generated by air bubbles being released from the surface of a coating.


Occurs when the substrate is wet or if the coating has poor flow characteristics, thus creating voids in the coating.


Caused either by air entrapment which is then released from the surface, or by the entrapment of particulates (dust, sand, etc.) which do not stay in place.

Over coating

If too much coating is applied to a substrate, as the coating cures it can crack from internal stresses of the coating.

Under coating

Areas are not coated or the coating flows away from particular edges, corners of a substrate and welds.

Furthermore, over a rough surface profile, insufficient coating may leave the profile’s peaks exposed.
The consequent cost of repairs and subsequent loss of production can be considerable. Early inspection for coating flaws will prevent the expense and inconvenience of a coating failure. Instruments used to detect coating flaws are referred to by many different names, these include spark or jeep testers, porosity or holiday detectors and pinhole testers.

There are two methods of testing:

Wet Sponge Technique

Suitable for measuring insulating coatings on metal less than 500µm on conductive substrates. The wet sponge technique is ideal for powder coatings and any thin coating where the User does not wish damage to occur to the coating.

A low voltage is applied to a sponge, moistened with a wetting agent. When the sponge moves over a coating flaw, liquid penetrates to the substrate and completes an electrical circuit, setting off the alarm.

This technique will identify coating flaws where the substrate is uncovered, i.e. cissing, cratering, pinholes and some forms of over and under coating flaws.

High Voltage Technique

Locates all flaws in insulating coatings on conductive substrates, the high voltage technique can be used to test coatings up to more than 7mm thick. This method is ideal for inspecting pipelines and other protective coatings. Coatings on concrete can also be tested using this method.

A power supply generates a high DC voltage which is connected to a suitable probe with an earth return connected to the substrate. As the probe is passed over the coated substrate, a flaw is indicated by a spark at the contact point which sets off the alarm.

This technique is suitable for identifying all of the flaws described above, however care is required on thin coatings.

Pinhole and Porosity includes :

Sponge / Pinhole Detector
Spark / Holiday Detector

Please click on the appropriate image or on the heading for more information about each instrument.

Sponge / Pinhole Testers

Elcometer 270 Pinhole Detectors

The Elcometer 270 Pinhole Detector range utilises the wet sponge method and has been designed to set a new standard for wet sponge testers - namely, a high quality, low voltage detector with similar accessories to a high voltage spark tester. This simple unit can be used as either a separate wand with the unit attached to your belt, or as an integrated wand with sponge attached. Conforms to ISO, BS, EN, ASTM, NACE, RP

Spark / Holiday Testers

Elcometer 266 DC High Voltage Holiday Detector

The Elcometer 266 DC High Voltage Holiday Detector has been specifically designed to revolutionise high voltage DC testing of coatings by making it safer, easier and more reliable than previously possible. The Elcometer 266 supercedes the Elcometer 236 High Voltage Holiday Detector which was perhaps one of the most advanced holiday detectors on the market. Supplied in a convenient transit case for moving around the jobsite, the Elcometer 266's soft carry case allows the probe handle and wide range of accessories to be attached making the Elcometer 266 ideal for field, site or laboratory inspection. Conforms to ISO, ANSI / AWWA, AS, ASTM, BS, JIS, NACE

Elcometer 280 Pulsed DC Portable Holiday / Spark Detector

The Elcometer 280 Pulsed DC Portable Holiday / Spark Detector is a ‘stick type’ holiday detector which has been designed to make pulsed DC high voltage holiday detection safer, easier and more reliable than ever before. Using state of the art electronics, the Elcometer 280 allows users to inspect coatings - without connecting the earth return lead to the component substrate - ideal for inspecting large surfaces and pipelines. The Elcometer 280 uses the high voltage pulsed DC technique to detect holidays in coatings - even if the coating is damp, dirty or slightly conductive. Voltage Range 0.5kV - 35kV, Coating Range up to 25mm thick