Below the Surface

by Katie Lee

The importance of proper coating application goes further than the eye can see.

By Zebulon Z. Hadley, IV

The importance of proper coating application goes much further than just the aesthetic benefits that the eye sees. Its primary purpose is to protect metals, concrete and wood from the harsh environment in which they are exposed to every day. Providing proper preparation along with an accurate coating system selection determine the longevity of the finished product.

All paint and coating materials are used for a number of purposes that can save you money in the return on your investment. These materials are made to protect surfaces as well as provide a decorative, appealing finished look to the substrate on which it is applied. All structural materials are subject to the disintegrating action of the natural elements of rain, snow, ice, wind, ultra-violet rays, heat and the cold. Over all of these elements, the need for the resistance of moisture penetration throughout a variety of surfaces constitutes the most important protective function of paint.

imageMoisture is a property’s greatest enemy as it causes wood to swell, warp, rot and decay. It causes metals to rust and corrode and it assaults and ruins porous masonry. Interior walls are also affected by moisture as plaster and drywall can be marred and ruined due to neglected exterior surfaces. Protective coatings preserve the structural integrity as well as the economic investment in our homes, commercial and public buildings, industrial plants and equipment.

Paint is a decorative way to protect your investment while embracing many aspects of modern life. Painted color, as a decorated medium, has become a factor of prime importance in the paint and painting industries. Paint is formulated for certain functional values in addition to protection and decoration. Abrasion-resistant paints, for instance, protect walls and surfaces from unnecessary mars and scratches in homes, offices and high traffic places such as hospital corridors. Other paints are designed specifically for their reflectance, for their resistance to specific liquids and chemicals, or for the protection they provide against graffiti. Intumescent paints, which swell into a protective layer of insulating foam when heated to a certain level, protect industrial steel structures from extensive damage in the event of a fire. In addition to these various uses, the field of special functions for paint and coating materials continues to grow all the time.

Preparation of the surface is an important step before applying the necessary coating for the specific job task. Surface preparation is considered the most important factor in a successful painting job. It is essential in order to establish and maintain a bond between the coating and its surface or substrate. That bond is critical in creating an effective barrier against deterioration of the surface beneath the paint. Proper surface preparation also helps to assure that the appearance of the paint does not suffer from peeling, delaminating, blistering and other defects. Without proper surface preparation, a coating that is applied correctly will fail and will not last for the time that it is intended to. Overlooking this vital step can be aggravating and costly.

Coatings formulated as primers, intermediate or finish coats all have different types or combinations of binders and pigments. A primer is the first coat of paint in a multi-coat system. Primers are formulated differently than finish coats or even intermediate coats because they fulfil different purposes. Whereas a finish coat must be resistant to the atmosphere, ultraviolet light, moisture and chemicals, a primer’s main purpose is to adhere to the underlying substrate such as wood, metal, masonry or concrete. This step protects the substrate and will be compatible with and aid in the adhesion coats of paint applied to the top of the primer.

The finish coat is the last coat to be applied in a multi-coat system. This coat is formulated specifically for two purposes which are environmental resistance and appearance. The first function of the finish coat is to protect a correctly prepared and primed substrate from surrounding conditions, such as excessive abrasion, heat, cold, sunlight, moisture, water immersion or damaging chemicals. The finish coat will provide a protective barrier against these and other enemies of a successful coating system.

There is a wide range of paint formulations on the market today due to the complexity of factors that any single coating system might be expected to address. Climate, location, exposure conditions, expected life and end use of a coating all play a role in the selection of a particular type of paint for a particular job. Other factors include the desired or required levels of the paint’s flexibility, hardness, gloss, color retention, impact resistance, weatherability, corrosion protection, and permeability. Remember that not all paints and coatings are the same and it’s best to consult with a contractor who has an extensive knowledge of all coatings before making a selection. Although the manufacturer of coatings has representatives who help suggest products, only a veteran coating applicator with a vast knowledge of products can determine what will work best. The experienced contractor has educated himself on coatings to the same level of the manufacturer’s products’ specialist and has experienced the failures and successes of the coatings in the field. This valuable knowledge cannot be obtained from a person behind a counter or on the other end of a phone, but from someone that is dedicated to ensuring that the coatings they provide last as long as the relationships they build with their clients.

— Zebulon Z. Hadley, IV is president of Color Masters Painting, Inc. (CMP), which strives to provide quality, on-time service to meet building maintenance needs. The Raleigh-based company completes approximately 100 retail and big box retail stores per year. Hadley may be reached at [email protected].

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