Understanding today’s coatings for claddings

High-tech characteristics
Technological advances in the coating industry have been formidable in recent years, yielding a new landscape of products with remarkable qualities. Visible light catalyst (VLC) technology, for example, incorporates odor-neutralizing properties that can improve indoor air quality (IAQ). When VLCs are exposed to natural or artificial light sources, they degrade organic compounds to eliminate odors in the air. This phenomenon becomes even more important for air quality as buildings come under stricter codes for reducing air exchanges in a building as a trade-off for efficiency. As an easily applied single-component acrylic latex, such products require no special equipment or application method, and can be used on both interior walls and ceilings.

Overall, the optimum coating and its system is one that has functional qualities as well as aesthetic appeal and is appropriate for the specified cladding or substrate. Other considerations include ease of application and versatility. Some coatings offer multiple features as an all-in-one package, and may be less labor-intensive and more cost-effective. However, the primary consideration when selecting a product or system should be whether a coatings solution is prescriptive based on the type and condition of the substrate and the desired level of protection.

Which coating is right for your cladding or substrate?
Coatings play an integral part in maintaining and protecting the cladding and overall structure of a given building, but assessing the needs and requirements of a specific building and its substrate is always the first step in developing a professional specification for a coatings project. Choosing products based on comparison of data and capabilities from manufacturers’ product data sheets should be the main consideration when selecting a system that meets project needs in terms of function, durability, and aesthetics.

Careful review of product testing is crucial to substantiate performance, as is careful review of the application requirements in preparing the surface to accommodate the appropriate film thickness. When application standards are met, the coating system will deliver on aesthetic expectations and perform for its anticipated life cycle.

Builders in the past were told to back-prime wood cladding, and caulk and seal over all overlaps—only to discover that water vapor and condensation created damage. This necessitated a change of practice so horizontal overlaps were kept open instead of caulking every seam. Today, the best coatings for wood cladding are acrylic and permeable.

When wet, concrete masonry units (CMUs) can retain moisture and create problems as structures seek equilibrium requiring internal dehumidification. If left unaddressed, this can result in premature exterior coating failure for systems that cannot handle the transfer of moisture. The best coatings to combat this are also acrylic and permeable.

Stucco or finishes are sometimes applied without the proper air and moisture barriers in place, with the false expectation paint alone protects the building envelope. This can lead to expensive repairs, so one should take into consideration coatings tested for weather resistance, elongation, and construction of the entire envelope when specifying a system.

The best coating is a high-performance 100 percent acrylic topcoat that provides protection against sun, salt, wind, and corrosion. It should be a vapor-permeable product with high solids content, which will allow moisture to pass within the building cavity, resisting blisters and mold.

Economic and environmental benefits
Today’s innovative coatings can contribute to cost savings in the long run. Whether new construction or remodeling, choosing the right coating can preserve the value of buildings by serving as a permeable, durable, attractive layer of protection that extends the life of a structure by preserving it from the weather.

With self-cleaning and fade-resistant properties come lower maintenance costs, less cleaning, and longer recoat cycles. Labor costs always account for most of the expense in any coating application, while materials are typically the smallest portion of the coating project. Specifying a functional as well as decorative coating system typically results in a minor incremental increase in material cost, but when it is spread over the building life cycle, it pays dividends in performance and protection.

The right coating system also contributes to cost-saving efficiencies on the jobsite, typically in labor due to higher solids and simplification of the design and specification process. Finally, many coatings today also offer energy-saving properties, which reduce carbon emissions and help protect the environment.

Ed Telson has been in the coatings industry for more than 30 years consulting with, and holding positions in, management and sales with national and regional paint manufacturers, as well as having his own contracting firm. He currently holds the position of coatings segment manager for Sto Corp. U.S. Telson’s experience ranges from development to application of architectural and industrial coatings. He grew up as the son of a painting contractor and owner of a paint store in South Florida. Holding a NACE International Level 2 Certification for Coatings, Telson is a Stetson University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He can be reached via e-mail at etelson@stocorp.com.

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