Powder Coating vs. Wet Paint
“I love your aluminum railings, but I am curious as to why a “wet paint” finish is not available and you only offer your aluminum railings Powder Coated?”
― a question that we have heard countless times over the years and will continue to hear for many years to come.
First, let’s state for the record, we do not believe there is anything wrong with a wet paint finish for railings, we simply believe that a Powder Coated Finish is better. This belief is based upon Powder Coating’s: Performance Standards, as set forth by AAMA, that it’s a Green/LEED environmentally friendly option when compared to wet paint and its reputation for hardness and durability, particularly when Powder Coating comes in direct contact with the public, which railings most certainly do. Before addressing these benefits in more detail, let’s take a look at the most common reasons why we are being asked for a “wet paint” finish?
- Number one, it’s what everyone knows ― as wet paint is what we grew up with. In our younger years, we went to the local hardware store and bought a bucket of paint. We did not purchase a bag or a drum of powder!
- Second, the wet paint manufacturers have done an admirable job, making it easy to specify their products ― there are color wheels everywhere.
- Third, certain exterior building components, window-curtain wall systems, and metal building facades are provided in a “wet paint” finish and the designer is looking for the railings to match.
How does powder coating address these items? Educating oneself on powder coating is quite simple in today’s world. The Powder Coating manufacturers have done an outstanding job in now making their products easy to specify, including the availability of color charts. Powder Coating is available in scores of readily available colors and color matches, and when necessary, are rather quick and simple. Now, let’s delve a bit more into the benefits of Powder Coating.
Most individuals in building construction are familiar with the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), which provides the prevailing performance standards for aluminum extrusions. AAMA also provides the specifications for minimum performance criteria in regards to a coating’s chalk resistance, fade resistance, color fastness, color retention, and gloss retention ― we know them as AAMA 2603-02, AAMA 2604-05 and AAMA 2605-05. AAMA-2603-2 has the least demanding criteria, while AAMA 2605-05 requires the most stringent criteria to be met. Our Powder Coating finishes are available to meet any of these standards, allowing the design professional and purchaser to be assured that the railings they receive do indeed meet the project’s needs.
“Green”, perhaps too vague of a word, so let’s fine tune the definition to be the rating system, as defined by the U.S. Green Building Council, better known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). All individuals in construction understand how LEED has transformed our industry ― so what makes Powder Coating the better LEED alternative?
Powder coatings are made without solvents and do not emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), while wet coatings are made with solvents and do emit VOC’s. Although some wet coating applicators have managed to overcome the VOC emission challenge, the process does emit carbon, which increases their carbon footprint. The powder coating process offers additional environmental benefits. Powder Coating has less waste than wet paint during the application process and in many instances, the excess powder can be recovered, resulting in an efficient production line. Powder Coatings also require less manufacturing and transportation energy.
Powder Coatings have a well deserved reputation for hardness and durability and are often the preferred coating system when the finished product comes in direct contact with the public. In all but a small number of decorative and unique applications, railings certainly do come in contact with the public, whereas the exterior surfaces of windows, curtain walls and building facades most certainly do not. In the most severe use applications, a clear top coat can be added to the powder coating process, further enhancing the railing’s durability.
You have gone through the effort of specifying the performance criteria for your railing’s finish. You have made sure the coating provides a Green/LEED friendly alternative. Lastly, you have selected a finish whose hardness and durability will best allow your railings to maintain their look for many years to come. The question has been answered and now you know why we offer our Aluminum Railings solely with a Powder Coated Finish.
Color and Sustainability: Liquid vs. Powder Metal Coatings, by Henry L. Lowman