From Polymer to Performance: Specifying the Right Coating


By Rick Watson, Sherwin-Williams

Photos Courtesy of Sherwin-Williams

Coatings are not a single-formula-fits-all solution for every project. As technology advances and formulations become more specific for use on different types of surfaces and in different environments, it is important to understand the latest advancements to specify for your project.

The following information will help specifiers understand common myths of certain coatings, expand on new technologies in the marketplace and convey different coating options, ultimately allowing specifiers to deliver better coatings and overall results.

What’s driving the move toward new paints in the marketplace?

Advancements in technology allow manufacturers to develop the right formulas that professionals need to ensure the best quality for their projects. Over the past few years, coating technologies have evolved to deliver even greater benefits and make projects even easier – formulas that now provide features such as excellent durability, smoother finishes and are better for indoor air quality.

High-performance, innovative coatings balance aesthetics with functionality, offering a wide array of colors and capabilities to suit both designers and specifiers. These formulas can keep spaces visually pleasing but also address issues of long-term durability. In addition, there has been significant improvement to different features that help with indoor air quality and odor reduction, mildew and mold resistance, microbicidal properties and third-party emissions certification.

To know which products to choose for a specific project, customers should understand polymer performance, high-performance coatings, and how these coatings work and will ultimately impact the project.

Understanding polymer performance

Many still believe that 100% acrylic paints will guarantee the best durability and performance, but this approach does not take into consideration the most appropriate use for polymer performance nor formulation or application. For example, on projects that must meet the ASTM D4824 standard for interior stain resistance and washability, styrene acrylic and acrylic-alkyd formulations are most appropriate and offer the best results. A product that is 100% acrylic is in the middle of the pack and may not perform as well, depending on the type of project and formulation.

Quality and durability go beyond just specifying a 100% acrylic formula. To start, specifiers should consider features such as burnish resistance, spatter and leveling, erosion resistance/scrubability and mildew resistance. They should also look for additional features such as hide, adhesion, stain resistance/washability, corrosion and alkali resistance, third-party certifications, VOCs and, finally, ease of application to ensure they are specifying a true quality finish, not just a polymer. Like the example above, styrene acrylics should be specified for interiors instead of a 100% acrylic for stain-resistance and washability.

There are other types of acrylic coatings to consider, and each one has specific formulations and characteristics that make it an appropriate coating for each type of project.

Picking the right coating for your project

Besides understanding the types of formulations and polymer performance, specifiers should consider other factors — such as durability, location, materials and age of the building — to guarantee proper product selection.

In the evaluation of a coating’s durability, it’s insufficient to focus on just one key feature, such as the scrub number or scuff resistance. Review all the features that, combined, will provide maximum durability for a given project. Specifiers must consider resistance to stains, dirt and burnishing, and washability. They should also consider additional features such as hide and mildew resistance.

The location and climate of the project are also crucial. Some formulas perform better in certain areas than others, and specifiers must consider each product and technology in context with the environmental conditions of the area. In a humid climate, for example, does the product offer resistance to humidity?

Additional questions to consider focus on the building itself. For instance, what substrates of the building are to be coated? Are these surfaces older, newer or previously painted? Based on the answers, specifiers can identify what type of coating and polymer is most appropriate.

Benefits of high-performance coatings

Quality formulated high-performance coatings can stand up to heavier wear, harsher conditions and more demanding specifications. Industry and technology innovations now allow paint to become an active feature within the building environment. High-performance paints target specific issues like indoor air quality, mold and mildew resistance, and bacterial growth. In addition, the latest formulas also feature enhanced staying power and durability, allowing the finish to last for years to come.

High-performance coatings are composed of higher-quality ingredients, which ultimately do come at a higher cost than standard coatings. However, investing in these types of coatings will be more beneficial to your project in the long run. Using a higher-quality paint will provide a wide range of advantages and, because of its durability, may result in lower cost over time.

As cost becomes a key factor in specifying coatings, and a lower price tag can be appealing, it is important to educate clients about the long-term financial and performance benefits of high-quality paint. These can help justify the initial expense of high-performance coatings and result in a better outcome for the project.

In every market, whether commercial, industrial, health care, education or multifamily, specifiers need to consider the type of project they’re working on and understand the coating with which they plan to work. For every project, they need to review new coating technologies and take into consideration the most appropriate use for polymer performance. Understanding the different relevant factors will result in the selection of the best coating for the job and, overall, a project that will be able to endure any type of condition. 

Claims or positions expressed by sponsoring authors do not necessarily reflect the views of TPC, PaintSquare or its editors.

Rick Watson, Sherwin-Williams

Rick Watson, director of Product Information and Technical Services, has been with Sherwin-Williams for 31 years. He began his career in the Management Training Program before progressing through a number of roles of greater responsibility, including professional coating sales rep, store manager, product information team leader and product information manager.




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