Volume 8, Issue 2 - February 2007

Top-Coat

There’s More to the Coating Than What’s On the Surface
by Alan B. Goldberg

The change from traditional solvent-based coatings to environmentally-friendly water-based products for wood, vinyl, aluminum and, more recently, fiberglass and composite marks a significant step for the door and window industry. But what is drawing even more attention to coatings is the increased consumer demand for colors and the impact this surge is having on manufacturers and those who supply the product.

Colors for Consumers

The dynamics of the industry had changed, says Chuck Susnis, market director, wood and composite building products for Sherwin Williams. 

“From the building boom of the 1990s and architectural designs that have been more inclusive of doors and windows, custom has taken on a whole new meaning. Homeowners are looking for colors and they want everything to match. The market has been driven by quality and color.”

According to Andrew Rayner, president of Royal Bond, (a division of Royal Group Technologies Inc), what is driving the demand is the availability of colors and the homeowner’s desire to take advantage of this option. 

“Through our customers we're finding out that within the last few years, 25 to 30 percent—and in some instances 60 percent—of manufactured units are being made with color,” he says.

What’s Available

While Grafco supplies interior wood grain films for extruded profiles, most of its capacity is now manufacturing and applying heat reflective color films, says Mike Grafe, president. 

“The ability of these films to protect the vinyl substrate from reaching distortion temperatures elevates them into a class by themselves.” 

AquaSurTech OEM has found that its high-performance waterborne exterior protective coatings actually outperform, in most cases, traditional solvent-based systems on a vinyl substrate, according to Mike Braeuel, vice president of sales and marketing. 

A profile wrapping company, Custom Surface Solution, provides high quality laminates for vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass and real wood surfaces. For the harshest of exterior elements, there is a hard surface film that will not scratch easily and, for the interior there is a vinyl film, tested and approved for that environment. 

Sherwin-Williams’ wide variety of coatings are formulated to meet many needs, but the hot new product, according to Susnis, is a two-component, urethane solar reflective enamel. 

“We believe this product is going to very successful because it solves an age-old problem (vinyl warping),” he says.

To keep wood long lasting, particularly in southern climates, the company is using the latest technology, which is also a two-component polyurethane. It performs very well and is flexible for the wood surface, according to Susnis.

He believes that fewer manufacturers are using wood alone. The frame may still be wood but the surface is clad with aluminum or vinyl. 

“From what we have seen, most of the top 60 percent of window manufacturers are using vinyl as the substrate. More and more people are looking at composites and at green technology,” he adds.

Not only are coatings suppliers offering the industry environmentally-friendly products, equipment suppliers are doing the same.

Spray guns with advanced laminar airflow technology from DUX Area Inc. deliver a high-quality finish, reduce material costs and can improve environmental compliance, according to Matt Carlson, director of marketing. He says the spray guns offer a 15 to 40 percent improvement in transfer efficiency over other technologies. They are lightweight, shorter in length and can be used with a wide range of coatings and adhesives. 

To Paint or Not to Paint Inside 

As the demand for colors continues, the question of whether to paint inside or use an applicator is a major decision for any fabricator, regardless of size, and requires careful consideration of many factors. 

“An increasing number of customers are undertaking lean manufacturing journeys,” says Tony Guertin, president of Superior Finishes.

He says companies that make profiles and have them co-extruded or painted outside are getting into their own painting at large savings in space and inventory. Same-day or next-day delivery of this liquid paint in 40 different colors allows them to receive paint only as needed.

Braeuel emphasizes the importance of reviewing all the facts before making such a major decision.

“Today’s market demands quick turnaround in custom colors. If a fabricator wants to retain a more attractive margin, and if the business is high-end or highly custom, and if there is a need to carefully control QC, then in-house should be considered,” he says.

But, he points out, there are disadvantages (to painting lineals), such as the extra caution required which involves significant handling and clamping.

Support services, even a turnkey operation, are available from coatings suppliers, either directly or through approved applicators.

AquaSurTech OEM provides assistance in equipment selection, start-up and training for PVC, aluminum and fiberglass applications.Royal Bond offers similar services.

“We support our customers in many ways. We help them set up an in-house painting department. We provide technical service and training and we supply product including all types of profiles, working with a network of qualified independent applicators and fabricators throughout North America,” says Rayner. 

One applicator is Apricot Coating Systems Inc., which shares its expertise with door and window fabricators that launch in-house coatings operations. 

One manufacturer that has been considering an in-house operation is BF Rich.

“Before we gave serious consideration to an in-house operation, we needed to see what was involved,” says George Simmons, president.

Simmons says there are many questions, beginning with the obvious. Is there enough space? What about environmental considerations? What about the possibility of chipping or damage to the surface as the components go through various stages? 

One of his concerns has to do with consumers’ expectations, particularly high-end, custom units that can be scrutinized like furniture.

“Homeowners will look at windows with a fine tooth comb for the slightest knick and we could find ourselves dealing with retouching and repainting which could become very costly,” he says.

Simmons is also skeptical about the long-term prospects for painted windows in the residential market.

“I don’t know how long decorator colors on vinyl will be hot for the residential use. It’s one thing to customize a home, but once a decorator color is applied to vinyl, it can be changed only by having a new color repainted in the field by the original supplier, which can be very costly. Or it can be done by the homeowner.” 

Simmons explains that the quality of the finish could be compromised if it were brushed on by the homeowner.

“I am not convinced that homeowners or potential buyers will embrace that alternative,” he says. 

Regardless of the path BF Rich pursues, it will be using Royal Bond on its doors and windows, whether the finishes are applied in-house or by a joint venture with a certified Royal Bond vendor.

What Other Manufacturers Are Doing

For Golden Windows, based in Kitchener, Ontario, there may come a time when it seriously considers integration of a coatings operation. But for now, it is using an approved applicator.

“For three years, we’ve had a good relationship with Apricot Coating Systems. The market is demanding color on aluminum and vinyl and we’re using Royal Bond. We’re always looking at integration and lean manufacturing, and some day the time may be right, but for now, we’ll take advantage of the excellent support we are getting,” says Jim Genno, vice president of operations.

The company also makes wood windows. For added protection, particularly in southern climates where wood is more conducive to rotting, an in-house dip system is used.

The biggest change for MDL Doors in Brussels, Ontario, was the replacement of traditional solvent-based coatings with water-borne. 

“These (new) materials [water-borne] posed their own challenge, such as requiring more prep time, but they do provide good heat resistance and UV properties,” says Bruce Fischer, operations manager.

Since it changed to water-based coatings, the company is using an approved applicator for painted parts.

He says the demand for painted doors, both interior and exterior, has increased significantly.

For Sunrise Windows, co-extruded vinyl provides the best balance among affordability, looks and durability, as far as exterior color, according to Cliff Langdon, vice president of operations.

“It’s vinyl and it’s permanent, so there’s no issue with peeling. The finish can be matte unlike many of the painted vinyl extrusions that show defects readily and, the co-extrusions are maintenance-free.”

Langdon says wood grain film has proven to be very durable and fade resistant on the inside.

“I have not seen film delaminate when it’s applied in a clean environment using the best processes and products available. I have seen people who try to laminate extrusions in less-than-controlled environment and leave themselves open to future service issues,” says Langdon.

For nearly 20 years, Kolbe & Kolbe has been providing high performance exterior finishes, says Dave Detert, coatings manager. He points out the wide array of coatings that demonstrate different performance characteristics.

“Recent technological advancements in water-based coatings have been tremendous. This, along with solvents that have been reclassified have, for the most part, solved the dilemma of finding low VOC coatings with high performance properties.” 

Increasing consumer demands for more custom units including more custom colors has only reinforced the obvious—there’s more to the coating than what goes on the surface. 

Alan B. Goldberg is a contributing writer for DWM magazine. He has 31 years of experience in the window industry.




DWM

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