When selecting a finish for your new handrail, remember that appearance is important – but it’s far from the only factor that counts. What about durability, maintenance, cost, and your impact on the environment? As you explore your material options, consider the differences of powder coating vs. painting. Which method best suits your needs?
Powder Coating vs. Painting
At first glance, powder coating and traditional wet painting techniques seem to have plenty in common. Both offer a way to add color to a surface. Both create a protective finish, guarding against damaging things like moisture and extreme weather. When you look closer, however, you’ll see that the two techniques aren’t as evenly matched as they first appear. With the issue of powder coating vs. painting, it pays to consider how the two fare when it comes to the qualities that matter most.
Wet paint must be handled with care. It’s flammable, carcinogenic, known to damage the ozone layer, and can contain a variety of harmful chemicals like volatile organic compounds and solvents. That’s why any paint that is discarded should be treated as hazardous waste. In addition, a large portion of the paint is wasted during the application process due to evaporation and overspray.
In contrast, powder coating is remarkably environmentally friendly. While it can make a dusty mess if spilled, the powder is not a significant fire, health, or environmental hazard; no special disposal is required. The process of powder coating also makes efficient use of the product. Although there may be some overspray during the application process, this extra powder can easily be reclaimed.
The thickness of both paint and powder coating is measured in mils, and a mil is equal to 0.001 inches. Is it hard to visualize what that means? Think about this: The thickness of a human hair is typically about 0.04 inches. With wet paint, you can expect a finish that is between 0.05 mils and 1 mil thick. Power coating delivers a finish that is much thicker. For decorative finishes, powder coating will be applied to a thickness of 2 mils to 6 mils. For more practical, functional applications, a thickness of 6 mils to 12 mils is the norm. While you may not be able to see the difference immediately, powder coating delivers a thicker finish that puts extra protection between the core material of your handrail and the elements.
You’ve probably seen surfaces littered with paint flakes. Although technique and a proper matching of paint and surface material are factors, wet paint is known for eventually peeling away from the material it covers. When applied properly, powder coating offers much better adhesion. That makes it less likely to chip or peel, so the substrate that it covers enjoys a greater level of protection. It also means that materials covered with powder coating tend to require less maintenance.
If painted surfaces vibrate, flex, bend, or twist, small cracks will often develop in the paint. It isn’t a good look, and it can set the stage for peeling and rust. Powder coating is different. It offers additional flexibility that allows the finish to stretch, elongate, and bend far more than traditional paint before suffering any breakdown. This flexibility translates into increased durability and reduced maintenance.
Although it may seem counterintuitive that something that is more flexible is also harder, powder coating manages this trick. When compared to traditional paint, powder coating produces a finish that is physically harder. This extra hardness means that powder coating is a tough finish that is better able to resist nicks, dings, chips, and scratches.
Corrosion, which is commonly referred to as rust, is the deterioration of metal due to chemical interactions between the material and its environment. While some are more vulnerable than others, all metals can corrode, so selecting a shielding finish that truly protects is vital. Paint results in a finish that is thinner and more likely to allow dings and scratches to expose bare metal. Worse, as rust develops along the exposed metal, it lifts the surrounding finish, which allows the damage to expand. Since it’s thicker and more durable, powder coating is far less likely to leave the metal beneath it bare. However, nothing is perfect. Scratches can happen, and if they aren’t fixed, rust can form. Fortunately, the greater adhesion offered by powder coating means that any rust that forms will not be able to disturb the surrounding finish, so the rust cannot spread farther along the surface.
At Aluminum Handrail Direct, we’re committed to providing our customers with high-quality products, so we’ve done our homework when it comes to the matter of powder coating vs. painting. Our attractive, maintenance-free aluminum handrails are finished with a durable powder coating in a wide range of colors. Are you worried about small nicks or scratches marring your handrail? There’s no need. We also offer suitable touch-up kits: a pen/bottle, a spray paint kit, and a three-part kit. Visit our online store to explore our full range of products.