Scuff-Resistant Paint

New technology addresses durability in commercial high-traffic environments
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Sponsored by Benjamin Moore
By Layne Evans

Latex Coatings in Higher Sheens

Commercially available latex coatings are often specified in high-traffic environments in higher sheens in an effort to improve durability. Although a high gloss will slightly enhance an ordinary paint’s washability and reduce burnishing, it does not solve the most important problems in high-traffic environments. A higher sheen does not effectively resist scuffs in high-traffic environments and may result in other difficulties.

Sheen is a measure of how much light is reflected from the surface, so the same property that enhances durability can also accentuate surface flaws, making even a small indentation or imperfection of the wall more noticeable. Higher-sheen paint is also difficult to touch up because the differences between the retouched and original paint are visible.

The gloss level of a coating is influenced by the surface roughness on a molecular level. In flatter paints, protrusion of many pigment particles through the resin layer causes diffraction of light and creates dullness. The protrusion of the pigments (the color) also means it is easier for cleaning to wipe them away, the basic reason why flatter paints discolor or burnish more easily.

In high-gloss surfaces, the pigment is completely coated with the resin and does not protrude. The surface is smoother, and the angular light reflected produces a glossy appearance, not unlike a polished glass surface. The relative ease of washing these surfaces without removing pigments means that the choice for finishes in high-traffic environments has been highly weighted toward higher sheens, resulting in shinier walls. One of the benefits of the new scuff-resistant paint formulation is that it not only resists scuffs and marks, but it also is available in flatter finishes so it can be used in a wider range of designs.

diagram of sheen variation

Sheen variation: Note how the pigment particles are completely below the latex surface in the gloss paint but exposed to the surface in the flat finish. The pigment in the flat finish scatters light which reduces gloss, but this also makes the paint more vulnerable to abrasion, moisture, and dirt.

Two-Component System

A two-component system consists of two parts. The “A” component is the base resin, and the “B” component is the catalyst or hardener. When the two components are combined, a chemical reaction occurs, crosslinking the resin molecules and resulting in a coating that will form an extremely hard and durable finish. Two-component systems are designed to provide high scrub cycles that withstand repeated cleaning without causing significant visible wear to the finish.

Two-component systems, in general, create an extremely hard surface, and water-based formulas are an improvement over solvent-based epoxies from an environmental perspective. Two-component coatings are often used in applications that require resistance to harsh chemicals, abrasion, and corrosion. Still, two-component coatings require precise measurement and mixing, and curing in consistent temperatures well above room temperature, sometimes requiring heat rooms or heat blankets. At times, special preparation of the substrate may be required. The two-component coating’s properties come from a chemical reaction, and the reaction requires time and specific conditions.

Once mixed, the pot life of the coating is limited, ranging from minutes to hours depending on the formula, the exact ingredients, the speed of the hardener, the temperature, and other factors. Pot life is the amount of time after mixing a two-part paint system during which the resin can be applied.

If conditions for mixing, curing, and applying two-part coatings are not exactly right or the pot life is exceeded, the performance of the surface will be degraded or fail altogether. This can be a significant business risk in busy high-traffic spaces. For example, if a fitting room in a high-traffic clothing store is closed for painting at midnight, which is often the only time painting can be done, and the two-part coating is mixed incorrectly, then the walls will not be dry the next day, and the fitting room will have to be closed for more drying or, in many cases, for another repainting.

The measuring, mixing, curing, and precise timing needed for two-part coatings are not just for the initial application. The same complicated process will be necessary every time a retouch or repair of any scale is done over the entire life cycle of the painted surface. The labor and disruption of service can add significant cost to the total life of the project.

The cost, labor, and complications may be more readily justified in areas such as chemical plants or industrial facilities than for the vast majority of commercial applications, even those with the highest traffic and daily wear and tear. The formulas for two-component coatings are maximized for scrub ratings, meaning relative resistance to frequent intense cleaning. They are not formulated to resist marks and scuffs.

One-Component Pre-Catalyzed Epoxies

Pre-catalyzing epoxies at the factory was a significant innovation, creating epoxies with performance comparable to two-component systems but without the measuring, mixing, and curing. One-component pre-catalyzed epoxies cure to a hard, durable, scrubbable finish. They are also resistant to conventional cleaners. However, like the two-component systems, most pre-catalyzed epoxies do not resist scuffing. Instead, they are engineered to hold up to frequent cleaning for a longer period before showing visible wear to the finish. But without scuff resistance, the heavy scuffing and marking in high-traffic environments will require repeated scrubbing on a regular basis, and eventually, the paint finish will be damaged.

New Scuff-Resistant Paint

This unique waterborne single-component paint is designed to deliver the benefits of a two-component coating and an epoxy but with the added ability of resisting scuffs and marks. It is significantly easier to use and apply and requires less-frequent cleaning, greatly extending the durability of the painted surface. For all high-traffic commercial environments, the scuff-resistant formula provides long-term durability without the measuring, mixing, strong odors, short pot life, and application difficulties associated with other products often specified in high-traffic environments.

In addition, unlike many of the industrial coatings, the scuff-resistant paint system delivers the application properties and environmental performance of the highest-quality architectural paints (see All-Around Performance section). It is available in a complete range of colors and retains its scuff-resistant properties in matte, eggshell, and satin finishes so it can be used in high-traffic applications where a high-gloss finish is not desirable.

 

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Originally published in Architectural Record

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