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Gel Coat vs. PaintThe benefits of cross-link polymerization

At Shelter Works our composite equipment shelters utilize gel coat finishes that are engineered specifically to meet the rigid requirements of industrial applications.

“There’s a lot of science that has gone into the composite materials we use in our buildings,” explains John Miller, Director of Sales and Operations for Shelter Works®, during a recent meeting with sales representatives in California.  “Our buildings are manufactured using the same composite materials used to produce today’s advanced marine craft, transportation equipment and aircraft.  The materials have been formulated and tested for use in the harshest conditions." 

Key Benefits of Gel Coat vs. Paint

Shelter Works uses gel coats that provide three basic benefits:

  1. Protective Barrier - Excellent chemical and water resistance increases the life of the building by decades.
  2. Aesthetic Appeal - High-quality finish and excellent gloss retention help shelters maintain appearance for the life of the building.
  3. Long-lasting, Maintenance-free Performance - Highly resilient gel coats resist weather, UV-rays, corrosion, and even graffiti.

Comparison to Painted Wood or Metal

On wood or steel structures used by competitors, paint or powder-coating is applied to the surface and provides a protective coating. This coating “sticks” to the surface for a while but over time, it will lose its ability to adhere to the surface and can peel, crack, chip or fade. All paints have inherent issues with adhesion and corrosion requiring routine maintenance or complete refinishing every 5-10 years.

Some types of metal buildings form heavy duty panels for a self-framing design that is painted AFTER fabrication with either liquid or powder paint. Using this method, a successful finish is highly dependent on metal preparation for proper adhesion and uniform coverage to provide a barrier to corrosion. Also, there is a sweet spot for coverage. Too thin and you may not provide a proper barrier. Too thick and it becomes brittle. This is hard to do consistently.

A painted surface is not as reliable as our gel coat technology, as it is susceptible to corrosion from atmosphere, dents, scratches etc.

More on Polymer Technology

The gel coat Shelter Works offers uses the same basic resin chemistry found in the structural fiberglass composite. Only pigments and fillers are included in gel coat to provide the desired color and to provide resistance to Ultra Violet deterioration and hydrolysis.

Gel coat is sprayed into the molds as the first step in the manufacturing process, and it is many times thicker than paint. Once applied, it begins to chemically transform from a liquid to a solid through a process of cross-link polymerization. When the fiberglass composite is applied in the following step, the cross linking of the polymer chains occurs between the layer of gel coat and the layer of fiberglass composite.

In essence, the two layers bond as one layer at the molecular level. The color is now not just a coating adhered to the fiberglass; it is an integral part of the fiberglass. Therefore, it will never flake, peel or need to be repainted.

Conclusion

The durability of our gel coat technology is an important part of our industry leading 25-Year warranty.  Painted surfaces, such as wood or metal require routine maintenance to retain their appearance and structural integrity.  Metal can rust and wood can rot if not serviced properly. 

Our fiberglass composite shelters are resistant to corrosion, rot and rust - making them longer lasting and virtually maintenance free.  Thanks to combination of the protective gel coat and our unique FiberBeam technology, our shelters live up to the promise “Built for Life”.