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Coatings Warranty Checklist - What to Look for and What to Ask

Scott Moffatt, Architectural Market Manager, Coil & Building PPG Coatings

Coatings Warranty Checklist - What to Look for and What to Ask

Posted: March 13, 2020 | Project Management

Today’s skyscrapers, stadiums, office buildings and entertainment complexes look better and last longer than ever. That’s due in large part to advances made in the aesthetics and performance of liquid and powder coatings for aluminum, steel and other metal building components.

Even with these advances, the most sophisticated metal coatings have the potential to corrode, lose color or gloss, or crack and peel if they are not manufactured or installed properly, or if they are continuously exposed to environmental hazards.

For architects and building owners, the only protection from these potential liabilities is a strong, enforceable warranty backed by a trusted coatings manufacturer and delivered through a proven supply chain. This article identifies the major elements in a metal coatings warranty so end users can evaluate terms and conditions and obtain the best coverage.

Warranty Performance Checklist

Pretreatment

Pretreatment is an important consideration when specifying a coating system because it can determine the degree to which it is warranted. Coating systems that incorporate traditional, field-proven pretreatments have historically demonstrated the most effective protection of architectural aluminum and steel, especially in seacoast environments, where long term exposure to humid salt air can cause coatings failures.

Film Integrity

Film integrity primarily addresses a coating’s long-term ability to adhere to a pretreated metal substrate and to resist cracking and peeling. If a warranty covers adhesion, ask about restrictions related to the pretreatment or project location.

Weathering

Warranties address three key weathering indicators for long-term performance: color fade, chalk and gloss retention. Coatings that fade, chalk, and lose gloss must be repainted at the job site, a costly development with negative environmental impacts. Comparative testing and measurement standards chalk, fade and gloss are published in American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) 2605, 2604 and 2603 specifications.

Corrosion Resistance

The two main components to corrosion resistance are humidity and salt spray resistance. For this reason, metal coatings manufacturers restrict or eliminate warranty coverage in severe marine or seacoast environments.

Although many coatings manufacturers test for cyclic corrosion according to ASTM G85 Annex 5A Dilute Electrolyte Cyclic Fog/Dry Test procedures, it is a minimum industry standard that may not correlate to the actual performance of a coating in a seacoast environment. For best protection, specify coatings from a company that offers corrosion resistance in seacoast environments as part of a long-term warranty.

Recoating

Many manufacturer warranties can be voided or restricted if a building’s metal architectural components must be recoated due to improper film thickness, appearance flaws or other problems. It is important to understand how finished products are warranted if they must be recoated. If parts must be scrapped due to repainting, repair costs are much higher than for parts that just require a new coat of paint.

Fabrication and Handling

These items may include how the coating is applied prior to fabrication, how coated building components are stored prior to installation and other related issues.

Remuneration

Warranties should specify precisely how the warranty holder will be remunerated in the event of coatings failure. Beyond identifying what is covered, the warranty should stipulate who ultimately arbitrates which party is responsible for a product failure, whether the coating will be repaired or replaced, and whether the warranty provides full or declining payouts over its term.

Term

Most warranties cover five, 10 or 20 years; however, the number and type of performance variables covered under these terms are just as important. Before agreeing to warranty terms, know whether it is a full warranty that covers each specified performance variable throughout the term or a declining warranty with payout obligations that diminish over time.

Warranty Provider

Make sure you know which supplier is issuing the warranty. Most coating companies only issue warranties to direct customers or one level down the supply chain.

Other Miscellaneous Issues

Additional warranty items may relate to cleaning or maintenance requirements, exposure temperatures and others. Parameters should define the building owner’s maintenance obligations and other potential exclusions.

Comparing Warranty Terms & Conditions

The following table helps architects and specifiers compare competing warranties:

Topic Issues Impact
Term Make sure you know the length of your warranty and what it covers.  Ask about exclusions related to the finished building’s location. Full long-term coverage is preferred over declining coverage with reduced payouts or liabilities over time.
Pretreatment Know the type of coating pretreatment used on the metal substrate. Coatings over traditional, field-proven pretreatments may have better warranties that those applied over metals pretreated with new technologies.
Film Integrity Your warranty should cover issues related to film adhesion, particularly in industrial or seacoast environments. Make sure your warranty is enforceable according to the pretreatment used as well as the location of the finished building.
Weathering

Color fade, chalking and gloss retention are the most important weathering elements in a warranty.  Make sure you understand how the performance parameters for each are defined in your warranty.

Stronger warranties define performance numerically per AAMA specification, not generically as uniform loss of color, gloss, etc.
Recoats/Repairs Understand how recoating and repairs are covered in your warranty.  Ask the warranty issuer if there are any restrictions that affect your coverage. If metal components must be scrapped due to repainting, repair costs are much higher than they would be if they just required a new coat of paint.  Make sure you understand how these issues are addressed in your warranty.

Handling & Fabrication

Follow instruction from the warranty issuer on how to properly store and handle your finished panels prior to installation. Make sure your procedures meet their warranty specifications if they have any. Check to see if your warranty addresses how painted materials are stored prior to installation.
Remuneration Your warranty should stipulate how you will be remunerated in the event of coatings failure.  Make sure your warranty stipulates whether warranted products repaired or replaced, who decides the party responsible for the failure and the type of payout (a full warranty or one with declining payouts based on years of service).
Warranty Issuer Research the company issuing your warranty.  Make sure they are financially strong and have a history of standing behind their claims. Check referrals to verify experience in the construction industry. Make sure you know who is issuing your warranty.  Most companies only issue warranties to direct customers or one level down in the supply chain.
Miscellaneous Find out if the warranty issuer has maintenance requirements for the warranted panels or coating related to cleaning, temperature or UV exposure, etc.  Make sure you understand the cost associated with maintaining your coatings.    Make sure the coatings or component supplier has a specification qualification that specifically contains and addresses exposure testing.

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