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When Coating Systems Work Better Than Sealers

Why High-Performance Coatings Work Better

Coating is a general term that often refers to a wide range of materials applied to concrete and substrates. This includes products like cement-based toppings, overlays, paints, and epoxy-aggregate systems. Owners rely on contractors and applicators for their advice on how to protect the surfaces of their structures from common problems such as water intrusion and wear & tear. 

High-performance coatings are waterproofing systems and applications designed to both protect surfaces and keep the water from permeating into the concrete and other substrates. More than just a sealer, these systems restrict water movement, mitigate corrosion of reinforcement, and prevent water damage to interior areas.  

The key to an effective high-performance coating system is its membrane. It’s the heart of the system because it is the protective barrier. Contractors must ensure the membrane is secured to the substrate. Contractors must also protect the membrane’s exposed side from wear, traction, abrasion, and chemical attack by applying a durable covering material. When selecting coverings for the exterior applications, consider coverings with a UV resistant chemical that extends life even in the harshest exposures.   

You can count on White Cap to provide you with a wide range of protection materials including general coatings and high-performance coating systems. Our product specialists can help you select the right materials and match them to the application. In addition to these coatings, White Cap locations stock the tools and products needed for proper surface preparation and all the ancillary materials needed for a coating installation including mastic, termination bars, waterstops, and flashings.


Three Common High-Performance Coating Systems

Let’s look at three common applications contractors use for applying high-performance coating systems to protect concrete and other substrates.

1.      Pedestrian Traffic Coating Systems   

Building owners and facility managers face the serious challenges of providing safe and durable walking surfaces for workers and visitors in all types of weather conditions. Key access areas such as parking garages, walkways, exterior sidewalks, and entryways must be free from trip, slip and fall hazards. But at the same, these pathways must be protected from wear and tear and exposure to weather. 

Contractors have also used these systems to protect elevated pedestrian traffic areas such as plaza decks, balconies, and stadium ramps that increase safety and offer excellent durability and superior abrasion resistance. When the substrate is properly supported, coating systems can be applied to plywood and other materials. 

Pedestrian coating systems include specially formulated materials to create systemic structures that provide long-lasting solutions. These structural systems consist of multiple parts:

a.      Primers that help create a smooth and even transition from the surface,

b.      The membrane that acts as a barrier, and

c.       An upper layer that protects the membrane and includes a broadcast material to create a slip-resistant treadway.

Contractors install these systems to create a pedestrian walkway that results in a waterproof structure. This effectively protects the underlying concrete from potential damage from chloride intrusion caused by deicing salt applications or ocean wind-blown moistures.

2.      Traffic Bearing Coating Systems 

Parking structures and the traffic ramps that lead into them require a more durable protection system than pedestrian applications. When planning to work on these structures contractors can refer to the American Concrete Institute’s (ACI) Guide for Structural Maintenance of Parking Structures. 

The ACI committee members suggest that in these areas, coatings are often preferred over sealers because they are easier to monitor. The coating membrane is visible, and damage can be documented easily. And if damaged, the membranes can be repaired to prevent progressive deterioration.

Elastomeric, traffic-bearing membranes are seamless, and limit moisture and water intrusion.
These systems are strong enough to prevent moisture penetration at localized imperfections, such as holes and tears caused by cars and trucks. Traffic-bearing coating systems must include membranes that have the flexibility to bridge small cracks effectively, while strong enough to resist tearing if the underlying concrete crack opens. 

These durable membranes are suited for existing structures that may have experienced cracking. Existing cracks can be cleaned and filled with sealant. The surface is then coated with an additional membrane to increase the overall membrane thickness, which accommodates moving crack conditions. 

These systems can be expected to be effective for 10 years or more in parking structures. Areas exposed to direct sunlight, traffic lanes, turns, or areas where vehicles stop, and start can have a reduced service life.


1.      Wall/Architectural Coatings 

Changing environmental factors are causing owners to pay more attention to protecting walls and vertical surfaces. In many northern locations, building scientists are recording high rates of carbonization on concrete facades due to warming temperatures, as well as increased levels of wind-blown chloride breezes which induce greater corrosion rates in sea exposures. 

In addition to atmospheric change, the primary culprit for damage to these exterior wall surfaces is wind-driven rain and snow. Wind-blown rains containing chlorides will seriously decrease a material’s service life if left untreated – and UV rays can also contribute to wall damage over time. 

Often the exterior wall deterioration that precedes structural problems are difficult to assess. If not addressed quickly these can become expensive repairs. In addition to increasing wear, unprotected exteriors may decrease the effectiveness of joints, allowing moisture intrusion that can cause degradation to facade anchors and the growth of mold and mildew in structural cavities. 

High performance coatings are the first line of defense in preventing moisture infiltration. New wall coating applications can not only extend the structure’s life, but they also often restore their aesthetic appeal. Keeping surfaces beautiful and walls dry requires exterior wall coatings that are more powerful than the elements. 

Selecting the proper wall coating material requires some study. The key factors include noting exposures to sun, wind, rain, and temperature. Additionally, there are a wide range of surface textures including smooth, textured, or elastomeric coatings that can enhance structures and beautify walls. 


Common Types of High-Performance Wall Coatings

1.      Hydrophobic coatings are great for repelling water. Once applied, they cause water particles to bead on the surface rather than penetrate the underlying material. 
2.      Elastomeric coatings are better suited for walls with more extreme exposures to weather. The final application leaves a coating that is approximately 10 times thicker than paint. One benefit of these coatings is that they are flexible barriers that will expand and contract as the surface is heated by sunlight and cools at night. The elasticity also enables the coating surface to cover any small cracks in the exposed material. Many elastomeric wall coatings can be tinted with color to provide a pleasing aesthetic appearance.​ 

For porous surfaces, you should consider modified acrylic primers that leave a high-build coating. These coatings are often applied after acrylic patching compounds are used on stucco, brick, and concrete substrates. They are very effective when used in damp and humid climates.

Acrylic based block fillers can be used to prime and fill porous masonry.

Creating a Decorative Coating

Design professionals have challenged manufacturers to provide coating systems that are not only durable and water resistant, but aid to the architectural appeal of the setting in which they are placed. One of White Cap’s unique services is the ability to tint many products. This service enables you to assure your client that the color will be fresh, vibrant, and consistent throughout the project. There are several locations across the county that offer this service.

We Carry the Top Waterproofing Brands in the Industry

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You can count on White Cap to supply you with all the top-quality waterproofing brands you expect. We understand your need to have the right tools and materials, delivered on time, to get the job done right. For assistance, contact your account manager or visit a branch in your area.
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