Volume 39, Issue 4, April  2004

A Job 
Well Finished

Contract Glaziers Speak Out on Metal Finish Options
by Penny Beverage Stacey

No job is done until it’s really done. Sure, that may sound like an old, tired cliché just rephrased a bit, but it’s true—even in the world of contract glazing, where metal finishes are as important as the glass and metal itself. They’re what makes the job done, and contract glaziers have a variety of opinions on them, from what makes a good finish to some new trends with finishes in the new millennium.

The Development Process
According to Richard Ray, vice president of finishes for Terrell, Texas-based Vistawall, the development of finishes is pretty standard—as it hasn’t changed over the last several years—but it’s still difficult sometimes.
For Vistawall, while making consistent finishes is a major issue, dye lines and defects are important, as well.
“You want to have a good extrusion that doesn’t have defects or dye lines,” Ray said, “and with your anodized and paint finishes you want them to be consistent in appearance.”

The metal to which the finish is applied also plays a vital role.

“You want a smooth surface from your extrusion, and, once it’s finished, you want it to match in color and look consistent,” he added.

Bruce Croak, technical services administrator for Graham Architectural Products in York, Pa., agreed, but added that standards, such as those created by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), are also important.

“A good finish is one that meets all applicable standards, satisfies our customer’s requirements and we can confidently stand behind (with warranties) for periods up to 20 years, depending on the composition,” Croak said.

While Graham creates some finishes for its windows it also purchases extrusions from other companies. So the company is no stranger to the ins and outs of these coatings.

Croak agreed that the quality of the extrusion also contributes to their perfection, particularly in the way it is treated before the finish is applied.

“The metal itself, [in regards to] designation and hardness, is pretty standard as far as what is required to meet industry standards, but what’s really important is the preparation of the metal and that’s part of the AAMA standards as well,” Croak said. “To meet these standards multi-stage cleaning and pre-treatment of the metal surfaces are required.”

What Contract Glaziers Want
When you ask Ray what his customers are looking for, he says they’re looking for consistency and good surface conditioning.

Most of the contract glaziers interviewed for this article agreed, including Bruce Costner, vice president of sales for East Coast Glass Systems in Richmond, Va.

“The only thing I’m looking for is consistency,” he said. “When I have a job that’s painted we’re able to release a large part of the project, but perhaps not all of it early on ... so when I return to the job my main issue is making sure the finishes on the hardware, frame, etc., match one another.”

Bill Sullivan, general manager for Heartland Glass Co. in Wake Park, Minn., agreed.

“[We look for] consistent color and durability,” Sullivan said. “We’re up in Minnesota and we don’t have some of the issues that [companies in] coastal [areas] do with corrosion.” 

Brian Hale Sr. of Hale Glass in Anaheim, Calif., does have corrosion issues, so he looks for overall durability. Hale says that when he has the opportunity to recommend a finish for a job, he almost always offers a painted finish.

“You can have a painted building, not do any maintenance and ten years later it’s still in pretty good shape,” Hale said.

Current Trends
While there is a limited variety of finishes available, mostly just anodized, clear anodized, Kynar® paint-based and acrylic paint-based, most contract glaziers expressed clear preferences of one over the other—and some have noticed a trend toward clear anodized and lighter finishes in recent years.

Ray said he has seen that trend from the sales end at Vistawall.

“Our anodized finishes are probably 65 or 75 percent of our product line,” he said. “Clear and bronze and high-performance paint make up the rest of it.”

Costner said he has seen a huge—almost unbelievable—increase in the desire for clear anodized in the last year and a half.

“There for a long time we got completely away from the anodized finishes and it’s reversing to some degree,” he said.

Costner said up until this turn of events, most customers were looking for paints and, more specifically, custom-colored paints—but now almost everyone wants white or clear anodized.

“We focus on major projects and they still use tinted and reflective type glasses but they use clear anodized finishes,” he added.

While Costner was the only glazier who pointed out the trend toward anodizing, he wasn’t the only one who has noticed the increasing use of lighter colors; many are not necessarily pleased with the switch.

“Some of the new finishes, such as the champagne or the light bronze—which are back in vogue after falling out for a while—are causing some problems,” Hale said. “When you have a light bronze the anodizing process isn’t as consistent as with the dark bronze. When it’s a light bronze there’s a range of colors and the door that was run three weeks ago may be a little different in color.” Sullivan agreed.

“There can be some color variation from piece to piece,” Hale said. “It’s more consistent with the clear anodized or dark bronze anodized.”

Some other problems involve making the newest finishes, such as those that are powder-coated, according to Hale.

“Powder coating happens to be extremely thick and extrusions are run at hundreds of thousands of inch sizes and powder coatings sometimes are so thick that the extrusions don’t snap together as well as they would with Kynar or silicone polyester coatings, which aren’t as thick,” he said.

While most glaziers agreed that they rarely get to choose a finish, as the architect usually specifies what is used, most do have their preferences in basic finish type. Eddie Goldberg, chief executive officer for Utica Glass in Utica, N.Y., says he sometimes finds the opportunity to make recommendations—but only under the right circumstances.

“The architects set the specifications, but if we’re marketing to them or making a bid, we can make suggestions as to what we’d like to use,” he said.

Goldberg usually suggests anodized coatings, which he finds are easier to match and make consistent from hardware to frame.

Costner said his company usually is able only to make suggestions when it’s a retrofit project and they’re faced with matching an existing finish.

“It’s very rare that the glass contractor picks a finish,” he said. However, when Costner does have the option of making a suggestion, he said he almost always prefers Kynar-based paints.

“We like to stick with the Kynar-based paints because they’re very high-quality and I typically have not had problems with that finish,” he said.

However, Kynar does tend to cost more than other paints. When faced with a customer who is not willing to pay for it, Costner said he usually can value-engineer the job slightly.

“We’ll go from Kynar to acrylic-based on the interior only, but I like to keep the exterior as high-quality as possible so we’d still use the Kynar-based paint there,” he said.

Sullivan said he rarely gets to suggest a finish to architects, as they usually lay out what they’d like early on. However, he usually does get to narrow it down—or present samples to the architects of what they could use.
“It’s [usually] spelled out early on which way [the architects are] going with the specifications and occasionally the architect won’t specify a particular finish but a range of finishes, such as a Kynar 70-percent, and you’ll have to submit samples for him to choose on the project,” he said.

Croak, who works on both sides, again stressed that the architect sets the specifications to the standards—such as AAMA 2603, 04 and 05—and those usually rise above all other preferences.

“We have finishes that meet each of those standards,” he said, “[but] architects often drive the requirement aspect.


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