Volume 47, Issue 12 - December 2012


Buyer Beware

Coated Glass Products are Not All the Same
Kris Vockler

The best news for the glass industry today is the amount of new products available for decorating glass. Decorative glass ranges from spandrel to backsplashes, all of which can include vibrant colors and effects. Along with the boon, however, the industry has seen a rash of failures due to products that just simply were used where they shouldn’t have been. The solution is simple, and something every architect, designer and fabricator should demand: ask for benchmark results and ask if the coating manufacturer offers a robust technical service program.

Best Practices
Though no product is immune to it, failure can be reduced dramatically by adhering to a few simple industry tests. The various types of products used that may or may not fit a specific glass application (i.e., spandrel, wall-cladding, backsplashes, etc.) are ceramic frits, silicones, epoxies, acrylics and urethanes, among others. Two of the longest running products used to decorate glass—ceramic frit and water-based silicones—are not problem-free. But, the reason they have lasted as long as they have is because they meet industry benchmarks in performance. Often this can be a separate set of tests for each due to their different compositions, but each has had a set of tests created that show a benchmark for all coatings used in applications such as spandrel and wall cladding.

The important concept for those specifying products and those using coatings for glass is understanding the various needs of different glass applications. For example, a spandrel cavity can have many other products in contact with or close proximity to a coating on glass. From various solvents to changes in pH and even the presence of water from the weep system, all will conspire to cause damage to a coating or even the glass. Similar issues can be found in a backsplash where you have a confined space and the possibility of solvent entrapment from adhesives as well as the potential infiltration of water. The key is that not all applications are the same and various institutions, such as GANA and ASTM (with the help of industry leaders), have created tests to show the minimum performance criteria coatings must pass to be as close to problem-free as possible.

More than Just Products
There are manufacturers whose products may or may not perform well. If a product manufacturer shows involvement with the community and/or maintains an active technical service department, the company is more likely to produce quality products than those that do not. One key program that a number of glass coatings manufacturers offer is a compatibility test program. As previously mentioned, the spandrel cavity can have a variety of products in contact or proximity to the glass and glass coatings. It’s difficult to test for every configuration, but a company that shows it tests various products for compatibility and offers test results is a company that stands behind the products, be it a building or the actual glass.

With the increase of exciting products for the glass industry, so, too, comes the concern of failure and other such issues. Marketing speak can say one thing, but whether a product really performs is the true question. Unless the product manufacturer can show that its products have been tested and meet specific glass standards, you take all responsibility to ensure suitability and performance. Ask the manufacturer for performance testing that shows a product is meant for use in your application or your fabrication line. And, if you want to be more involved with how these benchmarks are created, getting involved with groups such as GANA or ASTM is a great start.

Kris Vockler is the CEO of ICD High Performance Coatings in Vancouver, Wash.

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