Painting Fiberglass Cooling Tower for Industrial Facility

Maryland Commercial and Industrial Painting projects don’t seem to have any limitations with difficulty.  And when we were contacted by a power facility to paint their fiberglass cooling towers, we knew the difficulty level wasn’t trying to decrease.

Fiberglass is a challenging substrate to paint.  Creating fiberglass requires a process called gel-coating.  This process involves soaking layers of fiber inside resinous material.  Collectively, these create a durable, smooth, waterproof, and very strong surface.  Here’s a video with more details:

The gel-coat creates a smooth, impervious surface.  This is great for aquatic equipment, such as boats, water-park equipment, or the top of a cooling tower.  However, the challenge presents itself when it comes time to paint that fiberglass.  And the challenge is that it’s usually not profiled enough for common coatings to bond properly to the substrate.

So, the commercial painting applicator needs to look beyond the typical latex house paint.  The best coating to consider would be an epoxy, due to its adhesion properties.  But which epoxy to consider?

There are a few types of epoxies to choose from.  And those epoxies vary depending on which hardener gets mixed with which resin.  And if you review the differences between each type of epoxy, then you’ll see that the polyamide epoxies will offer the greatest adhesion and flexibility.  

That flexibility is a key feature.  The more flexible the material is, the more that coating material can bend and expand with the substrate.  And the polyamide epoxy offers the greatest degree of flexibility in a product line that is typically known for being stiff and rigid.

But These Are Cooling Towers!

Great point.  Cooling towers are used to control the heat produced from generators.  The heat products from these generators would make most industrial thermometers melt on the spot.  So these cooling towers use thousands of gallons of water to control the temperature.  And although that’s great for the life expectancy of the generator, it’s not so great when you need to paint the cooling tower.  And the reason is because it makes the substrate moist.

Moisture is a threat to many epoxies.  When uncured epoxy comes in contact with the moist surface, it can tamper with the mixed ratios, causing the material to blush or not even cure.  And blushing’s a nuisance, but uncured epoxy is a commercial painter’s worst nightmare.

So, the best course of action would then be to consider a phenalkamine epoxy, instead of the polyamide.  The phenalkamine epoxy is the type of epoxy used in marine industries.  It can be applied to damp surfaces, and the high levels of humidity can actually increase its cure time.  It does offer good adhesion, but it’s not as good as the polyamide coatings.  But because it can be applied directly on top of damp surfaces, it is a superior coating in this situation.

And That How You Choose A Commercial Coating

And that’s how you select a paint for an industrial or commercial environment.  Assess the substrate, and then assess the atmosphere that the coating is going to be applied in.  But whether you’re a residential fence contractor, or a plumber, or a commercial painting contractor, then there’s always something to consider being you assume the most common material or procedure can be applied.