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Powder Coating vs Painting: Which is Better?

powder coating_Chris Tefme_shutterstock

When it comes to finishing metal surfaces, two methods reign supreme: powder coating and painting. Both are very applicable, but which will best suit your situation? There are some key differences between these two coatings. Knowing what makes each unique will help you to determine which is going to work best for you. Next, we’re going to break each of these methods down a bit and see where they excel and where they fail. Then, we’ll go over what unique differences you should think about to help decide which is best for your application.

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Powder Coating

Powder coating_Yasni_shutterstock
Credit: Yasni, Shuttterstock

Powder coating is quite different from painting. To start, it’s applied as a dry powder instead of a liquid. An electrostatic gun shoots dry powder onto the metal surface, negatively charging it in the process. Since the part is grounded, the negatively charged particles of powder are attracted to it and arrange themselves in an even coating. It’s a quick process that results in a nice finish. Afterward, it’s all put in an oven to cure. The curing causes the powder to gel and creates thermal bonds between the particles. The result is a very hard, uniform finish.

What makes powder coating most attractive is the incredible durability it provides. Moreover, it only requires one coat, making it a very quick and efficient process. There’s also a lot of versatility in the powders so unique textures and color patterns can be achieved with this process. For environmentalists, powder coating produces minimal VOC, so it’s environmentally friendly. Last but not least, this type of finish turns out very smooth with no drips or runs making it very visually appealing in combination with the possible colors. With all of these advantages, you could probably guess that powder coating is a pretty expensive process that requires some equipment that may be difficult to get for the workshop at home.

Pros
  • Very hard and durable finish
  • Environmentally safe
  • Very smooth finish
  • No drips or runs
  • Single coat process
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Requires cumbersome equipment
  • Requires heating in an oven

Painting

painting window_Africa studio_shutterstock
Credit: Africa Studio, Shuttterstock

Most of us are familiar with the process of painting and have probably even participated at some point in our lives. Whereas powder coating is a dry process, paint is not. It’s applied wet with a sprayer, brush, roller, sponge, etc. Don’t expect paint to provide the same level of protection and durability as powder coating, but it can help protect against minor scratches. Comparatively, painting is pretty low-cost. It’s something most people can afford the materials and equipment for and can be performed in the garage at home. High-level skills are not necessary, though a beginner may experience some frustrating drips and runs. Uneven application is also a possibility.

Some items you may wish to finish can’t be heated, which means you can’t put them in the oven to cure a powder coat. This is where paint excels since it doesn’t require any heat. Also, paint is available in a much wider selection of colors than powder coating, though not in as many textures.

Pros
  • Can be performed at home
  • Equipment and materials are cheap
  • Wider color selection
  • Doesn’t require heat
Cons
  • Not as durable
  • Can’t achieve the same textures
  • Runs and drips if not applied well

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Which Should I Use for my Application?

Which of these two methods you should use to finish your particular application is going to depend on what you want to get out of your finish. If you’re looking for a finish that’s going to protect against contact, corrosion, water and more, then powder coating is the best choice. When budget is of high concern and you want to do the process yourself, you’re probably going to pick painting since it’s possible for a handy person to do themselves and the equipment is affordable. Looking for a unique texture? Powder coating provides many more options in that department. However, paint is a better choice if you want the best color selection.

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Conclusion

While both of these are viable options, which one you choose depends on a few things. For us, the most important factors are the price and the durability. If you want the ultimate durability from your finish, then powder coating is the choice that will protect for the long haul. On the other hand, if you’re looking to conserve some money by doing it yourself, then paint is the clear winner. With affordable equipment and materials, most crafty people can do it themselves at home.


Featured image credit: Chris Tefme, Shutterstock

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