Today, we are adding to the list of things you didn’t know you needed to know about choosing the perfect locker. We’re also giving you the details needed so you can make an informed decision about what will work best for you. That way when you place your locker order, you have your answer at the ready. There are typically two different ways to get specialty lockers painted:
Steel lockers are pre-treated with a phosphatizing rinse to remove oils, metal oxides, and welding scales, to clean the locker before application of either painting method. This process makes tiny little etches in the steel and improves the bonding of the powder to the metal, so there’s no need for a primer.
For powder coating, color is applied as a free-flowing dry powder to the steel that is electrostatically charged. Then the locker is placed inside an oven to allow the powder flow to thermally bond to the substrate. The electrostatic charge holds the powder to the locker for smooth, even coverage that creates a durable hard finish.
The baked enamel painting process begins with enamel liquid being sprayed onto the locker and after which it is placed into an oven to allow the color to be baked on.
The Benefits of Powder Coating
DeBourgh Lockers typically recommends powder coat painting for superior lockers, and there are several different reasons why.
Being green and environmentally friendly is becoming an increasing concern. When you use a powder paint, any spillage can be vacuumed up and reformed so there is no waste and nothing harmful being discarded into the water. If for some reason, any of the powder has to be discarded, it is biodegradable. Problem solved.
- Sustainable Paint
The primary concern with locker paint is the thickness, as that determines how resistant to corrosion your lockers will be. Paint type matters far less than paint thickness. The standard thickness is 2 to 3 mil (industry speak for 1/1000th of an inch) and should be evenly covered when applied. Powder coating not only lasts a lot longer, but it can be applied more thickly in a single coating, which also saves on labor. Even with powder paint, if you put it on in too thin quantities, you won’t get the corrosion resistance.
- Salt Spray Approved
We've conducted many variations of a Salt Spray Test to determine how long metal parts can resist corrosion using different painting methods. While it may seem like the thicker the paint is the better, at some point you do get diminishing returns and there's no need to apply paint that is 7-10 mil thick. We've found that the sweet spot is a thickness of 2 to 3 mil but ultimately the quality will rely on which painting method was chosen. For a more in-depth look into the salt spray test, click on the link above.
Smooth edges are another benefit of powder paint. Steel is sharp and stays sharp where the points meet. Traditional paint naturally runs away from those edges, leaving the sharpest areas uncovered. This is problematic because those edges are also the places that are most susceptible to corrosion. However, because of the electrostatic feature of the powder paint, it has a magnetic adhesion to all nooks and crannies of the locker and even gets thicker around the edges where it’s needed most.
In a locker room as a kid, you might remember grabbing the expanded metal mesh -- just big enough -- and sticking your fingers through it. While other kinds of paint leave sharp edges that could cause injuries, powder coat paint will soften the edges of that steel.
Powder coat also offers different types of specific benefits. For instance, TGIC powder has the ability to resist UV rays, so it won’t bleach as easily in the outdoors or near windows.
The Issues with Baked Enamel
Alternative liquid painting applications like baked enamel simply can not stand up in comparison to a powder coat treatment for multiple reasons.
- Environmentally Irresponsible
First, baked enamel is far less environmentally conscious. With a liquid application of paint, anything that is sprayed drips and any overspray becomes a waste product that has to go somewhere, typically down the drain.
This wet paint system uses a solvent carrier to convey the paint to the substrate. Unfortunately, eliminations of the solvents during the curing process results in hazardous air pollution. It’s important to note that after installation, there are no issues with emissions, and it is just during the painting process that these VOC emissions are a problem.
Because baked enamel is applied as a liquid it cannot deliver the ideal paint thickness of 2 to 3 mil and is typically limited to only .5 to 1.0 mil of thickness. To achieve optimal thickness, you would need to put the lockers through the process multiple times, which becomes too expensive and results in significant inconsistencies across the locker. This is particularly true between the top and bottom; because of how it goes into the furnace, much of the paint will run down to the bottom, leaving the top corners with visible speckling, where the paint is too thin and the steel can be seen through the paint. Corrosion can happen right away with this insufficient paint.
- Fails the Test of Time
The key to remember is that the thickness is what really matters. Because of the material and the process, the powder coat thermally bonds the paint to the locker and gets a really good coverage. Even after scratches attempt to damage the lockers, the scratch won’t get any worse, and won’t allow for corrosion to go under the paint. This is because the paint is melded to the locker itself thanks to the powder coat application process. Whereas baked enamel will act more like a sheet of material that sits on top of the substrate and is easily flaked into chips. Simply put powder coating has the upper hand as its process is electrically adhered to the chemistry of the paint to keep it from peeling or flaking.
We think it’s a pretty easy decision to recommend powder paint.
Practically the only thing our powder paint can’t do is grow an extra limb after one is cut off. But, don’t worry, we're working on that too!