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Introduction to
Generic Coating Types
by Lloyd M. Smith, Ph.D., General Editor
Corrosion Control Consultants and Labs

Editor’s Note: With the article that
follows, JPCL introduces a 16-part
monthly series, Generic Coating
Types, which is intended to provide
basic information about the standard, generic classification of protective coatings. Edited by Lloyd M.
Smith of Corrosion Control Consultants and Labs (Reston, VA) and
written by industry personnel with
expertise in the generic types addressed, the series will also be compiled as a single volume in the fall
of 1995.

housands of coatings products are sold for industrial
use, making it impossible to
memorize the names, attributes,
properties, and limitations of all of
them. Therefore, a method is needed to classify coatings based on
some similarity so that the selection
process is manageable. The most
common method of classification for
coatings is generic type, which
refers to the chemical attribute—
most often the resin type—that is
unique to a group of coatings.
Generic type is the most useful
classification principle because coatings of the same generic type have
similar handling and performance
properties. The name for most
generic types of coatings is based on
the resin (binder) in the formulation.
A secondary generic classification of
coatings is by curing mechanism or
some other compositional element.
Vinyl and epoxy, for example, are
generic coating types with names
based on the resin. Urethanes as a


Copyright ©1995, Technology Publishing Company

The series will describe up-to-date
formulations of each generic type in
terms of their chemical and performance properties. It is intended to
offer guidance about the specifica-

Coming Up in
This Series:

Acrylic Coatings (Water-Borne)
Alkyd Coatings
Cementitious Coatings
Chlorinated Rubber and
Vinyl Coatings
Coal Tar and Asphaltic Coatings
Epoxy I—Coatings for Steel
Epoxy II—Coatings, Floorings,
and Linings for Concrete
Hybrid Generic Coatings
Phenolic Coatings
Polyester and Vinyl Ester
Silicone (High Temperature)
Urethane I—Chemical Cure
Urethane II—Moisture Cure
Zinc-Rich, Inorganic Coatings
Zinc-Rich, Organic Coatings

generic resin type are subdivided
very distinctly by curing mechanism,
so there are moisture-cure urethanes
and chemical-cure urethanes. Latex
coatings are a generic type in which
the classification is made solely by
curing mechanism. In latex emulsions, the resin is suspended as microscopic particles in water. The

tion and purchase of industrial
maintenance coatings.
The series will be most useful to
specifiers in architectural and engineering firms and to coating consultants. It will be useful as well to facility owners who specify coatings and
to contractors who select coatings. As
an educational tool, the series will be
a good resource for coating manufacturer personnel and others interested in understanding the characteristics and differences among
generic types of coatings.

coating cures by coalescence, which
means that after the coating is applied and the water starts to evaporate, the resin particles come together and eventually fuse. Many
different resins can be used in latex
coatings. Other generic coating
types are classified using systems
designed to indicate even broader
classifications. Inorganic zinc-rich
and organic zinc-rich coatings are
examples. Zinc-rich indicates that
high loadings of zinc dust are part of
the formulation, while the resin
component is only broadly classified
by its general chemistry—inorganic
or organic. (Organic resins are based
primarily on carbon in the polymer
backbone; inorganic resins do not
contain carbon.)
This series describes the major
generic types of coatings used to
protect industrial structures. The list
is in no way complete but was selected to represent the most commonly used generic types.

JULY 1995

/ 73

In addition. and topcoats. While the various resins have a particular chemical composition (i. As a result. Technology Publishing Company . which is solidification of the binder with no changes to the resin occurring due to any type of chemical reaction. Oil-based coatings are among the original materials developed for protection or decoration. must be applied by spray because of their curing mechanism. They can be formulated for use as primers. the defining common feature is that these coatings cure by air oxidation. Chlorinated rubber and vinyl coatings have very low moisture vapor 74 / Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Copyright ©1995. as opposed to modified versions. are grouped together because they cure by solvent evaporation. True vinyls and chlorinated rubber coatings. They dry quickly and are easy to topcoat or repair. Film formation is essentially by precipitation. Chlorinated Rubber and Vinyl Chlorinated rubber and vinyl. they all are organic).e. intermediate coats. they are the standard against which other coatings are compared. so anti-corrosive pigments are needed in the primer when these coatings are used to protect steel. Oil-based and alkyd coating systems offer good exterior durability in nonaggressive atmospheres. which also are organic resins. which indicate how fast moisture vapor travels through a coating.. Coating systems based on oils and alkyds have moderate moisture vapor transmission rates. Because of a 100-year history of protecting steel. they are relatively inexpensive. they have only limited barrier protection properties.GENERIC COATING TYPES Generic Coating Types Classified by Resin Oil-Based and Alkyd Materials in this class are based either on natural fish and plant oils or on a synthetic resin (alkyd). Topcoats should have good sunlight resistance and color retention.

Unmodified chlorinated rubber and vinyl resin do not adhere well to steel. such as coal tar and asphaltic materials. a period of time after which the coating becomes too hard to overcoat. Many state and local regulations limit the VOC content allowed in paint. They are mixed just prior to application. Other. slick film of an epoxy coating can be either an advantage or a disadvantage. Silicone Silicone resins contain silicon in the polymer backbone rather than carcontinued Bituminous The organic resin in a bituminous coating is derived totally or in part from distillation of crude oil or coal. The tough. are relatively inexpensive and are known for their water resistance. The latest development in epoxy coatings has been thin film formulations used as sealers for overcoating existing oil-based and alkyd coating systems. Epoxy coatings cure by chemical reaction when a hardener is added to the resin. In this series. durable films. Technology Publishing Company JULY 1995 / 75 . Epoxies are known for good resistance to solvents. Some epoxy resins and hardeners can be used to formulate coatings. However. the many modifications of epoxies have been subdivided into epoxies for steel and epoxies for concrete. they are known to break down on reaction with sunlight in a process called chalking. The most commonly used epoxies are polyamide-cured and aminecured. Bituminous coatings. This tendency limits their use outdoors to primers and intermediate coats. They come in 1 color—black. which can cause them to crack. The common factor for all epoxies is that they must cure by chemical reaction through the epoxide group. Epoxy coatings are packaged in 2 containers. Chlorinated rubber formulations are the material of choice for coating swimming pools. as well as resistance to abrasion. They form very good barrier coats with good chemical resistance. Epoxy The organic resin of epoxy coatings contains a specific chemical group known as an epoxide. and linings. Epoxy resins also can be used to modify other resin types. Polyamide-cured epoxies have better water resistance. It is an advantage if cleaning or decontaminating the surface is important but a disadvantage if another coat of material must be applied. they usually are high in volatile organic compounds (VOC). They have poor resistance to sunlight. so they can be used as topcoats. it is difficult formulating coatings that are based on vinyl or chlorinated rubber resins and that comply with VOC content limits. related curing agents are used in formulations such as epoxy mastics. They have poor solvent and heat resistance. because there may be a maximum recoat time. the resin must be modified to use these materials as primers. aminecured epoxies have better chemical resistance. Because they are solvent-borne. and chemicals. They offer excellent adhesion to most substrates and yield tough. however. water. protecting buried structures and lining tanks and other industrial waterholding structures. They also perform well when they are immersed in water. As a result. one each for the hardener and the resin. Bituminous coatings have been used for waterproofing. Good gloss retention is possible with these coatings.GENERIC COATING TYPES transmission rates. usually a nitrogen-containing entity such as an amine or polyamide. flooring. Copyright ©1995. Epoxy coatings are similar to epoxy adhesives.

This coating. this is an asset. Generic Coating Types Classified by Curing Mechanism Water-borne Acrylic Water-borne acrylic. Polyester and Vinyl Ester These coatings are based on an organic. intermediate coats. oilbased coatings. While latex coatings can be made with a number of organic resins. Phenolformaldehyde can also be reacted with drying oils to give air-dried. which is found in organic resins. Phenolic coatings are high performance materials used to line vessels. When silicone resins are added to alkyds. known for their acid and chemical resistance. Water-borne acrylic coatings are one-component materials that cure continued Phenolic Phenolic coatings are based on phenol-formaldehyde. Water-borne acrylic coatings have high moisture vapor transmission rates. solvents. they are considered to be oil-based coatings. They cure by a free radical reaction initiated by a peroxide catalyst. Silicone coatings are one of few coating types that can be used to protect high temperature surfaces. and topcoats.GENERIC COATING TYPES bon. are used mainly as linings. is more properly classified as an alkyd or a hybrid coating because it cures by air oxidation. unsaturated polyester dissolved in an unsaturated monomer. They are used as both protective and architectural coatings in the form of primers. Pure phenolic resins are cured by heat and are referred to as baking phenolics. But in primers for steel. tanks. These coatings. resin is dispersed in water to form a water emulsion. where moisture in the structure must be allowed to pass through the coating. Technology Publishing Company JULY 1995 / 77 . Silicone resins are known for 2 properties: gloss retention and temperature resistance. coatings are materials where the Copyright ©1995. and containers exposed to certain chemicals and elevated temperatures. or acrylic latex. They are known for their resistance to chemicals. In coatings that protect wood or concrete. it is a liability that requires the use of anti-corrosive pigments as compensation. They also resist boiling water and steam. and water. Coatings employing silicone resins by themselves or in combination with other organic resins can yield a range of temperature resistance—the other main performance property of silicone. the resulting formulations are better in color and gloss retention. acrylics are the major resin type. In this case. known as a silicone alkyd. an inorganic resin.

Cementitious Coatings in this generic class are based on inorganic materials. Moisture-cured urethanes. Urethane (Moisture Cure) Coatings in this generic class also have the isocyanate group (–N=C=O) attached to a polymer. if there is water in the air. many different resins. apply very little stress to the existing system. They do not have the color and gloss retention of aliphatic. The amine then reacts with other isocyanate polymers to form the film. while aromatic urethanes yellow in sunlight but are less expensive. have been used for cold weather application.GENERIC COATING TYPES by solvent evaporation followed by coalescence of the resin particles. Aliphatic urethanes are known for gloss and color retention. chemically cured urethanes have good water and chemical resistance. some of the isocyanate reacts with moisture to form an amine. Technology Publishing Company . such as acrylics. The moisture needed for the curing reaction comes from the air. chemically cured urethanes. The reaction with moisture takes place at a reasonable rate. They also are used as overcoats for oil-based or alkyd coatings. A number of different performance properties can be achieved with this type of coating. even at low temperatures. Upon application. and vinyls can be used to formulate urethanes. slick film. These materials have a limited pot life because moisture in the air will react with the isocyanate in the can. such as portland cement. like other chemically curing materials. depending on the resin and the type of isocyanate-containing molecule used. the classification is by type of chemical bond (related to curing) and not by resin. Urethane (Chemical Cure) Coatings in this generic class use an isocyanate functional group (–N=C=O) to cross link the resin. Chemically cured urethanes form a smooth. therefore. therefore. In general. polyesters. However. have a limited pot life after mixing. Thus. they do have strong performance properties as coatings for steel. that harden on continued 78 / Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Copyright ©1995. Chemi- cally cured urethanes are packaged in 2 containers and. The surface can be easily cleaned or decontaminated. In fact. Moisture-cured urethanes are packaged in 1 container. These coatings are used to protect steel in mild or moderate environments. epoxies. because they have low shrinkage when they cure and.

Cementitious coatings usually consist of a mixture of cement. Inorganic zincrich primers also are known for their abrasion resistance. Technology Publishing Company . and brushes. which means the zinc is consumed to protect a more noble metal. as a primer or one-coat system to protect steel from corrosion. They cure by heating. They may be supplied with the zinc dust packaged separately from the binder. Inorganic zinc-rich coatings require constant agitation during application to keep the zinc particles suspended in the liquid vehicle of the coating. They are also used for fireproofing and high temperature service. forms. depending on the particular type of coating. Generic Coating Types Classified by General Description Inorganic Zinc-Rich Zinc-rich coatings contain high loadings of metallic zinc dust. and water. phenoxy. rollers. Inorganic zinc-rich coatings are characterized by the use of a silicate resin. silicone. evaporation. aggregate. urethane. Inorganic zinc-rich coatings protect by a galvanic or sacrificial mechanism. chlorinated rubber. and sometimes trowels rather than spray guns. Organic Zinc-Rich Organic zinc-rich coatings have high loadings of metallic zinc dust in organic binders. The specific chemical resistance depends on the type of cement and aggregate used. especially in marine environments.GENERIC COATING TYPES reaction with water. Organic zinc-rich coatings combine the properties of the vehicle with the abrasion resistance and sacrificial action of the zinc. application of a curing solution. They can withstand exposure up to approximately 1. and other suitable organic resins. Cementitious coatings are applied differently than other types of coatings. Cementitious coatings are known for their chemical resistance. Inorganic zinc-rich primers are unaffected by most organic solvents but require a topcoat to resist exposure to acids or alkalis. Compared 80 / Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Copyright ©1995. They are used. or in 1 container that incorporates the silicate binder and the zinc dust.000 F (538 C) when used without a topcoat. vinyl. They are applied in thick films. or reaction with moisture. therefore. which are measured in inches or millimeters rather than mils or microns. requiring pneumatic equipment. which include epoxy polyamide. They have high compressive strength and other properties similar to concrete. These coatings are high performance materials that offer long service life.

GENERIC COATING TYPES to inorganic zinc-rich coatings. For instance. In addition. an epoxy ester. The person who must select coatings can. Using the example above. be less tough and abrasion-resistant. The classifications are general and broad. Generic coating classifications. Organic zinc-rich coatings also are high performance materials that provide a long service life in marine as well as other environments. the specifier can exclude epoxies as topcoat candidates because of their weakness in sunlight. has better chemical resistance and corrosion protection than an oil-based coating but not as good as an epoxy coating that cures by chemical reaction. is an appropriate candidate. when a coating is to be exposed to splash and spill of harsh acids in an exterior environment. tions. Strengths and Limits of Generic Classification Classifying by generic type establishes groups of coatings with similar chemical and performance properties. which has an epoxy-modified oil resin. with strong resistance to both acids and sunlight. Thus. they tend to have better compatibility with topcoats. the specifier can choose becontinued Hybrid Hybrid coatings are those that combine technologies from other categories. the generic type epoxy includes different resins and hardeners with a broad range of specific properties. more readily sort among the thousands of products available to find the most appropriate one. For instance. A hybrid coating has characteristics intermediate between the technologies used. most generic types can be subdivided into narrower. also have their limitaCopyright ©1995. therefore. while useful. which requires a coating with resistance to sunlight and to chemical spills. The search is narrowed in this way to consideration of only those products classified as chemically cured urethanes. A chemically cured urethane. the specifier of the coating can exclude alkyds because of their limited resistance to acids. For example. modifying an oil-based resin with an epoxy resin produces an epoxy ester. more descriptive classes. but be more tolerant of variations in surface preparation. on the other hand. Oil-based and alkyd coatings likewise include many different resins of varying quality. Technology Publishing Company JULY 1995 / 81 . additionally. chemically cured urethanes can incorporate many different resins with the resultant film having different performance properties. Within each generic type are many variations. For example.

Some generic types have specific uses. or specific strengths. and polyester urethanes. that are incorporated into a coating’s formulation. chemistry. which have better resistance to sunlight. indeed. Another weakness of the generic type classification system. and expected life. of any coating classification system. level of surface preparation. such as resistance to certain exposure environments. The choice between them will depend on which of the 2 performance properties is more important.GENERIC COATING TYPES tween acrylic urethanes. The articles in this series describe the history. There are many constituents. special attribute. Any classification system indicates only generalities about the coatings in each class and assumes that the material is properly formulated. and the user must select the types of coating based on factors such as the severity of the exposure environment. properties. Choice of a specific product from a manufacturer is best made on the basis of performance testing. JPCL Copyright ©1995. In fact. is that it does not give any indication about the quality of the product. such as color and gloss retention. Compatibility of primers and topcoats is also often expressed in terms of generic types. Referencing coatings by their generic type usually indicates a use. formulation has as much of an influence on performance as does the generic type. Some generic types have more general uses. 82 / Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Classification by generic type is one of the most useful methods of categorizing coatings. Technology Publishing Company . or level of performance. both major and minor. which have better acid resistance. and handling of the most common generic types so a better understanding can be obtained about coating materials.