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Don’t Sugar Coat, Powder Coat


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 You know it from the auto industry and industrial manufacturing. But powder coat is finding new markets in interior and furniture design. By Madeleine Boos.

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Powder coated steel counter-top. Photo by Bill Timmerman.
Courtesy of Ibarra Rosano Design Architects.

When the economy tanked, an interesting thing happened at North American Powder Coating and Sand Blasting in Tucson. Owner Mark Bargar saw his business take off.

Instead of replacing old worn items, the public’s thoughts turned to restoration and revival. “People started bringing me their gates, outdoor furniture, trellises, fencing etc, to be cleaned and powder-coated for a new life,” says Mark, who has applied powder coat on everything from motorcycle and airplane parts to the steel sculptures of Tucson artist Steven Derks.

 Where to powder coat

Powder coating, once solely the domain of the automotive industry and industrial manufacturing, is not only going mainstream, it’s being viewed as a durable, affordable and planet-friendly finish. Powder-coated steel has been around since the 1960s (think Mad Men with its iconic Knoll metal office furniture). But it’s only within the last few years that it has made its way into the vocabulary of the mainstream.

The shiny colored metal surfaces once relegated to refrigerator doors and bike frames are showing up as sleek counter-tops, suspended wall shelving units and modern furniture. Whether you’re shopping for an affordable mid-century style pedestal table at CB2, or outdoor furniture for thousands of dollars from DWR, most likely that pristine finish is powder coated – not just painted – and made to last.

Any metal that can withstand 400 degrees Fahrenheit can be powder coated. Plus, due to technological advances in application and curing methods, powder coating can be used on substrates such as MDF (medium density fiberboard). Whereas laminate has been the go-to surface material for MDF, powder coating creates a seamless, durable surface that protects the wood from chips, spills and stains.

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Sleek open shelving at Falora. Photo by Liam Frederick. Courtesy of repp + mclain design and construction

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“B” at work in the spray booth
Photo by Madeleine Boos

Powder Coat: What is it?

The powder itself is a mixture of pigment and resin, electrostatically applied (sprayed) as a free-flowing dry powder on to a metal or aluminum surface, and then cured in an oven to form a durable smooth skin. The coating protects the piece from the exterior elements, scratching, rusting and corrosion.

The item is disassembled for complete coverage, and the parts are hung from a steel rack to be sprayed. Once sprayed the rack is wheeled into the oven for curing. Once the item reaches 400 degrees Fahrenheit, it cures (bakes) for 15-25 minutes. The good news is you can’t over-bake it, but under-curing produces an inferior finish.

Set up is key. A well prepped surface, free of grime and grease and a clean shop make for the best outcome.

It’s loved for a few reasons:

* “Price for powder coating is based on size, weight and thickness of item, surface condition (does it need sandblasting first?), and whether or not it’s a custom color. A patio chair may run you $68-$125. Turn-around time is typically 7 – 10 business days,” says Mark Bargar of North American Powder Coating and Sand Blasting.

* Counter-top fabrication and installation runs $25 – $30 per square foot installed – on par with basic laminate surfaces, and less than half what a homeowner would pay for solid surface or natural stone.

* It’s durable, resistant to chipping, scratching, fading and wearing.

* There are hundreds (thousands from some sources) of available colors, and a wide range of specialty effects, such as high/low gloss, texture, and clear.

* It emits zero or near-zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds), making it eco-friendly and non-toxic.

* It produces thicker and stronger coatings than conventional painted finishes.

* Overspray can be recycled, which means zero waste.

* It’s consistent and uniform in appearance.

* Powder coating gives new life to worn household metal products, such as gates, patio furniture and thrift store finds.

*and well……it’s sleek.

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Photo by Liam Frederick. Courtesy of Rick McLain

Architect Rick McLain, partner in the newly renamed firm of repp + mclain design and construction, has used powder coated steel in projects for clients, as well as in his own home.

At Falora, Ari Shapiro’s restaurant concept in midtown Tucson, the design team used powder coated white steel as a modern interpretation of traditional Italian marble slabs. Better yet, the thin floating material gave the interior a minimalist vibe. For more on Falora, see 3Story’s feature here.

At home, Rick and his wife opted for powder-coated steel counter-tops in the guest bath. This industrial product requires no maintenance, no special cleaning instructions.

Ibarra Rosano Design Architects chose powder coated steel as a way to customize an IKEA bathroom. Pairing IKEA cabinets and plumbing fixtures with the glossy surface gave a tight budget project a high-end look. That and having a skilled designer bring it together in the details.

Industrial and interior designer Cipriana Salazar has powder-coated household items as small as decorative hardware and signs, and worked her way up to small and large furniture. Limited only by the size of her curing oven. The bigger the oven, the larger the pieces.

She started with her own $99 powder coating gun in a corner of her garage and a second-hand oven.

“One important aspect is that it is not out of the realm of the hobbyist who is looking to do small scale parts. Powder coat guns are cheap and a Craigslist oven can get you started,” says Cipriana.

Since then she’s upgraded the size of her set-up. Though most of her time is dedicated to her own creative work, she does offer services to folks in need of powder coated bicycle frames, cabinet hardware, specialty items and the like.

Bike frames are $100-125. Chairs $65-90. Chair bases $30-55. Cabinet hardware, such as pulls and knobs $50-75. The prices on the lower end are for raw metal or already prepped items.

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Cipriana Salazar’s refurbished IKEA dining table and chairs
Photo by Gillian Drummond

Powder coating played a large role in Cipriana’s re-design and transformation of a salvaged steel medical cabinet and ubiquitous IKEA dining set. The result? An artful and modern dining ensemble.

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Photo by Gillian Drummond

But to achieve a successful powder coat finish, you may not want to try this at home after all. We say, consult an expert.

*Cipriana Salazar can be reached at cips.powder@gmail.com.

North American Powder Coating and Sandblasting 1131 W. Grant Road, suite 107 Tucson, AZ 85705 520-622-5640

* For more information on powder coating and powder-coated steel, see the Powder Coating Institute and Sundial Powder Coating.

 

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Comments

  1. This is great info! Love it
    Michelle

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