What Are Architectural Coatings?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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Architectural coatings are finishes for the interior and exterior of buildings, along with devices like lamp posts, awnings, and so forth. This term can refer specifically to sprays, paints, and dips. It can also include cladding materials like siding and sheeting, depending on regional terminology and policies. Manufacturers of architectural coatings may sell directly to the public or work through wholesalers who distribute to retail stores, contractors, and other building professionals.

The key purpose of an architectural coating is decorative, although it also adds some protection to the underlying building materials. Finished buildings will show their architectural coatings, and thus a heavy focus in the design involves making the coating appear attractive and distinctive. For instance, paints can come in a variety of colors, glosses, and textures to meet different needs. A high gloss paint might be desirable for some settings, while a matte paint with a slightly rough finished texture might be more suitable for others.

New construction involves a final application of an architectural coating to finish and seal the building. It is overlaid over multiple layers of building material that can include wrapping papers, wall materials and framing. In remodeling and retrofitting, an old architectural coating may be stripped to allow access to internal building components, and a new one can be applied at the end of the project. The new coating may change the look and feel of the structure, or could replicate the previous look.


Samples of architectural coatings are available to assist people with the process of deciding which one they would like to apply. In some cases, construction workers may apply sample strips or swatches directly to a structure to allow the owner to see them in situ. Paint swatches are a classic example, although it is important to be aware that colors can look more intense on an entire wall than they do in a small swatch. It is possible to order custom architectural coatings such as blended paints and custom-tinted siding.

Wood, plastic, glass, and a variety of other materials can be used in the production of architectural coatings. In some regions, laws limit building materials for health, safety, or environmental reasons. Some companies specialize in recycled, refurbished, or environmentally sustainable architectural coatings for consumers concerned about these issues. For buildings seeking green certification, it can be important to use an approved coating to make sure the building will pass an examination.


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