Selecting the Ideal Paint

By continually developing new coatings and rigorously testing them to exceed performance and sustainability standards, Sherwin-Williams ensures there is a reliable paint solution for every kind of space and application.

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The company’s historic manufacturing facility in Cleveland, Ohio, is now entirely dedicated to developing and testing new paints.

The Sherwin-Williams Breen Technology center occupies several buildings in the “Flats” district of Cleveland, Ohio, alongside the Cuyahoga river. It’s the site of the company’s original facilities from 1866, although it’s no longer a manufacturing plant. Instead, it’s the nerve center of a product development and mate rials testing program. Here, chemists and technicians mix new combinations of pigments and polymers to create new products, and subject Sherwin-Williams coatings to a gauntlet of tests.

Different types of spaces— interior or exterior, wet or dry, residential or commercial— require different competencies from their coatings. So for Sherwin-Williams, product testing is a way to make sure a new formulation works for its intended use, so that architects, designers and end users can always find the perfect solution for any kind of project and be assured that it will perform as planned.

“There are many ways that you can formulate paint to achieve a desired outcome,” says Rick Watson, director of product information and technical services at Sherwin-Williams. “Our approach is to consider the most appropriate use for the polymer performance. We have acrylic alkyds, vinyl acrylics, styrene, acrylics and more. For a stain-resistant washable finish, for example, you’re going to specify a styrene acrylic or an acrylic alkyd formula because those are the most appropriate for the desired outcome.”

Sherwin-Williams paints are formulated to precisely fit a host of interior and exterior applications.

The testing process helps define the performance characteristics of each paint formula. Analysts check for hiding, or how well a fresh coat of paint obscures a previous layer of paint, scrub resistance, and washability. In addition, they test the paint to see how the sheen changes when it is washed or rubbed repeatedly—this is called burnish. At another testing facility, different exterior paints are also applied to different substrates and left outdoors to see how they hold up to exposure to the elements.

The results of these tests must be combined to give a good idea of how a paint will perform in the real world. If a paint is extremely washable but burnishes easily, for example, cleaning up messes might result in a different kind of problem, where areas that are washed shine differently. So it’s important to specify paint based on the intended use of any space or surface.

Commercial interiors, in particular, place high demands on paints and coatings because there is so much more wear and tear in those kinds of places. Meanwhile, architects and their clients want sustainable, easy- to-maintain solutions. “We put paint on walls now that will last you perhaps 10-15 years rather than having to paint it every two or three years,” says Andrea Dinice, an architectural account executive at Sherwin-Williams. Dinice works with architects and designers to ensure that the paints they specify will achieve the desired outcomes, whether in terms of budget, performance, or sustainability.

To understand how different exterior paints perform under varied weather conditions, they are tested at the Sherwin-Williams Exposure Testing Facility in Medina, Ohio.

To further help design professionals make the right choices, Watson says, “we have various tools out there that can help— applications, programs, sell sheets, data pages.” On sustainability alone, the company has third-party verification in the form of UL GREENGUARD gold emissions certification, environmental product declarations, materials ingredient disclosures and reference guides for LEED v4, LEED v4.1, and VOC regulated areas. And if an architect or designer were to need further guidance, “We’ve got so many talented people in this organization that can help you with the information you need,” Watson says. “Just ask Sherwin-Williams.”

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