Epoxy product selection - choosing value over price
The coatings industry has come a long way in many respects, but it remains a price-driven market and the lure of a bargain, it seems, is still too good to refuse. It’s an attitude I believe has to change!
The truth is, when it comes to epoxy product selection most of us place far too much emphasis on the price we can get it for. Fair enough if the coatings in question are genuine equivalents and all more than capable of doing the job at hand - there are certainly no problems there. Problems do arise, however, when price becomes such a focus that inferior, unsuitable products are used in the hope of “saving a few bucks”.
Why do we love a low coating price?
Why is there such a pull towards the lowest price in the first place? Maybe it's a legacy of solvent-borne products with only 30% solids, or perhaps it’s just a quirk of human nature to get as much as possible for as little as possible? Whatever it is, it’s a strong force and one that needs to be addressed if the industry is to reach its full potential.
So, what’s the answer? I think a big part of it lies in this favourite quote of mine: “By only looking at the ‘price’ of a product, you can miss the true ‘value’”. In other words, what looks like a bargain on paper often ends up costing you far more down the track anyway when the reasons for a low price rear their ugly head. In an epoxy coating context, that’s usually stuff like blushing, bubbles, premature failure, repairs etc.
Coating value v coating price
If all that makes sense and you’re convinced that coating value, not coating price, is what we should be searching for, how do you actually find it? How do you know what products represent good value and aren’t simply dressed up with a good price? This task becomes a little easier when you consider the following -
- Price per litre v price per kilogram - some manufacturers will advertise price per kilogram (or unit weight) instead of the price per litre (or unit volume). By using a heap of cheap fillers, a product can be made extremely heavy and very cheap per kilogram. Coating applications work in volume and thickness of film, however, so you need to work back to the price per unit volume anyway. When you do, you’ll find a low cost per kilogram might not be as cheap as you thought!
- Percent solids - another way to drop the price of coatings is through the addition of solvent, which is often used in combination with the high filler levels mentioned above to make these products easier to apply and lower the cost even further. The value consideration here relates to the thickness and quality of film that remains after the solvent evaporates. In other words, a coating with 50% solvent will normally be a lot cheaper than a solventless product, however if they’re both applied at 200 microns/8 mils, the solvent-borne product will ultimately leave behind only 100 microns/4 mils. You’d need twice as much volume and probably another day of labour to get the same thickness, plus the actual film itself can be weakened in a number of ways by such heavy dilution.
- How many coats - some cheaper coatings, for various reasons, will require more coats than higher quality options. More coats equal more volume and generally more time to apply, all of which clearly offset any apparent cost savings.
- Priming - over-filled products with a very low cost per kilogram often require a primer to help them stick. This cost is not always taken into account during the selection process.
- Pigment pot - some prices even omit the cost of pigmenting the system. The nice price will be for the tintable base, however when the colour is added savings are reduced.
- How long it lasts - a cheaper coating may very well cost less, but how long will it last? How often will it need to be replaced? A premium coating that lasts over 10 years is better value than a cheap coating that has to be replaced every 2 years. That doesn’t even take in account defects and the number of goes you might need with a cheaper coating to make it work!
Ask yourself one question
A more expensive product might be a turn off to begin with, but if it doesn’t play up all the time, requires no primers, needs fewer coats, lasts longer and protects better, the actual cost over the full lifespan of the product will be far less.
To finish, I’ll leave you with something to keep in mind when seeking coating value. Just ask yourself one question before you buy: "Will it cost me more to do it properly now with a better product, or do it cheaply and come back again shortly?"
Take care and keep smiling,