Everything You Should Know About Polyurea Coatings

To apply a special coating to any surface, you need to make sure you have the best mixture for the job to ensure complete protection. Among the options available for protective coatings, a popular choice professionals use is polyurea, a fast-acting coating that seals quickly and protects thoroughly.

But not everyone knows the specifics behind polyurea and why it’s so effective. Before committing to any single substance for your project, be aware of everything you should know about polyurea coatings. You don’t want to substitute your polyurea with a lesser coating and risk damage to your surfaces or unnecessary downtime while waiting for the coating to cure.

What Is a Polyurea Coating?

To start, it’s important to know what exactly polyurea is before attempting to use it. The basics: it’s an elastomer, meaning that it’s a polymer with elastic properties. An example of a different elastomer would be stretchy plastic film.

Manufactures create this type of polymer through step-growth polymerization, combining synthetic resin and isocyanate-reactive materials. This means it is a dual-component system. The two ingredients are mixed to form a non-toxic, impact resistant coating that can be applied to virtually any surface.

Based on the different varieties of the resin and isocyanate that exist, manufacturers can produce different variations of polyurea and polyurethane. This can affect its gel and cure times, adhesion, flexibility, impact resistance, and tear strength among other special qualities.

Guardian™ Bed Liner - Polyurea & Polyurethane Coatings

The Qualities of Polyurea Coatings

Polyurea excels at protecting wooden, concrete, and steel surfaces by enhancing impact and corrosion resistance. Industrial and commercial contractors use polyurea when they need above or below grade waterproofing for concrete structures, where it provides outstanding protection against moisture infiltration. The elastomer (or one of its poly-hybrid cousins) also finds utility in preserving boat hulls and marinas, as it can help protect watercraft from moisture and environmental damage.

With this versatility also comes great durability. Polyurea doesn’t degrade easily against environmental concerns; it’ll weather harsh conditions and keep your surfaces protected.

The overall usability is enhanced by the rapid gel time, which helps during application of the material. Individuals can apply polyurea even during low temperatures – in some cases down to -20° F. The elastomer will still form a strong bond to the applied surface, protecting it from future damage. Of course, contractors still need to properly prepare the surface for optimal application, no matter the environmental conditions.

Formulated For Success

As mentioned, there can be different mixtures and formulations of resin and isocyanate. This means manufacturers can enhance certain qualities of the finished product. One of the most popular formulations includes increased tensile strength, meaning the coating is less likely to crack under pressure from flexing or movement.

Another common set of qualities that vary by formulation are the gel and tack-free times. As with the different tensile strength levels, these typical working times will also depend on your specific mixture. These will be important factors to consider for any given application. For quicker systems the average tack-free time is three to seven seconds, making it ideal for common installation challenges, like vertical or overhanging surfaces. Alternatively, a slower reaction time (sometimes up to 45 seconds or more) can give much needed workability in certain environments where speed is less critical. Either way, you’ll be able to get your coating down and set in minutes with polyurea spray coating.

Lastly, one of the most beneficial properties of polyurea is that it is highly impact resistant. In fact, polyurea technology is currently in use by the military as a blast mitigation component in bulletproof armor. Coupled with a fast return-to-service, polyurea becomes an unparalleled choice when used to provide additional protection to any surface.

With this versatility also comes great durability. Polyurea doesn’t degrade easily against environmental concerns; it’ll weather harsh conditions and keep your surfaces protected.

What Are Polyurea Alternatives, and How Do They Compare?

When you need to apply coating, there are many different varieties beyond polyurea to choose from. Two of the most popular coating options include epoxy and polyurethane, and it’s important to know how they stack up against polyurea.

Epoxy

As one of the most common coatings, epoxy sees a lot of practical use just like polyurea, but it’s important to know which has the more desirable qualities for a given application. Generally speaking, polyurea has superior performance across the board, whether that means impact and abrasion resistance, flexibility, UV resistance, or the real equalizers: reduced downtime and easy installation.

Polyurea holds up and performs better than epoxy in many situations, but this may also come with an increased initial investment. In the long run however, not having to wait for epoxy to cure – sometimes up to 3 weeks! – and the ability to easily install, clean, maintain, and repair polyurea can help defray the lifetime cost.

Polyurethane

Polyurethane is a similar elastomer material to polyurea and is used extensively in many industries throughout the world. As a general rule, polyurethane coatings perform well in the same sorts of environments one would use polyurea, and they can often be specified interchangeably. Since both elastomers are resin / isocyanate blends, many of the mechanical properties are virtually identical, however “pure” polyurea is usually considered a more environmentally friendly green option, as the cured coatings are 100% solids, inert and VOC-free.

Polyurethane is a standard in the auto industry, as manufacturers coat vulnerable parts with the material. It’s essential to protect sensitive components within a car, especially against heat generation and abrasion. Motor vehicles need to put up with a lot of stress, and polyurethane can give them the protection they need. Most truck bed liners are polyurethane or polyurea-hybrids.

The Most Common Applications of Polyurea Coatings

 

Concrete Coatings

One of the most common applications of polyurea coatings is for concrete. The coating acts as a moisture barrier as well as a structural and protective film that can be sprayed into any configuration required. This versatility in application allows for a single continuous waterproof surface, eliminating seams where water could seep in and begin deteriorating the structure below.

Food Processing & Cold Storage

Food and cold storage facilities are also taking advantage of the benefits of polyurea coatings. By creating a monolithic barrier to moisture, bacteria, and debris with the sprayed-on coating, cleaning and maintenance of freezers and warehouses becomes a simple wash-down with soap and water.

Mining & Excavation

Mining equipment also needs special treatment before use, allowing the gear to survive against harsh working conditions. Abrasion resistance is especially necessary, as mining equipment needs to deal with churning up earth and other dense materials. Although often not specifically “pure” polyurea coatings, abrasion resistant elastomers are usually close hybrids.

Water & Wastewater Treatment Plants

As mentioned, properly applied polyurea helps battle corrosion. This comes in handy when cities and communities need to protect plumbing, sewer, and wastewater systems. These pipes need to deal with a lot of water, and that’s the perfect spot for corrosion to occur; polyurea can prevent that corrosion, safeguarding both the pipes and the environment.

Energy, Oil, and Petroleum

Another place polyurea coatings are used widely is the energy industry. Historically, fossil fuels have been extremely dangerous to the environment where they are extracted and stored, and oil & gas companies have recently turned to polyurea coatings for primary and secondary containment for these sensitive areas. Tank coatings and large site geotextile fabric coatings protect against leaks and spills; polyurea has a good degree of chemical resistance, making it a good choice for industrial usage.

Make Sure You Have the Best Coating Possible

Polyurea is among the best protective coatings you can get and has many different applications. Whether you need to safeguard a vehicle or building construction, polyurea can give you the durability and protection you need to guarantee longer life. Just be aware that different formulations exist, and your application may call for one over the other based on your requirements.

Different mixtures have different properties, so consider what you purchase and how you plan to use it. Be aware of everything you should know about polyurea coating, as it may be just the thing you need to get the quality you want. Ensure that all your projects, whether automotive, construction, or otherwise, have the materials they need. Streamline your processes and make sure you get the best results possible.

Polyurea Coatings - Everything You Should Know Infographic

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