Types of coating in the UK

paint buckets containg wall paint

Coating – meaning and synonyms

Coating refers to covering a surface or an object with another material. Nonetheless, a coating, as a noun, is covering substance, resulting in a coat. Covering is a synonym for coating. Furthermore, coatings are often referred to as paints even though paint is a type of coating. Other common coating synonyms are also formed by names of types of coating.

The multitude of coating types

Paints, lacquers, stains, coats, varnishes… You name it: there are many types of coating for different purposes and surfaces. Coating, in general, refers to a thin layer brought on a surface for functional or decorative purposes. As coatings exist in many forms, glosses and colours, the coating can be transparent or opaque, liquid or powder and consist of one or two components. Decorative paint enhances a substrate’s appearance by adding colour or gloss. These are often DIY paints available for consumers. Furthermore, there are functional types of coatings of which main purpose is to improve or change surfaces’ properties. For example, protective as well as electrically and thermally conductive coatings belong to the group of functional coatings. Another name for these is industrial coatings, due to the fact that they are mostly applied in industrial environments.paint buckets containg wall paint

Decorative paints for the looks

For a non-specialist, decorative paint is the most visible type of coating. Sometimes it is also called architectural coating, for it is mostly applied in buildings inside or out. Decorative paint gives interior walls and ceilings as well as roofs and facades a colour and gloss. However, decorative paint can also have protective properties which are beneficial for the substrate. Decorative paint is also suitable for doors, window frames and furniture.

Choosing the right type of coating

Due to the differences in application and properties, it is important to choose the coating carefully, basing the decision on the wished end result and intended use. Another factor affecting the choice is the material of the substrate. Each material has its own properties; wood is often porous and soft; metal, for its part, is harder and more conductive than wood. It thus, requires another type of paint or primer. It is always useful to read the etiquette of the paint can, to make sure that the chosen kind is suitable for the intended application.

Industrial coatings for protection

A non-specialist often neither recognises nor notices industrial coatings. Nevertheless, they are everywhere: powder coating on desks, anti glare coating on eye glasses or anti reflective paint on windshields. Also construction materials and foodstuff packages are treated with industrial coatings. Paints for industrial use often have properties which increase surface durability and functionality.

The most common Coating processes

powder coating applied on steel tank

Industrial coatings are developed to provide protection. The process is usually spraying.

As there are many different types of coating, there also are many coating processes. In every case the process starts with ensuring that the substrate is clean and ready for treatment. After that a primer application can take place, depending on the recommendations. After priming the surface, it is time to bring the mid- or topcoat onto the surface.

Applying a coating is dependent on the type and target of the product. Brush, roller and spray are suitable application methods for most decorative paints. The applications DIY paints are simple enough for a non-professional to carry out following instructions. However, some materials and coatings need special attention regarding cleaning, priming and application.
In those cases a professional painter usually takes care of the process.

Industrial coating process can be very different from the decorative paint applications. Common ways to apply are:

  • Dip coating:  dipping an object into a liquid with a purpose to deposit a layer of material on the substrate
  • Thermal spraying: spraying heated or melted material onto a substrate

The coating industry in the UK

The United Kingdom coatings industry employs more than 300.000 people and produces over 600 million litres of paints and coatings annually. Therefore, three out of four paint cans sold in the UK are also made in the country. Sales of decorative paint lead to the most revenue in the British paint market, which speaks for its popularity. No wonder: who would not like to give a worn-out wall a trendy colour or blow life into an old piece of furniture with a drop of paint?

Industrial (incl. protective) coatings generate the second largest coating sales. This also includes automotive paints and powder coatings. Wooden products get a layer of lacquer or paint, metal parts receive corrosion protection thanks to coatings and coating cars protects them from rust.

In the UK there are several local paint manufacturers such as:

  • Manchester based HMG Paints offers a variety of coating products for industrial use
  • UK’s leading wood coating producer Morrells provides decorative and protective for inside and out
  • Spencer Coatings Group consists of several brands and has still an office in Aberdeen, its city of foundation

British Coating Federation

The British Coating Federation is a trade association which represents the manufacturers of decorative, industrial and powder coatings  as well as the producers of printing ink and wall coverings. The association aims at promoting the UK industry and exports, encouraging durable innovation and increasing competitiveness. The BCF additionally keeps track of the coatings market; trends and changes as well as converts the collected data into reports.

The video clip by the British Coating Federation emphasizes the presence of coatings in our daily lives.

The availability of paints in the UK

Besides the domestic production, many international coating producers are present also in the UK paint market offering many types of coating. For instance, AkzoNobel, Sherwin Williams and PPG have found their way to the British paint market. Many paint producers have physical shops around the UK but their products are also available online. For example, Tesco and other department stores alike offer an assortment of paints and other coatings for a do-it-yourself home decorator.


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