Types of Coatings

Coatings protect and beautify the surfaces to which they are applied, enhance the value of everything — from homes and manufactured products, to bridges and other structures. Coatings are varied, but primarily fall into three categories: Architectural, Industrial, and Special Purpose.

Architectural Coatings

Architectural coatings, as both the largest sector and segment of the paint industry, comprises more than half of the total volume of coatings produced annually in the United States.

In 2020, the industry shipped more than $13.6 billion of architectural coatings.

These products are used to preserve, protect and beautify the interior and exterior surfaces of residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial buildings and factories. About half are applied by “do-it-yourself” consumers, who recognize that paint, as a home decorating product in a class of its own, transforms a living space for a small investment. Consumer paints, primers, stains, varnishes, clears, and lacquers (formulated for no more than light-duty use) make up this category, with an array of gloss levels.

Industrial OEM Coatings

Coatings applied in factory settings — providing functional properties that are crucial to the performance and durability of a wide assortment of industrial, transportation, and durable consumer products — are known as industrial original equipment manufacturer (OEM) coatings.

In 2020, $7.7 billion of industrial OEM coatings were sold to maintain the appearance, functionality, and longevity of newly manufactured goods. Exciting R&D is underway in industry to improve coatings technology, add new functionality and to advance coatings performance. For example, self- and easy-to-clean coatings systems designed to improve the efficiency of solar panels are under development.

Special Coatings

This industry segment includes a wide array of divergent coatings. The one unifying characteristic is that these coatings tend to be “field-applied,” as opposed to being applied in a factory setting.

In 2020, industry shipped $5.3 billion of special purpose coatings.

Special purpose coatings represent the smallest of the three major classifications of coatings, with several key segments as follows:

  • Automotive Refinish Paint has historically ranked as the largest sub-segment. With far fewer miles driven due to pandemic shelter-in-place orders, this volume and value leader is beginning a slow recovery from last year’s significant headwinds.
  • Protective Coatings, historically the second largest sub-segment, will greatly benefit from the federal government’s proposed $2 trillion investment to rebuild and upgrade U.S. Infrastructure – as will Traffic Marking Paint, used on roadways, parking lots and airport surfaces.
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