In Moon Run, PA, just west of Pittsburgh in Robinson Township, a blazing red steel trellis makes a strong architectural statement at the entrance to Fire Station #245. But this attractive structure, designed by architect Bob Worsing and erected by Forest Steel, is more than just a pergola for the volunteer firefighters who brave the elements to get their job done. It is a testament to the performance of polyurethane coatings. For more than 12 years, the fire station trellis has also battled the blistering sun, pounding rain, snow, sleet and salt. Yet its brilliant red color and high gloss have never faded.

When the Fire Station was constructed in 1995, they wanted to ensure that the trellis would be easy to maintain. Since the color red is highly susceptible to UV rays and fades easily, it was important to choose an extremely durable coating system. The Fire Department called on the expertise of Ken Trimber, president of KTA-Tator, a local consulting firm.

According to Trimber, “The bright red color was a challenge, and they were right to seek advice before coating the steel with the wrong product. We felt a high-performance polyurethane system with a clear coat to assure color and gloss retention would be the answer.” Trimber worked closely with Bayer MaterialScience and paint manufacturer, Tnemec. The result was a coating system that would give the trellis the appropriate fire engine red color – and give the Fire Company the durability it needed.

First, a moisture-cured polyurethane zinc-rich primer was applied to abrasive blast clean steel. Then a two-component, red-pigmented polyurethane topcoat, which is extremely light-stable, was sprayed on. Finally, a two-component clear topcoat was applied to seal in the color and prevent weather damage. Touch ups were made with rollers and brushes.

The superior performance of the polyurethane system soon became evident. The Fire Company had purchased an alkyd coating in a fire-engine red color, and painted the handrails leading to the building by themselves. Within months, the red railings became a dull pink color, a pale contrast to the brilliant, glossy red of the polyurethane trellis.

The Moon Run Volunteer Fire Company was pleased with the polyurethane coating system as soon as it was completed – but is even more pleased today. After years of drastically fluctuating western Pennsylvania weather, the structure shows virtually no ∆E color shift since the day it was applied.

According to Tom Somma, captain of the Fire Company, “We’re convinced that the polyurethane system was the way to go. All the up-front work of consulting with KTA-Tator and using Tnemec’s high-quality product was worth the time, effort and expense.”

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