Choosing The Right Product Finish
One of the unique traits of aluminum is its ability to be "anodized", a process like no other. There are several grades of anodizing but Fleetwood uses Class I, which is the best offered for architectural metals. Among many other things, the US Military selected it as a finish to protect against aircraft corrosion. It is ironic that anodizing is controlled corrosion of the aluminum surface that actually protects the aluminum and makes it thicker. If cared for, anodizing can last a lifetime (review the Care & Maintenance Instructions).
What is involved in the anodizing process? Aluminum is first cleaned, and then submerged in a tank where acid is electrically charged while the aluminum is grounded. The resulting chemical reaction changes aluminum oxide to aluminum hydrate that forms in the grain of the aluminum, which gives it an extremely hard surface, called clear anodize. If an earth tone color is desired, the clear anodized metal is dipped in a color tank before sealing. The third and final process is a dip solution that seals the new, harder surface. Anodizing reveals the natural character of extruded aluminum, especially Clear Anodize. Custom earth tone anodizing is often chosen because of its less than uniform appearance. Fleetwood offers a range of colors: F1 (slightly darker than clear) to F5 (slightly lighter than black). Those considering custom anodizing need to understand there is an acceptable range of variance. If exact color uniformity is desired, painting is the better choice (see F1, F2, F3, F4 and F5 painted finishes).
The painting process we use to coat our products is unlike typical painting. If cared for properly, the factory finish can last a lifetime (review the Care & Maintenance Instructions).
A brief explanation of the wet paint process follows: First, each length of aluminum is chemically pretreated to prepare for the coatings. The first coating is the primer, which is sprayed on the aluminum. The second coating is the paint color, which is applied like the primer. In some colors a third coat is required which is a clear coat which is applied the same way as the primer and color. After all coatings are applied the finish is heat-treated for proper curing. During the spraying method, the paint is charged while the aluminum is grounded. Robotic automation sprays each part for uniform coverage. Fleetwood ONLY supplies an extraordinary paint blend on custom colors. Many know of this blend as Kynar 500. Its unique ingredient is a 70% flouropolymer resin, which is designed to retain color integrity in the harshest environments. This is the same paint which high-rise buildings around the world demand because of its exceptional color retention and salt air protection. Once painted, your custom colored extrusions are ready for fabrication. In applications where limited care and maintenance will be applied to the products, we recommend Edge Armor or purchasing the Special Finish Warranty.
Which Finish Is Best?
Spend a short time researching this question and you will discover the controversy. Two things to strongly consider: First, anodized finishes are part of the aluminum and not a coating as with paint. In highly corrosive environments wherein the products are not adequately cleaned, unfinished paint edges can corrode and edge corrosion can crawl several feet and bubble the paint. Anodized aluminum edges can corrode too but the corrosion cannot crawl under the anodizing, making an anodized finish truly a lifetime finish.