Water-based Coating on Bathtubs Eliminates Smell, Reduces VOCs

The university is environmentally conscious and focuses on reducing and controlling chemicals and solvents used in laboratories, shops, and more.
The university is environmentally conscious and focuses on reducing and controlling chemicals and solvents used in laboratories, shops, and more.

The University of Utah is a public research university in Salt Lake City. The university was established in 1850 as the University of Deseret by the General Assembly of the provisional State of Deseret, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Utah. It received its current name in 1892, four years before Utah attained statehood, and moved to its current location in 1900.

Since 2014, the university has been environmentally conscious with one area of focus on reducing and controlling chemicals and solvents used in laboratories, shops and more.

Surface Tech, a Salt Lake City-based kitchen and bathroom remodeling company that has been in business since 1992, has been resurfacing fiberglass bathtubs in student housing units since December 2018. Mark Butler, a company foreman and technician, says Surface Tech has been doing an average of 15 or more a month, depending on move-outs.

The process begins with sanding down the tub’s rough spots, filling in cracks, masking it off, making repairs and ensure the tub is clean before applying the spray coating. Previously, the process included the use of a urethane-based coating that is odorous and toxic. Surface Tech had to give three-days notice because students at the university were complaining about the smell. “We could have lost that account,” Butler says.

However, Ken Relei, a supervisor at the university, came across Armorguard from Seagrave Coatings at a trade show and learned the product is water-based and non-toxic. To align with the university’s sustainability goal of controlling solvents being used, Relei instructed Surface Tech to use the Armorguard product.

“The biggest difference is smell,” Butler says. “Armorguard is not nearly as strong. Urethane is odorous and has toxicity that the water-based product doesn’t. With the urethane coating, you definitely feel the smell. It makes you feel foggy. People with breathing issues would have a problem with it. [Armorguard] has good adhesion and is a great product. It will extend the number of years before restoration is needed.

“Seagrave solves a huge problem for us,” Butler continues. “Another benefit is that we don’t use nearly as much industrial cleaners with the lacquer gun. It helps the environment and our waste is down.People are happy with the look. The proof will be in the pudding when we see how it looks in three years.”

Utah receives an A for going to the head of the class. A is for Armorguard, a green alternative that does not cause odor and is non-flammable. In addition, it’s a sustainable solution because refinishing, rather than replacement, avoids unnecessary landfill.

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