Resolving customer complaints about powder coated finishes

Photo of author

Nick Dardalis

Updated on

Polyester powder coating is a high quality finish that has been used in the colouring and finishing of aluminium for over forty years.  It is regarded as the very best way of applying colour, protection and durability to aluminium windows, doors and screens whether for a commercial or residential installation.

We are often contacted by window companies asking advice on what to do about complaints from their customers unhappy with the powder coated finish and believing it to be substandard. Often the customer is viewing the product very closely and believes the paint quality to be at fault.

typical bifolding doors even when ultra slim still have visible meeting stiles and thicker sight lines.
Whether for residential or commercial use, powder coated aluminium has set standards to determine whether the paint finish is satisfactory.

You will already know that for glass units there are established guidelines for determining what constitutes a defective unit. The Glass and Glazing Federation as an example have a publication explaining how to do a professional check on glass after installation. This explains that you have to stand no less than 2 metres from the glass and look straight throught it. If there are no visible defects, the glass is deemed as acceptable.

But did you know that for powder coated finishes on aluminium windows and doors there are also similar standards and guidelines?

Defects in powder coated finishes.

Polyester Powder Coating involves a series of processes to create a coloured aluminium extrusion that is then used to manufacture a window or a door.  These processes involve cleaning and pretreatment, the coating process itself and the curing of the aluminium finish.

There are many reasons why a powder coated finish can have imperfections.  These include:

  • Insufficient pretreatment and cleaning of the mill finish extrusion
  • Defects in the aluminium extrusion itself such as die lines or surface damage
  • Incorrect cleaning of paint booths for example cleaning and changing from having painted a white bar to painting another colour.

These as well as other factors can cause imperfections or defects in the powder coated finish.

Managing Customer Expectations.

If you’ve ever had to attend an installation to inspect a window, the glass or other component quite likely you have taken a representative from your suppliers.  It is frequently the case that even though qualified technical people are telling the customer that their product is “to standard’ or “within tolerances”, this is still not acceptable.

For powder coatings there are professional organisations and associations that certify, test and advise the powder coaters.  All have very detailed documentation, standards, guarantees and certificates of conformity.  These guidelines and standards would typically set out:

  • What processes have to be in place to ensure a satisfactory paint finish
  • What corrective measure should be taken to avoid defects in paint finish
  • The required paint thickness (measured in microns),
  • Test panels and other routine checks that need to be carried out.

A professional powder coater that is approved and carries the official Qualicoat or other certification will always adhere to established standards and procedures.  It is also worth bearing in mind that these professional finishers and applicators undergo routine testing with inspection visits often carried out unannounced.

It is also worth knowing that right down the supply chain there are Quality Management systems in place.  Extruders, finishers and many good window and door manufacturers all have their own Quality Management Systems in place so it stands to reason that your aluminium extrusion has undergone checks at every stage of the production process.

What the standards say.

a smooth, clean outer frame and opening sash on an aluminium window.
What constitutes a correct paint finish on an aluminium window and when is it ‘to standard’?

Qualicoat is a quality label organisation on a global scale.  Their role amongst many is to ensure ongoing quality of paints, lacquers and coatings on aluminium when used for architectural applications. Suffice to say there are no set standards for a ‘domestic’ setting but it is generally accepted that these standards apply to both commercial and residential powder coated products.

The current British Standard and European Standard for powder coating is covered in BS EN 12206-1:2004, ‘Paints and varnishes – Coating of aluminium and aluminium alloys for architectural purposes’.  This has replaced the earlier British Standard BS 6496:1984.

These Standards state:

Qualicoat:

The significant surface shall be defined by the customer and is the part of the total surface which is essential to the appearance and serviceability of the item. Edges, deep recesses and secondary surfaces are not included in the significant surface.The organic coating on the significant surface shall not have any scratches through to the base metal. When the organic coating on the significant surface is viewed at an oblique angle of about 60° to the upper surface, none of the defects listed below shall be visible from a distance of 3 metres: excessive roughness, runs, blisters, inclusions, craters, dull spots, pinholes, pits, scratches or any other unacceptable flaws.

The organic coating shall be of even colour and gloss with good hiding power. When viewed on site, these criteria shall be fulfilled as follows:

• for parts used outside: viewed at a distance of 5 m
• for parts used inside: viewed at a distance of 3 m

The Current Standard:

When the coating on significant surfaces is illuminated and examined at an oblique angle with normal or corrected vision, no blister, craters, pinholes or scratches shall be visible form a distance of 3m (products for inside use) or 5m (products for outside use). The coating shall be free from defects extending down to the substrate.

So what constitutes a defective powder coated finish?

In the same way as glass a defective powder coated finish is one that that falls outside the guidelines set in the Qualicoat and the European Standards when viewed from a set distance.

In practical terms this may not appease the end user, however all of us involved in installations have at some point experienced the type of customer that will inspect every element of their new windows with microscopic precision.  It is managing this expectation that is important.

In our experience you will never obtain a 100% uniform finish, in the same way you won’t get a 100% defect free double glazed unit.  This is why these standards are in place.

Therefore defects in a powder coated finish whilst rare to be glaringly obvious, may be evident when the painted profile is viewed very close up and outside these guidelines.

The defects shown in our image gallery appear worse when viewed from very close up.  The right processes should avoid a severe case of orange peel effect, inclusions or other defects.

What do we recommend?

In the vast majority of cases there is rarely an issue.  However if you are experiencing situations where the end user is voicing concerns as to the quality of the paint finish there are some simple steps you can take.

If you purchase aluminium windows, doors, bifolding doors or other powder coated aluminium products from one or more suppliers it will help you to be armed with the right information beforehand.

Contact your suppliers and they, in conjunction with their powder coaters, should be able to give you copies of these Standards any any other supporting documents on their own official paperwork.

The same should apply to any systems companies such as Senior Architectural, Smart Systems and others that have their own in-house powder coating plants.

Contact us if you’d like to receive the full version of the Qualicoat Standard and an extract from the European Standard.

Providing expert help to homeowners and trade professionals since 2010

expert

Free

Impartial

Get Free help finding the right products from the best suppliers

Andrew DOBSONAndrew DOBSON
16:42 30 Oct 23
Nick responded incredibly quickly to my enquiry (on a Saturday too!), and was able to offer invaluable advice on both aluminum systems and manufacturer / suppliers. Thanks Nick!
chris steerchris steer
16:18 09 Oct 23
Had a meeting with Nick during the grand designs show. Was extremely helpful and professional would highly recommend
Chris WesthorpChris Westhorp
19:55 13 Sep 23
Extremely helpful with pointing us in the right direction to find the products we required and suggesting firms that could reliably fit them.Nick was quick to reply and very detailed in his advice.Highly recommend reaching out to them.
Cathy GreenwoodCathy Greenwood
07:03 11 Sep 23
Update - A second email to nick for help on bifolds resulted in a detailed informative reply even on a Sunday ! This guy is so knowledgable and helpful .I approached Nick for an independent view on sliding doors v bifold and the different brand options . His reply was extremely detailed and prompt and allowed me to navigate this often confusing world in a much more informed way . Thanks so much Nick
Anthony CraigAnthony Craig
12:45 05 Sep 23
This is a must site for anyone looking for advice. Great service and very quick answers to questions. Nick has been of great help quiding us through the maze of aluminium products. Thank you
Philip DuffieldPhilip Duffield
20:24 26 Jul 23
I contacted Nick @ ATS for guidance on what aluminium sliding door systems would be suitable for an opening in an extension that is going to be both wide and tall. He came back really quickly with very detailed and incredibly helpful advice. He is clearly extremely knowledgeable about the systems on the market and their respective features and capabilities. If you’re feeling a bit lost by the overwhelming range of choices out there, I’d definitely recommend contacting him.
Dariush HekmatDariush Hekmat
17:25 19 Jul 23
Nick's advice is great. He is always quick to respond and spends time on responses, which really help to make an informed decision.
Alan FosterAlan Foster
07:51 12 Jul 23
Absolutely fantastic. Asked for advice about replacing Crittall (?) windows late last night and early this morning received 3 great suggestions and contact information for suppliers
Rachel LauRachel Lau
09:24 16 Jun 23
Fantastic website full of valuable and pragmatic advice about product selection and comparison: no other website gives information like this. Truly written for public interest. Don't hesistate to reach out to Nick via the mailing system. He responds very quickly, is friendly, and has very sound and high knowledgable advice. I have already shared this with my friend planning her own grand design.
guard Charlieguard Charlie
12:28 14 May 23
I emailed this company just on the off chance they could help me with new magnetic sliders for my patio door. They were not able to supply those but were so very helpful providing me with the name of a company who could. I am so very grateful at the great service. Dare say customers must be very happy. thank you so much.
Benjamin LewisBenjamin Lewis
10:06 04 May 23
Nick is very helpful indeed. Extremely knowledgeable on bifolds which was in relation to my query. Great website as well, some very useful articles. Particularly appreciated the article that lists all the major bifold options in order of their sightlines! Thank you!
P JonesP Jones
08:07 15 Apr 23
I asked Nick some questions about an installation we were considering and he replied within hours with some very useful suggestions that will probably lead us to using a different make and supplier. Thanks, Nick. Great work.
Nicholas WallNicholas Wall
13:18 02 Apr 23
Looking for fair and honest expert advice on all aspect of aluminium windows and doors? These guys will arm you with all the information you need to make the RIGHT choice in a highly complex, crowded marketplace. post a question and you will get a very quick professional answer you can rely on being based on fact. Thanks guys!
Giorgia SiriacoGiorgia Siriaco
16:25 21 Mar 23
After a lot of research to find doors that would meet our unusual size requirements and feeling increasingly uncertain about the best way to spend our small budget, I stumbled on the ATS website, and I'm so glad I did! I contacted ATS to request advice and Nick promptly replied with a wealth of information, providing us with options and relevant contact details. I only wish I'd found them sooner!
Carol NortonCarol Norton
10:01 17 Mar 23
I've been so confused about how to achieve the look I'm after, and going round in circles with various window/door companies, trying to get away from the huge chunks of plastic currently around my windows. I didn't expect an email to a company found through a Google search to really help - but I was desperate, so I tried. I'm SO glad I did. Finally I have clear explanations from ATS of where I've been going wrong, exactly what I'm looking for, and a list of local companies that might be able to provide it! The response has excelled my expectations and I feel as if I'm finally inching closer to a home with which I'll be happy and comfortable: thank you.
David NunnDavid Nunn
20:54 14 Mar 23
It is rare that I write reviews, however after my very positive communication with Nick - enquiring about suitable slim sash aluminium windows for my project, I felt that a review was definitely warranted. I can reinforce the many positive reviews posted so far, Nick was very quick to respond, providing comprehensive detail, with excellent independent advice.In summary, great service, thank you Nick.
Chantal AuerbachChantal Auerbach
13:04 09 Mar 23
Nick from Aluminium Trade Supply was incredibly helpful informative and pleasant to deal with. He responded quickly to emails and was very knowledgeable. Highly recommend being in touch with Nick if you are considering new aluminium windows or doors.
Lee JonesLee Jones
20:21 22 Feb 23
I dropped Nick at Aluminium Trade Supply an email re high security slim sightline bi-folds and their alternatives and he responded that quickly (and so comprehensively) that I felt bad I’d not paid him for his time!Nick Sir your product knowledge is outstanding and you are providing a level of service that goes wayyyy above and beyond expectations. I’ll definitely make sure I mention Aluminium Trade Supply to anyone I encounter looking for a fenestration solution 🙏🏼
G JG J
15:13 13 Feb 23
We are looking to replace some old UPVC patios doors with aluminium ones. The ATS website is a great source of advice in an area where clear information is sorely lacking. Having used the website, I then followed this up with a number of specific questions relating to our search, and Nick came back very quickly with clear, detailed and very useful advice.I have been very impressed with both the website and with Nick's advice. My only regret is that I didn't come across ATS before replacing various windows in 2021 - I'm sure it would have saved me a lot of grief and money! Thanks again Nick.
Azza McCabeAzza McCabe
17:47 01 Feb 23
So impressed with this company.Responded to my query quickly andgave valuable advice. Nick was extremely helpful and we were able to move forward with our project.
Adri LoloçiAdri Loloçi
11:21 08 Jan 23
Nick was super fast to respond and provided some great recommendations. I would recommend this website to anyone looking to find bifold or sliding aluminium doors.
Stephen HoustonStephen Houston
16:16 03 Jan 23
Looking for aluminium crittall style internal door and external patio French doors. Noted good reviews and thought would ask for advice. Comprehensive reply with excellent independent advice and lists of fitters who could provide products and installation. Great service.
Inga GeachInga Geach
08:25 21 Dec 22
Nick from Aluminium Trade Supply has been extremely helpful with navigating the jungle that is aluminium glazing for our upcoming extension project. His advice was prompt, detailed and always impartial. Very grateful for your input, thanks Nick!
Amanda BurtonAmanda Burton
10:54 16 Dec 22
Brilliant website and an excellent service. Nick provided not only detailed advice and supplier contacts, but highlighted the considerations of various products so I could make an informed choice. Our Sunvista minimal sliders were fitted this week and I couldn't be happier, stunning. Thanks once again for your advice and recommendations, invaluable!
Keith BarnesKeith Barnes
17:18 10 Dec 22
Very helpful advice given to my question, including the name of 3 different companies that i could try for the product being enquired about. Many thanks
Munim ChowdhuryMunim Chowdhury
11:45 13 Sep 22
Nick has been very helpful on signposting me to a number of partner organisations for steel/aluminium doors.
SUSAN wallaceSUSAN wallace
17:26 31 Aug 22
My experience with this firm was exceptionally good and this is notalways the case as a female, dipping a toe into technical waters.I was spoken too with courtesy and at a level that helped me consolidate what was needed .On top of that I was given a list of companies and places where I could obtain the type of product I needed.I could not thank them enough and would certainly go there again and reccommend others do too.
Paul SalterPaul Salter
22:39 22 Aug 22
Contacting Aluminium Trade Supply is like contacting the Oracle direct. Advice is always comprehensive and balanced. On multiple occasions they have provided me with options that fully meet our objectives. Many thanks.
Nick McCormackNick McCormack
20:25 14 Aug 22
Really helpful and useful came back to me on a Sunday with some invaluable information. Highly recommended.
ray addisonray addison
13:14 14 Aug 22
received a prompt reply to my query,and helpful information from ATS
js_loader