To powder coat or not to powder coat. … Whether ‘tis better to galvanize steel ...
Not exactly the profound questions William Shakespeare’s Hamlet once asked. But they’re still important if protecting metal is your aim. Hamlet had trouble finding a sure conclusion to his problem. Hopefully we can answer your questions about galvanized vs powder coated cost, durability, and other considerations.
Galvanized Vs Powder Coated: Cost & Other Clear Differences
So how are hot-dip galvanizing and powder coating different?
Hot-dip galvanizing -- where the metal component is thoroughly cleaned and prepped then dipped in molten zinc -- has its perks. For example, it forms a thick, protective layer that can last 100 years.
Zinc corrodes at a much slower pace than the underlying metal. Like a character in a tragic play, it sacrifices itself over time so the metal underneath lasts much longer than it would otherwise.
Powder coating deposits a barrier layer that guards against corrosive elements. As long as the layer isn’t breached, the coating does a good job. It’s also environmentally friendly, with no volatile organic compounds (unlike traditional paint) and very little waste.
The Price Point
There’s more to think about here than your standard galvanized vs powder coated cost argument. At the outset, galvanizing steel will probably be cheaper. Galvanized metal also needs less maintenance than other alternatives.
That said, powder coating gives you a tough, protective finish that needs little maintenance, except maybe a touch-up with paint if a chip happens.
If you’re looking for less expensive protection, and you don’t care about looks or you even like the looks of galvanization, you can save some up-front and long-term costs. If you like color, though, it’s probably worth it to go with powder coating.
The Prettiness Component
There are times when color counts. In decorative applications, powder coating might be the best choice because it comes in a virtually endless array of colors (though some cost more than others).
Zinc is gray. Some people might think it’s gorgeous, and in some applications, it can be the best choice. It has a textured appearance that can be quite attractive in certain places.
But if color is the question, powder coating is the answer.
The Durability Conundrum
People in the know go round and round about this one. Does galvanizing or powder coating protect longer and better?
It’s true that galvanizing leaves a thicker layer to guard against corrosion. And it can last 100+ years. But a good powder coat can hang on for a long time, too.
It has been shown that a powder coat can retain its integrity and good looks for many decades, even when the environment presents a lot of challenges, such as:
- Extreme temperatures
- Harsh sunlight
- Other chemicals
So the rule of thumb might be this: If you’re planning to use the metal in a place it will be frequently stabbed, jabbed, or whacked -- resulting in dents, scratches, and cracks -- it might be best to go with galvanizing.
The Double Whammy
Clearly, both galvanizing and powder coating give you lots of benefits, when used correctly. And neither presents many drawbacks. So why not use both?
It’s not a bad solution, if you want to spend a bit more money in the beginning. After all, you get all the benefits of that nice, thick, slow-corroding layer of zinc PLUS a powder coating that slows the zinc’s corrosion down even more. Your metal will also look nicer.
The Bottom Line
In the end, the scorecards for galvanizing and powder coating come out about even. Here are the standings in the powder coating vs galvanizing steel debate:
- Lots of colors
- Excellent protection for up to many decades
- A little less durable, but only under certain conditions
- Gives the environment a break
- Less expensive
- Less colorful
- Can last more than 100 years
- Easy to apply to prepared metal
Your Source for Answers?
The choice between galvanizing and powder coating can be obvious. When it isn’t, the best course is to talk with a reputable metal fabricator and get some advice.
The decision will have long-term consequences -- and that can be a very good thing if it’s the right one. If not, you may have a Shakespearean-level tragedy on your hands.