Why Paint Fades and How Clear Coating
Can Restore It’s Color and Protect From Sun Damage

Success of a self-storage operation depends on the right location, but most owners would agree having a positive public image is also essential.

That’s why successful operators are always searching for simple, effective, yet inexpensive ways to make a great first impression on prospective customers.

Landscaping, lighting, physical layout, office décor all play a role, but clean, shiny and new looking paint is still the single most important element in the “curb appeal” package. If you ever want to sell your house, one of the first things a good realtor will advise you do is get a NEW paint job because it represents a small investment with a big payback. Image IS everything!

So what’s the best way to restore and maintain a highly desirable appearance on roll up doors, fascia, signage, metal gates, gutters, fencing and any other painted surfaces at
your facility? Should you repaint, or are there other cost effective alterna-tives that would serve your needs as well or better?

You need to repaint if:

  • You want to change the color scheme for a new business image;
  • The pigment is worn to the point where you can see primer showing through;
  • There is surface rust or staining that cannot be cleaned without damaging the surface aesthetics;
  • There are significant surface scratches, or if the paint is peeling or cracking.

If the surface is intact, though badly faded from oxidation, your facility is an excellent candidate for clear coat refurbishing. The process involved is simple yet provides long- term protection that is quick and easy to renew (whenever necessary) for a lifetime of trouble-free service.

Paint Terminology
To help you make a fully informed decision, let’s begin by taking the mystery out of what paint is made of. All colored paints have three primary ingredients: a binder, a carrier sol-vent and pigment(s).

Binder is what holds the paint together. It is the resin or combination of resins chosen by the formulator to offer the desired cost, quality, performance profile of the finished product. These resin choices are virtually unlimited.

However, over the last 25 years the most popular family of resins has been the one you’ve probably most familiar with – 100% acrylics.

Some companies make a big deal out of calling their binder or resin a

“polymer” to try to make their coating seem “special. ” However, polymer is just a generic term to describe resin. Carrier is the solvent, either a petroleum distillate or water in which the resin(s) and pigment(s) are dissolved.

Yes, water, otherwise known as dihydrogen monoxide (try that bit of trivia on your friends) is a chemical solvent. After the carrier evaporates, the dry film of resin and pigment remains.

Pigment is nothing more than a finely ground mineral mined from the earth and dispersed into the paint. To be blunt, it’s really just colored dirt. And, if left exposed to the ele-ments without protection, it becomes the proverbial “dust in the wind.”

How Paint Ages: A Scientific Explanation:
Now that you know what paint is made of, let’s examine its life cycle: how paint ages, how it can be restored; and, what you can do to keep your property looking great while saving money.

The greatest single enemy of painted surfaces is primarily the intense UVA rays produced by the sun. Ultraviolet radiation breaks down the chemical bonds in the resin’s structure attacking its integrity through a process called “photo-oxidation” (translation: light induced damage).

Radiant energy attacks the layer of protective resin(s) in your paint until it’s like an umbrella full of tiny holes.

This process takes place at the microscopic level where you won’t see it until sufficient stress is placed on the bonds of the molecular chain that forms your resin to cause it to erode and eventually become porous.

This porosity is the weakest link in the chain holding the paint system together.

Now the real damage begins and becomes apparent. Both the oxygen required for oxidation and moisture penetrates into these open pores and attacks the paint from behind, where it has no protection and eventually lays bare the pigment to burn in the sun.

So, what to do now? First, you must clean the surface by vigorously brushing and then thoroughly rinsing off a liquid cleaning solution capable of removing all existing oxidation, grime or chemical contamination.

The surface will now be both mechanically and chemically clean. This is critical to both initial appearance and coating longevity.

When dry, you can apply a clear penetrating coating to surround the pigment, restore moisture to it and seal all the fissures created by the weather damage.

Depending solely on how well formulated that clear coating is, color will be restored and a non-porous protective shield created.

To quickly see how good your faded paint can look and convince yourself there is no “magic” involved in the process, just get some cooking oil (Mazola works fine), and drizzle a capful onto the surface.

Don’t even bother with cleaning first. See how good anything that penetrates and re-wets the pigment makes paint look! Of course, the effect won’t last long because corn oil isn’t designed as a weather barrier.

So, what product should you use? There are many choices available to vastly differing quality, performance capabilities and price. Now that you are armed with knowledge on the subject, you should fully investigate and test any products that interest you before deciding on doing a refurbishing project. You might try a few samples of the product, and contact other owners to get their opinions and how it may have worked for them.



I hope this article has offered you some useful insights into the world of paints and maintaining their appearance. For even more information on the subject, a three-page tutorial with detailed instructions and time saving tips for proper surface cleaning (no matter what coating you decide to use) is available for free. Simply make an information request at:

This article originally appeared in Texas Mini Storage Association in the March Issue 2002 and was authored by William Rice