Better Understand the Finish Options Available for Updating Existing Architectural Aluminum-framed Windows and Doors

Economists and commercial developers advise caring for existing assets offers the greatest return on investment. Historic preservationists and environmental experts add that the most sustainable property is the one that is never built. Coupling these reminders with a renewed focus on resiliency, many building owners are choosing to retrofit and renovate.

FRANKLIN TOWER RESIDENCES had been a concrete, office tower. The 1980s structure was re-clad in energy-efficient glass and thermally improved aluminum framing. The majority of window, curtainwall and entrance systems were finished in a Bright Silver color using a four-coat metallic 70 percent PVDF resin-based architectural coating.

Replacing, repairing and restoring existing window and door systems are among the strategic improvements that help extend a property’s life and value. Aluminum is the most common framing material for commercial buildings’ curtainwall, storefront, windows, skylights, doors, entrances and other fenestration systems. Both anodize and painted coatings can offer a long-lasting finish for architectural aluminum products, and each has its own characteristics and benefits. There are two main finishing types for aluminum products in exterior applications: 70 percent polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) resin-based painted coatings and anodize finishes.

Whether the building’s finish has faded and discolored after years of use or an architectural aluminum product has been damaged during construction, fenestration product manufacturers and finishing service providers can help ensure the project’s aesthetic, performance and environmental goals are met.

For onsite renovation and field repair of fenestration components, licensed applicators can repaint the aluminum framing and products on an entire building. Small sections of painted aluminum framing also may be touched up, but material with an anodize finish must be replaced.


Finishes that offer a unique appearance, texture or resilient weathering performance provide a strategic advantage in appealing to owners and occupants who want their buildings to have an enduring, architectural statement.

For an eye-catching, dynamic finish choice, architectural aluminum systems painted with mica and metallic coatings bring sparkle, shimmer and shine to practically any color. The reflective quality of these specialty coatings appears to change throughout the day and seasons.

After analyzing the finish on the former Kemper Arena’s existing glazing systems, the finishing service provider’s in-house color laboratory customized a
“Super White” color to match the owner’s and historic review committee’s approved appearance.

Anodize finishes emphasize the natural metallic look of aluminum. Clear and black anodize are the most popular. Until recently, the color palette for architectural anodize finishes has been very limited. Bronze and champagne tones have been expanded to include copper anodize and bordeaux anodize.

A tactile quality is imparted to coatings by adding fine aggregate. Textured terra-cotta painted colors gain authenticity with a gritty stone-like feel.

Spattercoat finishes can deliver the appearance of marble, stone, brick or other materials. The paint spatters can be many or few, large or small, thick or thin to produce the desired 3D textured effect.

When one of the 50,000 colors or available specialty finishes still do not quite fit the project’s requirements, finishers with an in-house blending laboratory can scan samples of anything from a piece of metal to a swatch of fabric and formulate the recipe of tints and bases to create a match. Paint coatings can align with an organizational logo, school colors, team uniforms or company brand.

Finishing service providers with computer- controlled mix-and-match color systems and quality-assurance processes must be approved partners with high-performance paint manufacturers. These systems, processes and partnerships not only achieve a precisely verified color match, but do so with confidence that the color will be consistent and meet the paint specification for the project’s requirements.

About the Author

Heather West
Heather West is a Minneapolis-based writer and owner of Heather West Public Relations. High-performance, environmentally responsible products and services, and well-designed projects have been her topics of interest for more than 30 years.

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