What is the difference between paint and coatings systems?

If you have hired a commercial painter to paint your building or been involved with a building renewal project you’ve likely heard the term “coatings system” and wondered, “What is that? You mean paint right? ” Great questions. There is a significant difference between paint and coatings systems and each has a specific purpose.

All paints are technically coatings, but not all coatings are paints. The primary goal of both is to protect and enhance the surface to which they are applied but they have different characteristics and applications that distinguish them. Let’s take a look at the features and benefits of each system type.

Paint Vs Coatings System Exterior Result

What is a paint system?

Paint is primarily used for aesthetic purposes, to add color and finish to a surface, but it also provides a certain degree of protection. Paint systems can be water-based, oil-based, or enamel, and they come in a wide range of colors and finishes. Paint is typically thinner than other coatings and may require multiple coats for adequate coverage and protection.


Paint systems are commonly used in residential and commercial buildings for both interior and exterior applications. Paint systems can be applied to most substrates including wood, metal, concrete and stucco and are applied using a brush, roller, or sprayer. Most paint systems include a primer, base coat and top coat.

Primer Coat

The primer coat adheres to the surface and provides “bite” for the base coat to adhere to. Primer is also used to help prevent corrosion on metal, tannin stains on wood and efflorescence on substrates like stucco and concrete.

Base coat

The base coat or first coat, is applied to further seal the surface, build millimeter thickness and introduce color. Base coats are also applied by brush roller or sprayer and typically require 4 – 24 hours to dry and cure.

Top Coat

The top coat or second coat, is applied to further build millimeter thickness, protect the substrate and “lock in” the color. Professional commercial painting contractors will apply top coats via sprayer to achieve a deficiency free finish. Sheens for paint systems range from Matte or flat, low luster, satin or pearl, semi-gloss and gloss.

Paint System Examples

Dulux Diamond Exterior

Dulux Diamond Exterior is a 100% acrylic high-build latex paint specifically designed to endure the constantly changing Canadian weather.

Dulux paint provides advanced UV protection and dirt resistance to keep  exterior colors looking fresh

It is made with fungicide to prevent deterioration by mold, fungus/mildew. Dulux paint colors tend to be long lasting and avoid corrosion and damage to the surface.


Diamond’s high film build allows for single coat application which in some cases is better than 2 coat application.

DULUX® DIAMOND™ Exterior paint and coatings systems

Sherwin Williams Emerald Exterior

Emerald Exterior premium paint acrylic latex paint is a two in one system that achieve excellent results when applied properly.

Sherwin Williams Emerald Exterior Acrylic Latex Paint paint and coatings systems

Application of this high-quality paint and primer can get long-lasting results

Emerald offers a uniformly smooth finish, easy application, and premium performance.

It provides a mildew-resistant covering as well as resistance to blistering, peeling, fading, and dirt absorption.

What is a coating system?

Paint is included in the broader term “coating,” which also refers to a range of other materials. Coatings are frequently made to offer stronger or more specialized protection than paint. 

Coating systems may need special application techniques, such as powder coating (which is applied as a dry powder and then heated to form a solid coat) or thermal spray coating (where the coating material is melted and sprayed onto the surface). Coating systems are frequently thicker and more stronger than paints. These systems are frequently employed in commercial and industrial environments, substrate renewal and repair projects, and on weather-exposed structures like bridges.

Specific coating systems are formulated for waterproofing on high rises and containers, membranes for flat surfaces including deck, patios,  balconies, floors and parkades, and metal surfaces for rust inhibition.

Coating System Examples

MasterSeal Vehicular Traffic 1500

MasterSeal Vehicular Traffic 1500 is a Polyurethane waterproofing, membrane system used for parking or vehicular areas, exposed deck and balconies on high rise towers. Primer coat is not usually required which can help to reduce labor and material costs. This seamless elastomeric membrane offers excellent strength and superior abrasion resistance.

Masterseal offer a high chloride resistance prohibiting intrusion and prolonging the life of the steel reinforcing.

It has the added benefit of being Waterproof which helps to protect substrates like concrete from freeze damage.

The system is skid resistant to promote safety, Recoatable and repairable to increase the system’s usable life.

MasterSeal Vehicular Traffic 1500 paint and coatings systems

PPG PSX 805 and 800

Compared to other polysiloxane coatings, PSX® 800 and PSX 805 coatings for steel and metal surfaces offer higher flexibility and hiding performance.

PSX products have increased flexibility, allowing them to resist stress cracking that is frequently seen in demanding steel, tank exterior, and building external applications. Metal surfaces with the PSX 805 coating offer a long-lasting satin-sheen finish that hides flaws.

Metal structures and siding, structural steel, outside lighting fixtures, signage, storage tanks, metal railings, bridges, and completed metal parts are some examples of typical applications.

Paint Vs Coating System Checklist

DescriptionPaint SystemCoating System
Aesthetics
Interior Exterior
DurabilityVariable
Flexibility and ElongationVariable
Protection from WeatheringVariable
Waterproofing
High Build mm thicknessVariable
Industrial and Light Industrial
UV resistanceVariable
Dirt pick up resistance
Advanced Adhesion



If you are wondering which paint or coating system is best for your building renewal project, we can help. Connect with us at  604.420.5552 or [email protected].

Wolfgang Commercial Painters specializes in Interior Painting, Exterior Painting, Restoration, Specialty Coatings.

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