You see alucobond panels on buildings everywhere, but probably don’t know much about them. Today we’re going to dive into their makeup, how to clean them and the restoration process used to make them look like new again.
Our Alucobond Cleaning & Restoration Introduction
When we were awarded our first alucobond cleaning job more than 25 years ago, it was a learning process we’ll never forget. It set us on a path into commercial metal restoration as a whole and eventually established Presto Restoration as a leader in alucobond panel cleaning, protection, and restoration.
Below we’ll examine the various aluminum composite panel types, the difference between cleaning and restoration, and the various means and methods used in the two processes. We hope by the end you’ll have a better understanding of what’s involved and why it takes a professional with the right products to restore damaged panels.
What is Alucobond?
Let’s start with a definition: Alucobond is the original aluminum composite material (ACM) panel, a.k.a. an “aluminum sandwich panel.” It’s made of two sheets of smooth .020” aluminum that’s thermobonded to a solid, fire-retardant core. It’s designed to allow architects and designers to meet current fire performance requirements set by the International Building Code (IBC).
Alucobond is extremely weatherproof, break-proof, vibration-damping, and impact-resistant and is easy and fast to install.
Just like Xerox, Band-Aid, and Google were brand names that turned into common household names for any copying, bandage, or search engine product, the term Alucobond is typically used for all ACM panels, including those made by Reynobond, Pacific Panels or, more recently, a variety of overseas manufacturers.
So, as you read on, keep in mind we’ll be using the term “alucobond” throughout this piece to refer to any aluminum composite panels installed on commercial buildings across the country. Everything we talk about here regarding cleaning and restoration is true for just about any ACM panel on the market.
The Alucobond Cleaning & Restoration Process
While alucobond panels are weatherproof, they still can become stained over time due to air pollutants, precast leaching, biological growth such as mold, and other stain-forming factors. These stains cannot be removed by standard cleaning procedures.
No matter what type of alucobond cleaning & restoration a contractor performs, it’s important to understand and consider the wide variety of finishes the panels come in. The primary finishes on alucobond panels are polyvinylidene fluoride, fluoropolymer resins, and polyester paint. When it comes time to clean and/or restore the panels, these three coatings exhibit varying degrees of hardness which usually makes it impossible to use the same process on each coating. To compound the challenge, dark color panels often show superfine scratches more readily.
Most panel manufacturers recommend using a really soft applicator like a sponge or window cleaning mop with a mild detergent like dishwash or other surfactant-based cleaners to clean the surface. More often than not, that doesn’t work and here’s why.
In a perfect world, building owners and managers would faithfully clean the alucobond panels every six months, when the windows were cleaned. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case. Instead, the panels go as long as a decade or more without any type of maintenance. That’s when simple alucobond cleaning is no longer an option.
A Better Alucobond Cleaning & Restoration Solution
Alucobond manufacturers do not make a distinction between the processes for cleaning and restoring ACM panels. We’ve seen countless specs for restoration projects that list the manufacturer’s recommendations in the bid documents. But this scope of work simply isn’t good enough to produce acceptable results on panels that are a decade old and where atmospheric and UV damage has actually degraded the coating’s surface.
When panels can’t be cleaned and can only reach optimal appearance with restoration, there are two ways to do it:
- Abrasive methods
- Pigmented or clear coatings
The problem with abrasive methods can be found in their name: the abrasives used always scratch the surface. In most case, the scratches are too fine to be seen by the naked eye, but, depending on the finish, even the finest abrasives produce some sort of visual distortion on the panels.
When Presto Restoration undertakes an alucobond cleaning & restoration project, we make sure to performance-test the process we intend to use to ensure the desired results are achieved on the entire building. Restoration test area results are examined to determine how much better the panel looks when compared to alucobond cleaning alone. In many cases, the restoration process restores panels to their original condition.
In cases where the alucobond restoration is not producing desirable results, (i.e., there are visible scratches or the coating on the panel has been worn down to bare metal), clear coatings can be applied after cleaning & restoration to hide a wide range of coating damages. Our products contain high-performance silicone and acrylic coatings that offer durable, long-lasting protection on metal surfaces. The results are overall beautiful.
There are cases where the only viable solution is to use new pigmented coating on the building’s ACM panels. This is necessary when the factory coating has failed all the way through or has been previously restored and that restoration is only showing the aluminum surface underneath. The disadvantage to this type of application is it usually requires future maintenance/re-application sooner than a bare panel does.
We hope this in-depth look at alucobond cleaning & restoration helps commercial building owners and managers understand some of the differences between the various ACM panels, the reason why aluminum panel restoration is required, and how facade restoration is accomplished.
Restoring Your Alucobond Panels
With over 25 years of experience serving commercial clients of all sizes, Presto is the trusted local name in alucobond panel restoration. We recently completed a project that included restoring the surface finish on glass, metal, and stone. You can read about many of our recent projects in our portfolio.
Are the composite metal panels on your building in need of restoration? Contact us for a free alucobond cleaning consultation today.
Call 1-800-785-9927 or Request A Quote.