Out with plaster, epoxy, tile, and fiberglass; in with a new breed of seamless, spray-on, waterproof, protective coatings that enable custom water feature, architectural decor, and themed prop design options.

As the old adage goes; if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. So, when Las Vegas' New York-New York Hotel and Casino recently replaced its largest reflection pool, the challenge for contractors was how to 'make it' stand out above the bright lights and eye catching architectural designs littering Las Vegas Boulevard – and stay on-budget.  The solution came with a cost effective way to install multiple water features using a seamless, spray-on, waterproof, protective coating.

“In high end hotels, resorts and homes, traditional plaster, epoxy, tile, and fiberglass materials have limited the design options and slowed project completion,” says Tim Singleton, a project manager at Water FX, a Las Vegas-based builder and renovator of dramatic pools, spas, water features, and thematic props, including the large reflection pool on the Strip.

As a solution to the dilemma, Water FX has turned to a new breed of seamless, spray-on, waterproof, protective coatings that dramatically expand the water feature, architectural decor, and themed prop design palette.

According to Singleton, pools and water features are traditionally lined with a plaster type material that is time consuming to apply and difficult to color consistently.  It may also require a waterproofing topcoat such as a two-part epoxy, which is similarly laborious to mix and apply in multiple coats, and does not always offer the desired design options.

“Plaster has to be troweled on by hand, which requires craftsmanship to get right, particularly on wavy, irregular, or angular surfaces,” says Singleton.  

Often this is followed by, or substituted with a two-part epoxy topcoat, which cannot be mixed too soon before it is applied.  Because epoxy has a short pot life, it typically must be mixed in small batches shortly before use, which is time consuming and leads to waste.

Singleton says that on a construction job the size of the large reflection pool, it would have required up to 20 men mixing and hand troweling plaster, coordinated with mixing and applying two-part epoxy coatings to complete the job in the necessary timeframe.

Instead, Water FX sprayed the reflection pool with an innovative polyurea coating, and decorative topcoat with six men in two days.  Large culverts directly below the vessel limited the depth of the reflection pool. The dark topcoat selected, according to Singleton, enabled the water feature to appear much deeper than its actual safety regulated 18-inch depth.  

“The GelFlex topcoat offers hundreds of UV stable colors, which allows you to match any color,” says Singleton.  “You get the look of multiple epoxy coatings in a single, seamless, durable waterproof topcoat without all the work and hassle.”

GelFlex is an aliphatic UV color stable, 100% solids, chemical resistant, polyurea topcoat by VersaFlex, a global supplier of high-performance polyurea coatings, liners and joint sealants for a wide variety of architectural design environments.  

As part of this protective, waterproof coating system, the GelFlex polyurea topcoat is typically applied over an aromatic pure polyurea basecoat, which serves as the main seamless waterproof membrane of the pool.  

The spray-applied polyurea basecoat membrane creates a seamless, waterproof, durable protective liner that stops leaks and strengthens the integrity of the entire structure.  The polyurea coatings exhibit superior physical properties such as high elongation, crack bridging, hardness, and tensile strength to create a robust, resilient, puncture resistant liner.  The coating system is designed to withstand, wide variations of temperature and humidity including decades of freeze-thaw cycling.

Since the polyurea products are quick setting and curing, they can be walked on in minutes.  This typically allows projects to be returned to service a few hours after application of the topcoat.  

The GelFlex topcoat is then spray applied over the polyurea waterproofing membrane at a 10-15mil thickness to provide color stability, high gloss and distinctness of image (DOI).  

Spraying of the polyurea basecoat and topcoat is achieved with a plural component spray gun connected to a long heated hose and pump machine.  Unlike a traditional two-part epoxy topcoat with a short pot life, the polyurea products’ components are mixed in the spray gun nozzle during application so there is no pre-mixing needed and essentially no waste in the process.

“No one really wants a boring white plaster pool, and two-part epoxies are limited in color too,” says Singleton.  “The polyurea topcoat can customize the design and color of swimming and decorative pools, ponds, fountains, water walls, waterfalls, and water features.  It is fun, for instance, to match the bright colors of kids water toy structures with complementary designs and colors in kids pools.”

The efficiencies achieved with the polyurea coating system are particularly significant compared to costly, labor intensive tiling and other traditional pool finishes.

“While a large vessel could take months to tile, using VersaFlex’s polyurea coating system and GelFlex topcoat we could save months and tens of thousands of dollars in application,” says Singleton.  “The maintenance savings would be significant as well because tile grout is susceptible to chemicals and notoriously hard to clean, while the polyurea topcoat is chemical resistant and easy to clean.”

Smooth Structural Strength, No Fiberglass VOCs and Long Cycle Times
Some pool bottoms use fiberglass for its smooth feel, and larger water features and slides also use it for its lightweight strength and ability to make stand alone complimentary and supplemental water features in and around pools. 
Yet fiberglass has significant drawbacks for the architectural design and contractor community.  Fiberglass emits hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during manufacture due to its resins and gelcoats, which typically contain styrene, a toxic air pollutant.  Some of the catalysts used in fiberglass production also contain toxic air pollutants.  As such, fiberglass is increasingly regulated by federal, state, and local agencies, particularly in California. 
Because of the limitations of fiberglass, proactive members of architectural design and contractor community like Water FX are looking beyond traditional materials.
“We see the design, safety, and turnaround possibilities of new materials like VersaFlex’s AroStruct to customize water feature, architectural décor, and themed prop designs,” says Singleton.
Like the GelFlex topcoat, AroStruct is a fast set, rapid curing, 100% solids, polyurea product with a many of the same, and a few unique benefits of the polyurea mentioned previously. 

However, AroStruct is usually applied as a basecoat and in many cases becomes the substrate due to its very rigid strength and structural characteristics, so it is essentially a safe and much more efficient replacement for standard fiberglass, not just in pools, but anywhere else fiberglass and gelcoats are used.  The structural polyurea, in fact, enhances the structural integrity of the substrates it is sprayed on like a suit of armor, albeit one that can receive a decorative topcoat like GelFlex. 
Unlike traditional fiberglass, the structural polyurea emits no VOCs, is chemical resistant, and can return projects to service in as little as one hour. 
“The structural polyurea is just as strong and lightweight as fiberglass, withstands sun, chemicals, and public abuse better, and is easier to work with,” says Singleton.  “Because it is sprayed onto substrates, it works easily into intricate shapes like waterfall rocks, water slides, and winding lazy river structures.”
“Architectural designers will find that AroStruct could serve as external, protective, structural support for a variety of decorative items – from columns and archways to lightweight thematic props mounted to walls or hung from ceilings,” says Singleton.
Water FX, for instance, would use the structural polyurea to protect the artistic, lightweight designs it creates out of softer materials, such as foam, for customers.
“Whether customers ask for pirates, mummies, or giant holiday ornaments hung from the ceiling, we see the structural polyurea as being an important part of that process,” concludes Singleton.  “Adding the expanded color palette of the GelFlex topcoat to that mix only expands the design possibilities.”
To watch an application video or get more info, visit www.versaflex.com; call 800-321-0906 toll free.