Building Contractors Switch 
to 
Polyether-Based 
Sealants and Adhesives
for Performance, 
Safety and Low VOCs
With key advantages over urethane and silicone-based options, 
polyether-based products are impacting the entire building envelope 
– from rooftop to pavement.
 
Polyether-based sealants and adhesives, the advanced formulation polymers that have overtaken urethane and silicone products in Japan and Europe, are becoming the new standard among U.S. architects and contractors for use throughout the entire building envelope from foundation to roof.
 
Since being designated by the Adhesive Sealant Council as a unique category of products last year, the use of polyether-based sealants has nearly doubled for both new construction and repair work. The driving forces behind this increased popularity are the superior performance and environmental compliance characteristics of polyether based sealants and adhesives compared with many urethane- and silicone-type products.
 
“Polyether-based adhesives and sealants are water-cured, and contain no solvents, explains engineering consultant Richard Boone, president of Construction Support Services (Centennial, CO). “Therefore they have no shrinkage, possess excellent adhesion properties and are very durable yet retain excellent flexibility.”
 
And because these advanced sealants and adhesives contain no solvents, they produce very few VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). That is not only an environmental benefit, but also makes polyether-based products compliant with increasingly stringent local and state VOC regulations.
 
VOCs are substances that evaporate into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change, chronic respiratory disorders and cancer. Many sealants that produce VOCs are also flammable, produce irritating odors and tend to degrade over time.
 
Rewriting the book
Boone, a longtime engineer, specifier and compounder, chairs the committee that is chartered to develop an ASTM standard for polyether-based sealing materials.
 
Boone says that although the initial acceptance of polyether-based adhesives and sealants was based on roof work, these products are now increasingly popular wherever there are joints, seams or laminations, including wall panels, windows, doors, pavements and counter tops.
 
“The polyether backbone, which is a long-chain hydrocarbon, is very stable,” explains Boone. “The long chain makes it inherently resistant to the effects of weather, so you don't need to mix in a lot of other stabilizing chemicals to make it durable. The water-based cure system creates a very strong bond, so these polyether sealants and adhesives will adhere to virtually all surfaces. That property enables these products to hold tight and makes them applicable to seams and joints throughout construction and repair projects.”
 
Once a polyether-based sealant or adhesive is applied, it reacts with moisture in the air and cross-links to form a tough, long lasting, flexible chain.  It cures rapidly, adheres to a wide range of materials, meets the toughest standards for joint movement, won't shrink and won't suntan.
 
Boone cites the work of Chem Link Advanced Architectural Products (Schoolcraft, MI) in developing and popularizing the use of polyether compounds throughout the United States and the development of a variety of products that address assorted adhesive and sealant requirements throughout the building envelope.
 
“What Chem Link has done is take a polymer that is known for having an excellent basis for adhesives and sealants and then created formulas that allow you to do an enormous amount of different tasks very well,” Boone explains. “By careful compounding and blending of different ingredients, the company has virtually rewritten the book, developing a range of products that offer distinct advantages for applications involving seams throughout the building structure.”
 
No more shrinkage
“Our initial interest in polyether-based adhesives and sealants was the fact that they don't shrink, as many solvent-based urethane and silicone products do,” says Paul Graham of manufacturers' rep firm Moore Graham Sales, Inc. (Granbury, TX), “If they shrink, they leak, because water simply runs behind the material. And, of course, that causes major damage and other problems.”
 
Polyether-based adhesives and sealants are cured by water it draws from the air, so there are no solvents to evaporate and cause shrinkage. Because these products cure from the top down and the bottom up, they are watertight and fairly durable within 10-20 minutes, though they typically take two to three weeks to completely cure when, as Graham notes, they become hard as a hockey puck but remain “remarkably” flexible.
 
“The material is also easy to work with, seals better and lasts longer. We have not had a single callback, which is notable in our industry,” he said.
 
The power of green
Graham adds that although the polyether adhesives and sealants were initially popular because of their superior performance properties, its no-solvent chemistry has added to sales more recently.
 
“The green aspect of the polyether-based, one-part product wasn't so important in the past, but it is important now,” confirms Boone. “In the case of the Chem Link products, you're using material that is 100 percent solid. You are dealing with no solvent release, almost no VOCs and no objectionable odors. You can safely work with these materials inside the building as well as outside.”
 
Boone adds that using these products contractors don't have to worry about confined spaces, flammability or that they will contaminate some other material. “These polyether-based materials are very safe for the worker in the work environment and then ultimately safe for the building occupants both during and after construction,” he said.

For more information, contact Chem Link at (269) 679-4440; 
By email at 
 gnelson@chemlinkinc.com
or visit the web site: 
www.chemlink.com



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