The general term coating is used here for any fluid organic material used to provide a continuous coat or cover on furniture and woodwork. It includes both clear or lightly coloured coatings commonly called varnishes and pig-mented coatings called paints. Coatings may be applied to protect the surface of an object but are often of the utmost importance in themselves since it is the outer film or finish that visually represents an object to the viewer. Coatings are often encountered as systems of surface decoration (e.g. gilding, lacquer) rather than single materials. Therefore, a discussion of the general nature, function and properties of coatings is followed by an account of the structure of some common types of surface decoration and the preparations making up the layers found in them. This discussion covers primarily those coatings intended for interior use.
In summary, there are several properties of materials that are generically important to their function as coatings. Surface coatings are required to provide protection against handling and soiling and against damage caused by dust and atmospheric pollution. They should also impede the passage of water vapour, oxygen and prevent certain wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. The coating must adhere well to the surface it is to protect. The cohesion and elasticity of surface coatings should allow for all ordinary changes in humidity and temperature of the air and preserve the elasticity of paint films under them. The coating should add to, rather than detract from, the appearance of the object and its colour, clarity, gloss and freedom from defects, such as bloom and wrinkling, are thus of paramount importance.
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