Prime Coat Coating Systems

The partner for solution-driven decorative and defensive coatings in Illinois
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Sean O’Reilly

In Waukegan, Illinois — and recently launched in Las Vegas — Prime Coat Coating Systems serves as the single source for custom-fit solutions in decorative and defensive coatings that stand the test of time, wear and tear. Prime Coat’s high performance polymer coating systems protect walls, ceilings, floors and other surfaces. Although nearly every surface in any facility can benefit from a Prime Coat system, the company’s main market includes institutions such as correctional facilities, research facilities and hospitals.

A different approach and rapid growth

Chris O’Brien, founder and CEO of Prime Coat, established the business out of his parent’s garage in 1990. Since then, the company has grown through a business model that is entirely different from others in the industry, allowing Prime Coat to better serve customers with long-lasting, valuable solutions.

“We offer decorative and defensive coatings from a single source and we manufacture and install specialty coatings all over the country,” explains O’Brien. “We follow a unique process whereby we engineer and manufacture the coatings, perform the field testing when needed, and then install the approved coating system with our own crews. We’re the sole source of responsibility for the product’s performance and that means a meaningful warranty and no finger pointing.”

“Usually a manufacturer gets his product specified and then has a few of his contractors bid the work,” continues O’Brien.” This works sometimes, but all too often the material specified is not correct and/or the contractor lacks the experience to perform the work correctly, resulting in a coating failure. This is when the finger pointing begins and the lawsuits arise. By working closely with architects, engineers and owners to design coating solutions, we get to know the issues, expectations and performance criteria intimately. A few companies pretend to do all that we do, but in the end what we do is truly unique.”

Prime Coat performs all of its own sales and marketing, generating all of its own leads. But with a solution-driven approach, the company has had no problem garnering business. “The first application I developed was a fiberglass epoxy for an animal testing facility,” recounts O’Brien. “We ran it through a test period and eventually the company hired us to do the coatings in all of their kennels. It wasn’t long before we realized the same system also worked great in any number of facilities and business began to take off.”

In 1996, Michael Ballou, a third-generation coating specialist, and Raymond O’Brien, a former vice president of a national construction company, joined the business. With this core team in place, Prime Coat began to build a trusted name in the industry.

“From 1996 to 2004, we grew at an average rate of 62 percent a year,” notes O’Brien. “In 2005, Prime Coat grew by more than 50 percent and we became best in class in two market segments.”

Business continues to mount for Prime Coat and the company has added a new location in Las Vegas. “We now have more than 80 employees,” adds O’Brien.

Built to last

Prime Coat now serves customers in a range of markets: pharmaceutical, animal care and animal research, corrections, food and beverage, education, retail, commercial and more. “Our consultants understand the unique needs of facility owners, managers, architects, engineers and general contractors,” says O’Brien.

Prime Coat offers a number of targeted solutions, including Prime Seamless, a patented system incorporating 360 degrees of protection from floor to ceiling; Prime Guard, installed using brush, roll and spray methods on walls, ceilings, floors and structural systems; Prime Cast, incorporating broadcast aggregates and other decorative fillers to create a finished appearance; Prime Armor and Prime Flex, a flexible urethane and epoxy system for walls, ceilings and floors.

Prime Coat’s wide-ranging applications have allowed O’Brien and his team to travel to many different sites. “We converted a 75-year-old meat locker into MRE storage for the California National Guard,” he recounts. “We rebuilt the dilapidated concrete substrates from floor to ceiling and the end finish looked like a clean room. Our customer was blown away.”

Across the country in Boston, Prime Coat designed and executed a waterproof shower system for a county jail. “The control room was positioned right underneath the shower area and the walls were leaking,” says O’Brien. “The prison tried to fix it numerous times with no success so we came in and removed the existing stainless showers, risers, drains, etc. We then repaired the structural concrete slab, waterproofed the walls and floors, poured new shower bases, designed and installed new enclosures and applied our patented Seamless System to the entire shower enclosure. The customer was very pleased with this project.”

In some instances, Prime Coat can deliver anywhere from 15 to 20 coatings systems all in one facility. Such an example is seen in Indio, California, in a brand new prison facility. The $5 million project includes coatings Prime Coat has developed in-house, spanning a variety of surfaces across the entire facility. “If every area requires a different type of material, we can create a solution that works,” says O’Brien.

O’Brien says his team is constantly searching for the next innovative solution. “For me, the research and development part and then seeing that solution work for a customer — that’s the best part of this business,” he says. Floor to ceiling, top to bottom, Prime Coat Coatings Systems has customers covered as the single source for custom-fit decorative and defensive coatings that stand the test of time.

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