The authenticity of fibreglass products in Uganda

Fibreglass Playground Ground Equipment

After discovering the strength of the fibreglass building, the material is not only used for construction, but also for decorative purposes, writes Lydia Namono. (Daily Monitor)

When I asked a few colleagues if they knew what fibreglass was, they had no idea. But what was more surprising was that some sales people dealing in these products hardly knew that they had them in their showrooms. Well, that’s how rare fibreglass products are in Uganda.
You might easily confuse it with plastic; but it is not completely plastic. Simply stated, fibreglass is a material made of woven thread-like glass which is known as Glass Reinforced Polymer (GRP). In other words, it is formed from many small identical chemicals.

The basics 
According to Mr Shai Henkel, the Managing Director at Henkel Polymer Company Limited, “Fibreglass is a material made of thin strands of glass which are then embedded in a surrounding substance of resin (an artificial substance used as a basis of plastics).” As a structural and design component, fibreglass has grown from century to century because of its adverse uses in construction and furniture. There are about 30 to 40 designs of fibreglass in stone, 50 in wood and other special designs such as bamboo.

Currently, it’s used as finishing both internally and externally on walls, clear roofing sheets and ceilings. It is also used in automobiles such as ships, vehicle canopies as well as furniture in form of tables, chairs and children’s slides.

Its history
Fibreglass as a material was not known in the past. According to Mr Edward Dierckxsens, the sales manager at Multiple Industries Limited, a fibreglass building was made for exposition in the middle of the last century in United Kingdom. The building was so strong, it could not be demolished as they had anticipated; that is when the strength of fibreglass was discovered.

How fibreglass is made
Fibreglass is made by putting thin strands of glass into a mold, (a container that gives a shape to a molten or liquid substance poured into it to harden), then it goes through a chemical process and becomes solid again.
At this point, it is ready to be transformed into any products. It is made in such a way that it is resistant to most chemicals, certain temperatures and also degradation to the elements, such as the sun’s ultraviolet rays, water, as well as a fire slowing agent (retardant).

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The products
Walls: Basically, it is a wall covering made of decorative fibre glass texture that is available in different designs. This material can work both inside and outside.
However, it is not advisable to use the same design throughout the room, rather, using one design on a particular part of the room has a better effect, Mr Dierckxsens says.
Ceilings: These too can be designed with fibreglass depending on your choice. They are also designed in such a way that they can absorb sound.
Automobiles: Fibreglass has also proven to be a strong material in ships, cars and aircrafts. Where one would have used wood in the aircraft or ship, fibreglass is an excellent option.
Furniture: In case you want to accentuate your compound with furniture, fibreglass provides a good option because these do not react to external weather conditions like the sun and rain.
Roofing sheets: These are the translucent sheets that some people use on balconies.
Countertops: They are also available in various colours depending on your choice. You might have seen some of these countertops looking like stone yet they are refined with fibreglass.
Bathrooms: These are made in such a way that a water proof material is placed underneath the tiles used in the bathroom.
Children’s equipment: The children’s slides in parks like Didi’s World and Kiwatule Recreation Centre have fibreglass materials.
Much as fibreglass is expensive, it’s worth using because of its strength. “It has a high ratio of surface area to weight; meaning that it is very light for the strength it gives,” Mr Henkel explains.
Fibreglass is also light and this makes it easy for one to transport.
Panels: Apart from that fact that it is easy to install, it requires less time, manpower, and equipment, for instance, panels which can be placed on walls or ceilings (rectangular pieces of the material) are 2.85 metres by 1.3 metres.

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“The panels are placed on the surface; either the wall or ceiling, and fitted with screws. Then they are merged together with mastic (a water proof substance used as a sealant in building) added with water such that you cannot see the divisions between these panels,” Mr Dierckxsens explains. He adds that the material actually looks like paint and one can use the same colour of the panel for the mastic. You can install about 50 square metres of panels in eight hours.

Additionally, the material is weather resistant, which means that the furniture does not fade when exposed to the sun as opposed to other finish materials like paint. The material is also resistant to rust because of its water proof surface.

Nevertheless, dealing with the fibreglass is challenging. The mere fact that it is made from thin strands of glass should be enough reason for you to be careful while handling it. Therefore, you need protective gear like gloves, especially for those working in the manufacturing places. Imagine a small strand of steel wire getting stuck in your finger while clearing up the dishes at home.

This is why one needs to handle it carefully. More so, once your skin gets into direct contact with the fibre glass strands, you start feeling itchy. Therefore, it is advisable to use overalls and gloves when you are working with fibreglass.

How to maintain fibreglass and the buying guide

Maintenance tips 
Whatever you own must be maintained well if it’s to last. But how can these products be maintained? Here are a few tips according to www.protectall.com/artfiber.aspx on how to maintain fibreglass.
* Choose wax that’s suitable for the automobiles. Also look out for those areas that are more exposed to the surface. In the vehicles, look out for the parts that are closer to the road or the front cap, while in ships, it would be the areas that are horizontal on the topside and vertical areas close to the water line.
* Use a scrubbing brush to remove the grime formed from the scum after a bath. Dissolve some Vim in water and sprinkle some powder on the walls. Then use a scrubbing brush to remove the dirt gently; working in circular movements.
* Avoid using cleansing water for your tubs and showers with high iron content. Instead, use liquid products that are known to be very effective in removing rusts and harmful mineral deposits on your fibre glass shower and tubs. When these mineral deposits stay too long in the glass, they cause stains that are so hard to remove and rust that can practically destroy your shower and tub.
* Use a soft sponge to clean the fibre glass shower. The soft sponge is very useful in removing early signs of stains and rusts.
* Clean regularly using liquid soap and water for the other products like furniture and children’s games’ equipment.

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The price
* A panel of 2.85 metres by 1.83 metres (one square metre) of fibre glass at Multiple Industries Limited costs Shs210,000.
* A stool at Footsteps Furniture Company Limited costs Shs120,000 and a four seater table costs Shs800,000.
* A table at Henkel Polymer Company Limited costs Shs700,000 while a chair costs Shs200, 000.
* Vehicle canopies for pick-ups at Henkel Polymer Company Limited cost between Shs2,500,000 and Shs4,000,000.
* Clear roofing sheets at Henkel Polymer Company Limited cost between Shs50,000 and Shs100,000.

Where to buy
* Henkel Polymer Company Limited along Namuwongo road. Telephone 0774 070 307.
* Footsteps Furniture Company Limited located on -Plot 26, Jinja road. Telephone: 0414 342 057.
* Multiple Industries Limited located on 8th Street Industrial Area. Tel: 0414 236 021 or 0414 250 486.

Fibreglass Maker – Uattlus Enterprises Limited (UEL) – Website : www.uelresins.com

Article Source : Daily Monitor