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By James Piper, P.E.
Paints & Coatings Article Use Policy
Perhaps the most important step managers can take when evaluating paints and coatings is to focus on life-cycle costs, not first costs. Remember, labor is the biggest item in a painting project — labor to prepare the site and surface, apply the paint, and to clean up afterwards. Compared to the cost of the labor, the cost of the paint is relatively minor.
But the advantages do not stop there. A high-quality paint in a particular application might have a service life of 10 years based on its durability, while a less expensive, lower-quality paint in that same application might have a service life of five years or less. This means using the less expensive paint doubles labor, setup, cleanup, and disruption costs, all to save a few dollars on the actual paint. Selecting a particular paint or coating on the basis of its life-cycle costs rather than on its first costs will give managers the best opportunity to save money in the long run.
The key to maximizing the performance of a paint or coating application is specifying the use of the most appropriate product for the conditions of a particular application. Not all applications have the same needs for moisture protection, and requirements for abrasion resistance will vary by application.
To meet these needs, managers need to determine the requirements of the application, then develop a set of paint specifications that will ensure workers apply the right type of paint. This step is particularly important if managers opt to contract out the job or if the organization requires bid submissions for the quantity of paint needed, even if in-house workers apply it.
The problem for many managers is writing a paint or coating specification that ensures performance without having enough knowledge about the product. Fortunately, standards organizations — including ANSI, ASTM, and Green Seal — have developed evaluation and rating procedures for paints and coatings.
These standards set the tone for manufacturers and their products. To have a particular product certified, a manufacturer's products must meet all of the requirements of that standard, including those for performance, sustainability, health, and composition.
For example, Green Seal developed its standard to reduce the health and environmental impacts of paints. The standard applies to a range of paints and coatings, including primers, wall and floor paints, and anti-corrosion and reflective coatings. In particular, the standard addressed the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It restricted the allowable levels of VOCs in paints and identified a number of chemicals whose use was prohibited.
ASTM has developed a number of standards for methods of testing characteristics for different paints and coatings. Each standard includes a detailed description of the test method, procedure, or guide manufacturers must follow. For example, it developed standards for testing water-resistant coatings by measuring adhesion, film hardness, and a range of other characteristics.
By specifying that the paint used in an application is certified by the appropriate organization, managers ensure they get the most appropriate paint or coating for that application and that the paint's quality is what they have paid for.
Preparing a Plan for Painting Projects
Focus on Life-Cycle Costs for Painting Projects
Developing a Plan for Paints and Coating Projects