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By Thomas A. Westerkamp
Paints & Coatings Article Use Policy
If maintenance managers do not plan properly, paint and coating projects can be time-consuming, wasteful, and disruptive for building occupants and visitors. Coordinating the various elements of a project — paints and coatings, application equipment, personnel and facility activities — is one of the biggest challenges managers face.
To ensure projects go smoothly, managers need to focus on specifying the right paints and coatings for the job, provide crews with the proper tools and equipment, and schedule the project to avoid disrupting facility operations.
High labor costs account for most of a project’s total cost, so managers might try to save money by specifying less expensive materials, including paints, coatings and application equipment. But that approach is risky because the result might be an even more expensive job.
Labor does make up at least 80 percent of a project’s cost, and that number can approach 90 percent in demanding environments, such as health care facilities. But using quality materials helps keep the project cost down. Quality materials produce a finished product that will last longer and require less ongoing maintenance, such as cleaning or touch-ups.
The application process also is a solution to achieving the optimum mix of labor and materials for the job. Managers should think about a paint job from the inside out.
First, specifiers need to make sure: the substrate is in good condition, with no rot or moisture in the wood; the metal is free from rust and oil; and the surface is dry and clean before applying the coating.
Something as seemingly insignificant as fingerprints on a surface can result in a bad paint job, so workers need to pay close attention to the substrate’s condition. They need to correct all substrate defects before proceeding to the next step.
After addressing the defects, crews need to apply the proper primer. Too much build-up of previous coats — or old coats that are too thick — can doom a new application. Workers also need to ensure the primer can adhere to the substrate and the paint can adhere to the primer, and they should determine if the primer is the correct formulation for a wood or metal surface. Finally, they need to find out if the topcoat is compatible with the primer or old surface coating.
Other questions during the application process include:
• Will the application provide the proper thickness?
• Are two-part paints mixed in the proper ratios?
• Are crews paying attention to drying times?
• Is the paint sprayer’s air pressure right?
Pressure that is too high or low will result in a coat that is too thin or too thick.
Knowing the paint formulation also is important for any painting project. The label should spell out the proportion of pigment, resins, and thinners the paint contains. Special-purpose paints have additives, such as quick-drying chemicals, low- or high-temperature application chemicals, increased thickness capability, low volatile organic compounds, and low odor.
The manufacturer or distributor also will provide material safety data sheets, which contain important information to help crews understand the paint or coating’s physical and chemical properties, such as toxicity, fire-retardant capability, impact resistance, and safety and first-aid practices.
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