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By James Piper, P.E.
Paints & Coatings Article Use Policy
The proper selection and application of paints and coatings helps maintenance managers achieve two important goals: extend the life of capital components, and maintain the desired appearance of institutional and commercial facilities. Both goals are essential elements in the long-term management of a facility.
Too often, though, managers decide which products to use based primarily on first costs, with little or no consideration for the long-term performance of the particular paint or coating. Lower first costs typically result in inferior performance and the need to reapply the paint or coating in an unnecessarily short period of time. By taking the time to research and understand options, managers can reduce long-term costs while protecting capital components and keeping facilities' appearance at a high level longer.
Paints and coatings consist of a number of different components, including binders, pigments, and drying oils. For applications where mold might be an issue, the product also could include a mildewcide. Pigments give the paint its color, as well as its ability to cover the underlying material. Binders hold the pigment particles together into a solid film and bind that film to the surface. Drying oils help the paint form a solid film once it is exposed to the atmosphere. Their use has decreased in recent years with the more widespread use of alkyd resins as a binder.
While most paints and coatings contain these key elements, not all paints use the same binders and pigments. High-quality paints and coatings use a higher concentration of premium pigments than lower quality paints and, as a result, provide improved color and consistency.
Lower-quality paints add fillers — lime, talc, and clay, for example — to reduce the amount of pigment used, thus lowering the product's cost. Fillers do little more than thicken the paint and increase its volume. With time and exposure, these fillers break down, leading to changes in appearance and early failure.
The binder is the film-forming component of the paint that adheres the paint to the surface. The binder type determines several important paint properties, including gloss, flexibility, and durability. The type of binder used, as well as its quality, affects the paint's adhesion and resistance to moisture while minimizing cracking, staining, and damage from abrasion. High-quality paints use high-quality binders that better adhere to surfaces, enhancing the paint film's integrity.
In general, the higher the percentage of solids a paint or coating contains, the higher its quality. Greater concentrations of solids result in thicker coatings that last longer. But these products offer other advantages, too. Higher-quality paints and coatings also are easier to apply than lower-cost ones. They flow onto the surface easier and more uniformly, and they require fewer coats to provide the same coverage and protection.
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Focus on Life-Cycle Costs for Painting Projects
Developing a Plan for Paints and Coating Projects