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By Dave Lubach, Associate Editor
Paints & Coatings Article Use Policy
While VOC levels in paints and coatings are important, managers must consider many other factors when planning paints and coatings applications. For some facilities, managers must weigh the financial benefits compared with environmental concerns.
“One key parameter to consider is to make sure you have the right coating for the job, and I’m talking about performance,” Ferraro says. “If we prioritize VOC levels to minimize emissions and we pick a coating that has half the durability of a coating with a little higher VOC level, we really haven’t done anything to impact the environment. We have to apply that coating twice, as opposed to the coating that would be slightly higher in VOCs but over the long term would have contributed less VOC into the atmosphere.
“The main thing I always try to emphasize is, ‘What does a coating need to do? Does it need to stand up to chemicals in the workplace? Does it need to stand up to abrasion?’ If it does, prioritize that rather than prioritizing VOCs or odors.”
New-generation products that have few or no VOCs perform better than previous products.
“Many manufacturers strive to keep similar application standards for low-VOC products to what professional painters and facility managers are accustomed to,” Burroughs says. “Previously, painters were forced to make major sacrifices with product application to achieve lower VOC levels. However, low- and zero-VOC products have come a long way and now apply similarly to regular paints in coverage and spreadability.”
When choosing a paint manufacturer, managers should give preference to products that are tested and approved by a third party to ensure that environmental information reported on safety data sheets is accurate.
“We’ve looked at VOCs, we’ve looked at emissions, and we’ve looked at environmental product declaration, so we’re also talking about materials and ingredients reporting,” Watson says. “Third-party (testing) provides comprehensive information disclosure about exposure and risk assessment.”VOC standards differ around the country according to region, so managers must keep up to date on allowable limits in their area.
“The federal government has set the acceptable limits of VOCs up to 250 grams per liter for flat finishes and 380 grams per liter for non-flat finishes, like low-luster and semi-gloss,” Burroughs says. “However, several states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions have adopted a more stringent model based on Ozone Transport Communication Specifications, limiting VOC levels in non-flat coatings to 150 grams per liter. The state of California is known to have the strictest regulations on VOC levels, with limits of 50 grams per liter.”
Other aspects of a paints and coatings specification that managers must consider are:
Amount of paint. “Measure the areas that will be painted,” says Alfredo Valiente with Benjamin Moore. “You don’t have to be exact, just close. Also, you need to know how many coats you will be applying. If you’re not sure of the paint’s coverage rates, it can be found on the product’s technical data sheet. You’ll want to buy slightly more than you need to ensure you’ll have enough and that you’ll have some left over for touch-up.”
The affected surface. “Understanding your surfaces and preparation are critical for a successful project,” Valiente says. “Repair damaged areas and for the best looking and lasting paint job, and make sure all surfaces are clean and that cracks are filled or caulked. Cracks within the same material are generally patched, and cracks between dissimilar materials like walls and floors are generally caulked. Using top quality primers ensures the best possible results by providing the proper foundation for every finish coat.”
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