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A series of important tasks comprise successful paint and coatings applications. Whether a project involves painting a new surface or re-painting an existing, aged surface, managers end up devoting a considerable amount of labor and time into surface preparation and other tasks, not just paint application.
Besides surface preparation and initial coating application, factors that determine the project's life-cycle cost include: access to the job site; containment of dust, dirt, scale, paint overspray, drips, and chips; worker safety and health; inspection to determine job requirements; and post-application maintenance.
When a project takes place in areas where occupants might be subjected to the effects of sanding, sand-blasting dust, off-gassing or spray mist, workers must contain the entire project in plastic curtains. They hang from ceiling to floor and wrap around the perimeter of the job site and over any furniture to contain airborne particles.
Workers also must cover floors with heavy-duty paper products taped down to prevent shifting. Managers must be sure to include the installation and removal of these protective coverings in the project's preparation and cleanup. Also included in preparation and cleanup are opening and mixing paints, and preparing and cleaning brushes, rollers, and spray equipment.
Managers must ensure the project's planned time includes four categories: preparation and cleanup; job work content for setting up and removing ladders and scaffolds and applying paint; round-trip travel to get materials and equipment to the job site; and standard allowances for personal and rest time.
Surface preparation deserves attention, given that, aside from material and application methods, it has the largest impact on project performance. Regardless of the type of substrate, workers must ensure it is firm, does not have rotted or rusted areas, and is dry and free from cracks, grease, oil, dust, loose old paint, and dirt to ensure proper bonding of the paint or coating.
Workers should give special attention to assuring a moisture-free surface. Moisture levels that can ruin a paint job, even using the best materials, are not necessarily visible. Workers can use moisture meters to check the level and compare it with manufacturer's recommendations for surface preparation. Attention to these surface conditions during project planning should include ensuring that sufficient equipment, work-content time, attention to safety, and labor skill resources are available.
Access to the job site might require aerial work platforms or scaffolding. Scaffolding might take one or more days to erect with a crew of several workers. Containment might require just drop cloths, or it could include hanging plastic curtains to keep sandblasting and overspray away from adjacent areas, protect furniture and flooring, and contain the debris for more effective removal and cleanup.
Worker safety and health considerations are very important. Studies show that painters are exposed to heights and carcinogens, which can translate to higher accident and cancer rates than the general population. Proper training, the use of respirators and other personal protective equipment such as fall protection, and access to adequate ventilation are necessary preparation steps.
Preparatory inspection by a qualified planner ensures all of the proper work content, including thorough surface preparation, takes place in a timely manner and that the job is planned for optimum efficiency and effectiveness. Beyond application, maintenance such as periodic surface cleaning to remove airborne pollutants, dirt and grime can prolong the life of the application.
Successful applications of paints and coatings involve the coordination of a host of related, essential tasks that go far beyond purchasing the paints. The material and application portion of a paint or coating application project is only a small part — probably less than 20 percent — of the project's life-cycle cost.
Thomas A. Westerkamp is a maintenance and engineering management consultant and president of the work management division of Westerkamp Group LLC.
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