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After considering the variability in today’s paint ingredients, facility managers might feel they need a chemistry degree to select the most suitable paint for a particular application. In practice, it’s not really that difficult. To pick the right paint means you’ll need to understand the needs of the application and environmental conditions, and possibly check past performance, published data, and paint standards.
Start by forgetting about cost. The cost of the paint is relatively minor in any painting project. The real costs lie with the labor. And if a cheaper paint results in shorter intervals between paint cycles, the initial savings from that cheaper paint are long gone.
The real starting point is determining what the needs are of the application. What is it that you are trying to accomplish? For equipment and building exteriors, it is typically preservation of a component while maximizing the time between required applications. For interior finishes, it is to apply a finish that maximizes the time between reapplications, provides a suitable appearance, and in some applications, is easy to clean.
Consider the environmental conditions where the paint is to be applied. Is the area subject to high humidity? Is it a high or low traffic area? Will the activities that are being conducted in the area require that the painted surfaces be cleaned on a regular basis? Will the space be occupied at the time of painting? These and other factors must be considered when evaluating paint options.
Start with published information from the manufacturer. Manufacturer data identify the ingredients used in manufacturing the paint, including the types of pigments and binders used and the percentage of solids. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) can provide additional information useful when evaluating options, such as the weight per gallon, the flash point, and quantity of solids.
Standards have been developed that can help in the selection process. ASTM, ANSI, and Green Seal have all developed standards to help ensure that paints meet the expectations of users. These standards rate a range of characteristics such as the paint’s concentration of solids, the level of volatile organic compounds, surface burning characteristics, and level of chalking. Purchasing a paint that has passed the ASTM testing helps assure facility managers that the product will perform according to industry standards.
Another good indicator of how well a particular paint will perform in a particular application is past performance. If the planned application is in an existing area, look at its history. If it is in a new area, look for similar areas within the facility. What type of paint was applied there? How well did it perform? Did it retain its appearance or level of protection for the expected interval or did it require repainting earlier?
James Piper, Ph.D., PE, is a writer and consultant who has more than 25 years of experience in facilities management. He is a contributing editor for Building Operating Management.
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