How Type of Paint and Paint Quality Affect Performance
First of a 3-part article on the factors that influence a paint’s quality and how well it will work in a particular space
Facility managers and building occupants take paint for granted — until it fails, or begins to look bad. Even then, the push is on to remedy the situation at a minimum cost. In fact, cost is most often the deciding factor when it comes to specifying paints and coatings — first cost, that is, not life-cycle costs. This approach fails to consider two important factors affecting paint performance: properly matching the type of paint to the particular application, and paint quality. Both factors are complicated by the wide range of paint options available in both formulation and cost.
Without an understanding of the characteristics of paint, facility managers may be tempted to simply select the most expensive paint. After all, paint costs pretty closely track with the quality of the paint: The higher the cost, the higher the quality. But selecting the highest-cost paint is not always the best option for a particular application. The highest-cost paint may not be the right type of paint for that application. And not all applications need the same level of quality, resulting in facility managers paying for paint characteristics they may not actually need. An area that will be used infrequently or for a limited period of time will not require the same quality of paint that a highly visible area would, particularly if it is on a fairly lengthy paint interval.
Another approach some facility managers take is to specify paint based on the name of the paint’s manufacturer. Select a reputable manufacturer and the paint will be high quality, according to this line of thinking. But that is not always necessarily so. Most manufacturers offer a range of paint qualities. Specifying a manufacturer will get you that manufacturer’s paint, but it might not be the quality level needed for the application.
A better approach is to start from an understanding of the components that go into paint, their concentrations, and how they impact quality.
Tips on Picking Most Appropriate Paint for an Application
A number of rules of thumb can help facility managers ensure that they are specifying the most appropriate paint for the application:
Quality. Do not skimp on the quality of the paint. A top-quality paint can provide 10 years of service. An average-quality paint may only last for three or four years. Remember, most of the cost of the painting project is in labor. Cutting years off the service life to save on the cost of the paint will actually increase the project’s life-cycle cost.
Price per gallon. In almost all cases, the higher the quality of the paint, the higher the price. This does not always mean that you should specify the highest-cost paint, because the level of protection the higher-cost paint provides might not be needed.
Solids. The higher the percentage of solids contained in the paint, the higher the quality. Solids are what remain after the paint cures. A higher percentage of solids translates into more dry paint on the surface.
Finish. Paint finishes range from flat to gloss. In selecting a finish, there is a trade-off between durability and the ability to hide defects in the material being covered. Flat and eggshell finishes tend to hide defects but are not as durable. Gloss and semi-gloss finishes do the opposite.
VOCs. Don’t overlook VOCs, as they can impact the total cost of the painting project. VOCs include solvents, such as benzene and formaldehyde. If paints containing VOCs are to be applied in occupied areas, it may be necessary to schedule the work during unoccupied hours, a factor that can significantly increase the labor cost for the project.
-- James Piper