Common Mistakes We See in the Painting Business

You can learn a lot from the mistakes of others. Some of the more common mistakes we see in our line of work are:

1. Ignoring the Specifications

Why would a painter on a commercial job not follow the specifications of the architect?  There is a method to this madness.  On the original job, where the painter is a subcontractor, we see that they have used lower grade paint products, cut the paint with water, or have applied fewer coats than are specified by the architect, in order to save costs (time and materials).  The general contractor on the project, who is focused on schedule, doesn’t often have the available resources to monitor the painting application process.  In the end the building looks good, and everyone signs off on it, but the paint is bound to fade quickly.

But that’s not the end of it.  Now that the painter has learned the name of the owner, they can approach the owner directly, after the 1-year warranty is up, and sell a repaint project for the fading building.  See how that works?  A building that should have lasted 5 years, needs new paint after a year.

2. Cutting Corners on Safety

Time is money.  We see contractors save a buck by putting their employees in harm’s way.  Painting is a competitive business and there are enormous pressures to keep costs low.  Where do you draw the line?

One example:  Everyone can see whether a painter is using a respirator.  But what you can’t see, is whether the filter in the respirator is old or worn out.  If the paint requires a charcoal filter for safety, are they using the cheaper, and inappropriate, paper filters, instead?  Taking this shortcut puts the health of your people at risk.

Another example:  We see painters 20 feet up on extension ladders, not tied off, no harnesses in use.  Penington’s internal standards require 100% fall protection safety measures when working over 6 feet in elevation for all conditions.  It takes more preparation, equipment, and time to meet that higher safety standard.

OSHA requires that a boom lift be tied off, but oddly, a scissor lift is not required to be tied off.  So guess what you see on on many painting job sites?  Our approach is not driven only by what the OSHA rules say.  We tie off our scissor lifts.  We do it for the safety of our employees and others on the job site.

3. Skipping Surface Preparation

Tilt-up concrete panels must be pressure washed before applying the primer coat.  We often see paint contractors skip that step.  Another common skip is when painters apply DTM (Direct-to-metal) paint to steel elements that have been weathered.  Rather than removed the rust, they simply choose to encapsulate the corrosion with a DTM paint.  That corrosion cell will continue to grow underneath the DTM coating as all coatings are permeable to an extent.  That’s just a few examples from commercial jobs.  

In industrial projects, you have coating inspectors there to monitor the surface preparation and coating application.  There is a night and day difference between a commercial and an industrial job.  Where there may be 100 painting contractors in commercial painting, there will be only 5 who have proven themselves capable of delivering industrial-quality work, at cost, on schedule, and to the specs.  

We hold ourselves to a higher standard.  To skip surface preparation because nobody is looking, runs counter to the principles of how Penington Painting does business.

So far, these all seem less like mistakes and more like bad choices.  Let’s look at one more.

4. Cutting Environmental Corners

Clean-up is part of the job.  At the end of a day of painting, we have seen commercial painters pouring buckets of contaminated dirty water down the storm drain.  Their brushes are clean; it is our sewers that are now contaminated with latex paint.  The painter creates a long-term problem and walks away from it.

We use two specialty disposal companies to properly dispose of our waste products:  Clean Harbors and TransChem .  Our effluent is captured in 250-gallon totes, which are hauled off to an incineration field, where they are disposed of with minimum impact on the environment. You can learn more about the details on their websites.

The above are only some of the mistakes and bad choices we have seen.  Penington Painting has evolved a set of internal standards and practices that result in the quality of our work being higher than others.  As we come across each problem, we ask:  how can we prevent this from affecting our work, and our client?  By doing so, we are building high expectations into our own culture, and are making it possible to enjoy long-term relationships with our clients that span many years.

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.