Transformer Painting in a Nutshell

This is a picture of a transformer that R&H painted in Minnesota. It has 3 large radiator banks, and is located at a wind energy farm in southern MN.

Large substation transformers are a major capital expense for transmission and distribution companies. It is commonplace for companies to plan on using them for decades, sometimes even longer. If customer demand requires replacing a transformer with a larger one, often times the small one will be sold on the secondary market, and installed by another utility. While the chassis and other key components of a transformer are built to last, the paint coatings may not be. Regularly scheduled maintenance is an important function in the transformer lifecycle, and that should include inspection of coatings and timely maintenance painting as required.

This is a picture of the top of a transformer. Most of the paint has worn off, and large patches of orange are starting to show through.

This transformer is overdue for painting. While the sides of the unit do not show much weathering, you can see the top is much worse. This is very common and has to do with the top typically getting the most sunlight, and also pools of rain water accelerating the wear. From this point on, surface preparation costs are going to skyrocket. There are already some areas progressing from “tight rust” to “loose rust”. This raises the bar significantly in terms of surface prep required.

For the most efficient use of your maintenance budget, I recommend getting a maintenance coat before your equipment is showing major signs of corrosion. We can go further in depth on this at a later date, but the basic reason is as follows. In any given painting project, roughly half the money spent is allocated towards surface prep, aka cleaning. Removing rust, grease, failed coatings, and any other surface contaminants is absolutely mandatory before any new paint can be applied. The worse shape your transformer is in, the more work is required to get it “paint ready.” While a little grease or a lot of grease maybe doesn’t drastically affect the contract cost, the level of corrosion usually does.

 

Ideally, you should schedule painting before corrosion has taken over, or as soon as you see the slightest orange shades starting to show in the existing paint film. That way surface prep can be kept to a minimum, and involves just “cleaning” similar to cleaning dirty dishes. Now on the other hand, if you try to stretch out the maintenance schedule, you’re not necessarily saving money. Every day/week/month/year that goes by, increases your costs of surface prep. Ferrous metal surface prep basically starts out at just washing and scrubbing, and progresses up (in terms of cost) ending with sand blasting. Staying closer to the “washing” end up the spectrum will ensure you’re getting the most for your maintenance dollar. Let it go too long, and create too much loose rust, and you can literally get to the point where you might as well scrap it and buy a new transformer. Chances are it’s leaking all over the place anyhow.

 

While painting a transformer is not extraordinarily difficult, there are several key items that must be accounted for. The first item being safety! There are inherent risks involved with substation work, and it’s crucial that they are mitigated as much as possible.  Working in and around high voltage equipment does not provide for much room to “learn as you go”. Make a wrong move and it’s over. Literally and figuratively!

 

Most of the risk can be eliminated by following proper shut down and grounding out procedures. This is typically performed by the owners trained electrical personnel. Then its up to the painting contractor to perform their job satisfactorily. Proper training and use of lanyards, harnesses, ladders, and more is an integral part of providing a quality product and making sure everyone goes home safely.

 

While painting the body of a transformer is fairly straightforward, the radiator banks are another story. There is really only one way to accomplish it, while in the field, and that is by flow coating. Flow coating will give you a finished product very similar to if you disassembled the radiators, and hauled them to a shop to have them dipped. It is the only way (so far) to make sure that every single nook and cranny in the radiator gets coated.

 

Doing a good job of it requires extreme care, and due diligence on the part of the contractor. If the coating was to get applied too heavily, it could have a noticeable effect on the radiators ability to cool off the oil. In that case, your looking at major downtime, and major expense! If it’s too thin, it won’t last as long as it should. There aren’t really any good tools for measuring mil thickness of the paint, when you can’t even fit your arm in between the fins. Achieving the proper thickness is based solely off experience, and knowing what to look for (how the paint behaves) throughout the process. So it’s a delicate balancing act that requires a lot of experience by the applicator. 

So while transformer painting definitely isn’t rocket science, you’ll want to make sure that your projects are being handled by someone with experience. As you know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and, its hardly worth painting to begin with if you don’t have a solid plan of action, and full faith that your contractor can take care of your needs.

 

Thank You, Bryce Raisanen
Feel free to like, share, comment, ask questions!

I’ve shortened the video below, to show just the cleaning portion of a transformer job. Responsible management got the painting scheduled before it was in too rough of shape, and with four people (I think?) we were able to complete all of the surface prep in short order.

This is a picture of a transformer that R&H Painting painted near Minneapolis, MN.

This is a picture of a large substation transformer that R&H painted near Blaine, MN.

 

 

This is another picture of the transformer that R&H painted nearby Blaine, MN.

 

This is a picture of a new paint job we put on a transformer in MN. We used a high gloss industrial coating from Induron coatings.

 

This is a finished picture of a large transformer that R&H painted in the fall of 2015 in central MN, not far from Minneapolis.

Fertilizer Blending Tower Maintenance

Minnesota Fertilizer Tower PaintingDo you own a large fertilizer blending tower in MN or the Midwest? It doesn’t really matter if its a Waconia, a Yargus, a Sackett, or any other brand. They all live a similar lifestyle.  When’s the last time you climbed to the top and gave it an inspection? It goes without saying, the conditions in Minnesota can be hard on metal structures. If your tower is over five years old, you had better be keeping an eye on it!

Just this past fall I inspected one in central MN, not far from Brainerd. The Co-op had just had a new roof installed on it at a cost of over $40,000. The site manager told me it was only 7 years old. Value engineering in the manufacturing department, combined with Minnesota weather and harsh chemicals, generates a devastating combination of rust and general corrosion.

The Roofs Go First

Minnesota Fertilizer Tower Painting

Large hunks of rust that we simply lifted up with a putty knife off of the roof of a MN tower that was only 8 years old!

The roofs on the towers get hit the worst it seems. This is for several reasons. One is because the roof will generally get more sunlight than all but the south side of your fertilizer tower. The ultra violet rays can and will deteriorate inferior coatings installed at the factory. Also, the roof being almost flat, will allow fertilizer dust and other chemicals to sit on top, where they can eat away at the paint for days or weeks on end. In the event that it rains hard and washes the top, that’s great as far as getting the chemicals off.

But yet another attack on the paint continues, and that would be the water droplets. Now the water droplets/puddles could generally be considered harmless by themselves. But when the sun rises, and shines through those droplets, it can put a real beating on your capital investment.

Have you ever lit anything on fire with a magnifying glass? That’s right, you go out in bright sunlight, hold the magnifying glass over some leaves or straw, and in a matter of seconds you’ll have a raging fire. The curved glass works in such a way that it can concentrate the suns rays into a very small circle. The power from the suns rays is enough to light just about anything on fire! Water droplets sitting on a steel roof can do the same thing! Except generally they won’t start it on fire, they just burn through the paint day after day until there isn’t any left.

Then the water droplets will continue to eat at the steel until that turns to dust as well! Depending on your environmental conditions, this can happen practically everyday, not even from rain water, but from dew alone. Combine that with the fact that the roof is just about impossible to keep an eye on from the ground, and you could be in for a rude awakening. Don’t wait till its too late!

Protect Your Investment

Minnesota Fertilizer Tower Painting

By the time you notice orange streaks running down the side of your tower, chances are that the roof is losing pieces of flesh the size of Bluegills! This artifact was taken off a blender tower roof less than ten years old. Almost 1/4″ thick!

As you well know, blending towers don’t come cheap! Nor does replacing the roof or wall panels if they get neglected too long. At R&H, we enjoy getting the opportunity to preserve your investment, and save you money. We have decades worth of experience specifically tailored for dealing with these issues. It drives me bonkers every time I see one getting panels replaced! Especially when they could have easily gotten by for a fraction of the price, had they had it re-coated in time.

Matter of fact, a proper maintenance schedule would include maintenance coating BEFORE rust is evident. Generally, this reduces the cost of prep work required before painting, and theoretically you’ll never lose any of the actual metal structure itself. Its kind of like waxing your truck, you let the wax take the beating, and periodically replace it, so that your truck itself doesn’t turn into a big ball of rust.

We have been having fantastic success in keeping Minnesota blending towers rust free, using a combination of multi-part epoxies and urethanes. The epoxies are specifically tailored for keeping the rust at bay, and the urethane topcoat is an ultra high gloss, which works remarkably well for deflecting the suns rays, and making sure the system lasts for a long time! Get ahold of us today! We’ll climb and inspect your tower for free!

Enjoy the snow, Bryce Raisanen

 

Case Study: Automotive Service Garage

Do you own a busy automotive shop or manufacturing facility? Does it have 10, 20 or 50 years worth of grime on the walls and ceiling? Your techs possibly have to use several trouble lights just to get the job done? Maybe they even feel like they work in one big grease pit? It may be time to consider giving your shop a complete overhaul. And no, we’re not talking just slapping in a set of plugs and a filter (although we can do that). We’re talking “split the crankcase and start fresh” type of overhaul. But let me guess, just the mention of it gives you a big headache? There’s waaay to much stuff in the way. Pipes everywhere, hoses galore, tire balancers, tool boxes, hoists, the list is endless! Trying to convince your staff to get their hands in a paint bucket is an exercise in futility. You can see the pain written all over their face!

Well, its your lucky day! I am happy to inform you that here at R&H Painting, we specialize in taking care of your headaches. Big or small, we’ve probably already done so for dozens of other shops, just like yours!

In this blog post, I’ll detail what R & H  has done for other MN service shops, not only in the automotive world, but in manufacturing and several other facilities as well. Of course, each job has its own intricacies and challenges, but this will give you a good idea of what to expect. This project was completed over a long weekend, in late November.

Once the job has been sold and scheduled, its time for the production department to get active. This starts by having the Foreman or Project Manager get together with Sales, to gather a comprehensive understanding of the work to be performed. Then they will visit the job site, and come up with a detailed plan of attack specific to that job. Depending on the size and scope of the job, this can take an hour or two, or sometimes a week or more and several site visits. Here is an example of a Production Plan that I put together for a busy Ford service shop that we completely redid top to bottom a little over a year ago. This started with several pages of chicken scratch in my binder, and evolved into what you see here.

R & H Painting production plan. A picture of a piece of paper that lists all of the preparation and painting steps in chronological order, to ensure that the customer gets a fine quality paint job and it's completed on time.

Authentic Painting Production Plan. You can tell it spent a few days in someone’s pocket, complete with coffee stain and all.

R & H Painting Production Plan, page two, which lays out all of the steps to ensuring a top quality paint job for MN shop, factories, and facilities.

Page two of the Production Plan.

A copy of this will get handed out to everybody who is going to be working the job, ahead of time, so that they have a pretty good general understanding of how the process is going to work. This saves an incredible amount of time on the job, which is crucial in “shut down” jobs of this nature.  In addition, I will typically assign a name(s) to each given task, according to that individuals strengths, further increasing efficiency and finished product quality.

Wednesday

Before the job officially starts, some of the crew will be onsite hours ahead of time. We often help the customer with finding places to move equipment and toolboxes so that its out of the way. We are also good at hiding stuff in plain sight. Which means stacking stuff into piles, or storing underneath certain areas where we cannot get a scissor lift anyway. If the shop is too full, it may be worth getting some temporary storage containers outside, so that the bulk of the equipment can be moved out of the way, but still be protected from the elements. By the time its officially “go time,” the work area should look something like this.

A service shop in St. Cloud, MN that we painted in late 2014. Here you can see most of the equipment has been moved away from the walls and other areas that we need to access. The remaining equipment will get consolidated into piles and covered with tarps before painting begins.

Shop equipment out! You'll be able to see better in another picture down the page, but all of the mechanics tool boxes have been removed from the outside walls and put in storage rooms. What's left is in the process of being squeezed as tight as possible under the hoists, to make it easier to maneuver scissor lifts throughout the area for painting the ceiling. Also notice 4+ pallets of paint and sundries in the left corner.

 

Here you can see what the garage looked like before R & H Painting got started overhauling it. In this picture there are still some mechanics trying to button up last minute repairs just an hour or two before we got started. The walls are lined solid with tool boxes and workbenches. The walls used to be white, but over time have come to look like a large wall of grease.

Typical service shop lined with toolboxes and workbenches.

The general rule, is that anything not physically bolted to the floor or wall has to get removed, and if not removed, consolidated in some way shape or fashion. Every job is a little different, but the rule works quite well. It is often easier, safer, and more efficient to move the things that can be, than it is to spend days or weeks working around it, and protecting it from all the dirt, grime, and paint spray that's inevitably gonna start flying!

So to start with, the walls and ceiling looked like this.... as you can see, the upper portion of the walls were originally white, I'm guessing 20+ years ago. There are a ton of areas that the existing paint is peeling off, as well as the block generating what we call "blisters". In this case, it was due to a faulty roof that didn't get addressed until the water seeping through started to do this to the block. The roof had been repaired a few years before we started painting.

This is a close up picture of the existing paint failing. It is bubbling and peeling at the majority of the joints in the cinder block walls. Large deposits of efflorescence are clinging to the walls where the paint has already fallen off. These "salts" have to be neutralized with special detergents before painting.

Paint de-laminating and efflorescence showing through.

This picture shows from the same location as the picture above it. So far R & H Painting has removed all of the shop equipment, and covered the hoists and the floors. We had also pressure washed all of the walls by this point. This is shortly before the ceiling painting was to begin.

This picture is taken from the exact same vantage point as the picture above it. Only difference being, all of the techs are gone along with their tools! All of the concrete blisters removed and cleaned, ready for primer!

The white powdery substance you can see (left), is called efflorescence. It often happens when you get moisture buildup within the wall. Eventually the water pushes through the block to the surface, loosening the paint film and pushing these "salts" to the surface. Although generally harmless, it can cause issues with getting paint to stick, and getting an even sheen on the wall. It's all part of the process that we call "prep work."

Now here is where things start getting interesting. By this time if I remember correctly we had six to eight painters onsite. So in reality, there are going to be several things happening simultaneously, but for the sake of clarity here, we'll address them one at a time.

Once everything is moved out of the way as best as possible, its time for step 2. A couple guys take rolls of plastic and duct tape to cover all of the hoists and whatever equipment got stored underneath them. While they are working on that, another team (step 3) will be wrapping outlets, phone jacks, etc on the walls that need to be protected from falling debris that will result when someone starts attacking the concrete blisters.

In this particular situation, a determination was made on the fly (blisters a LOT worse than originally thought) that scraping the blisters off with a metal blade was not going to sufficiently prep the blisters for paint because after scraping, there was still a lot of fine granules left in the pockets sitting there loose, not a good painting surface. So we pulled out a couple pressure washers, and used them to speed up the removal process. We also treated (step 4) all areas of efflorescence with a special solution from Great Lakes Laboratories (No Rinse Prepaint Cleaner OR Extra Muscle cleaner, can't remember offhand) to neutralize the salts and help the paint bond better. It took several guys working on the ground with squeegees and brooms to get the water directed to the floor drains while catching the solids and putting in trash cans for removal.

A picture of an aging cinder block wall that has been thoroughly cleaned and dried and is now ready for paint. As you can see, in some areas the paint removal was 100%. There are also some spots where large pieces of mortar fell out and had to be patched back in. Depending on the severity, R & H Painting can handle these repairs, or sometimes may have to bring in another contractor if it is bad enough that entire blocks need to be replaced.

This is what the walls looked like after being thoroughly cleaned and dried.

Step 5 was worked on at the same time as the previous two, and was actually completed before we were done cleaning up the walls. Sometimes we use our own Ingersoll-Rand diesel powered air compressor, and sometimes the customer will supply the air, if they have a big enough compressor, and use 3/4" Chicago style fittings. This particular shop didn't really have any grease on the ceiling (more common in manufacturing) so we opted for the air lance, just mainly to blow down the cobwebs and any other dry dust that accumulates up there. Sometimes when this is done, it can be 1" deep on the floor! In this case it wasn't quite that much, and we got it swept up and vacuumed in no time.

 

Step 6 in this case had become obsolete for the most part, because it had already been worked into steps 3 and 4, based on my "field decision" earlier.

Step 7 was accomplished by using a paint sprayer to apply the cleaning solution, scrub vigorously with a car wash broom, and rinse it off using the same solution. The main purpose is to get rid of the thin film of oil that is commonly left on some duct work when it was originally manufactured, ensuring a good, solid bond of the paint.

Step 8 had mostly been completed at this point. It had been dealt with earlier, when we had already taken out the pressure washer for prepping the block exterior walls. There were a couple reasons why I had put this step in before, and as you could see, it was contingent on whether or not the customer wanted to add the floor cleaning to the contract. If we did add the floor cleaning, I was concerned that the use of high pressure hot water (via surface cleaner) could damage the paint at the bottom of the wall while we were cleaning the floors. This is NOT a jab at the type or quality of the paint being used. It is because the floor cleaning would end up (and did) taking place roughly 12-14 hours after the walls had been painted. The paint would be dry, but not cured (look for another blog post on dried vs. cured). Suffice it to say that most paints take at least a week to reach full cure strength.

Step 9 is really just an addition to all of the other washing and cleaning steps, but I like to add it as it's own item as it helps me easily distinguish how many people are going to be required to complete the steps. So hypothetically, if somebody gets started on Step 8 "as it was written", I automatically know that the next employee who walks up and asks "What to do next" gets Step 9. Which is essentially following the person pressure washing with a big floor squeegee, and keeping the water running where it is supposed to, without flooding out floor outlets etc.

Step 10 sounds really basic, and it is. But don't let basic undermine it's importance. It is one of a few steps in the puzzle that has the capability of making or breaking a job. I'll tell you why in a minute. Depending on the size of a facility, there can be anywhere from one single thermostat, to dozens of individual thermostats. The heating and cooling equipment can even be controlled from somewhere else in the facility, or even remotely through the internet. This is a crucial part that cannot be overlooked. I make sure that only one person is in charge of this (usually foreman), to prevent any possible confusion or miscommunication. Everybody else knows "Don't touch the thermostats!"

A picture of an infrared radiant tube heater and motor, that is completely wrapped in plastic by R & H Painting to make sure that absolutely no overspray comes into contact with it. We have often seen evidence of other contractors not masking over them at all. They obviously thought that as long as they don't get any paint on the bottom (where you can see) then they will be fine. I don't have any scientific evidence to support me, but I tend to think that any additional dust that gets on the unit will just end up decreasing its overall energy efficiency, not to mention it just looks bad (even if u need a ladder or a lift to see it). So we play it safe, and make sure they are totally protected from paint spray.

Radiant tube heater unplugged and masked off for painting. You can see why its imperative that it doesn't get turned on until it is unwrapped!

This steps [10] execution starts way back in the planning and site visit stage. I will take as much time as I need, to make sure I fully comprehend the function, controls, and location of any and all HVAC equipment. If memory serves me, I think I remember there being around 10 thermostats in this garage, as well as some fan controls being located in a separate attic of the building. Each thermostat controlled a different area of the shop, and was linked to a complex combination of hanging unit heaters and infrared tube heaters. So here's why this is so important! Any of these units being turned on (while they are wrapped tightly in plastic to keep paint off them) could cause some serious damage to the unit itself, or even trigger a fire by igniting the plastic/paper masking we wrapped them with. If it were to happen right in the middle of say, spraying the ceiling with solvent borne paint, well I probably wouldn't still be here to blog about it. So for this phase of the job, I personally went around cranked up the thermostats while double and triple checking that none of them had yet been masked off or tampered with. That, combined with a half dozen 48" fans set to high, made sure that everything would  be warm and dry come morning!

Thursday

So long before the sun even rose, our crew was back at it. I started by doing the opposite of what I did the night before. I do my portion of Step 1 by going around and turning all the thermostats down to shut off the heaters. I then follow that up by physically unplugging the electricity (and shutting off and taping circuit breakers) at each unit location. That way I can be pretty confident the heaters won't turn on in the middle of masking or painting operations. The rest of the crew is all zipping around in scissor lifts as well, wrapping everything in the ceiling that is not supposed to get painted white! Just to name a handful, this consisted of unit heaters, infrared heaters, light fixtures, air hose reels, electric cord reels, some fabric duct work, overhead door openers, skylights, certain electrical boxes and the list goes on... Don't forget the sprinkler heads! We typically paint the piping white, but use aluminum foil to quickly "shrink" wrap the sprinkler heads themselves. It is important that you don't get any paint on them, as I have heard through the grapevine they won't work correctly in the event of a fire if you do. Haven't tried it myself!

After finishing Step 1 and having a lunch break, its time to tear into the next one (Step 2), which can be tricky at times. It is important that you do a meticulous job of covering the floor. Not only because the customer won't like paint on the floor, but for your own convenience as well. If you don't get the plastic spread out evenly and tightly, without wrinkles, your going to be very frustrated trying to drive a scissor lift across it once you start spraying the ceiling.

What invariably happens is that paint overspray settles to the floor via gravity (duh). Can't have any paint on the floor (duh). But that's only part of it. The other part was learned through trial and error, or what we sometimes affectionately refer to as "denial an error". Most bar joist ceilings get painted using some version of what is called Dry Fall. Theoretically, the paint is specially formulated so that the overspray dust will be dry by the time it falls to the floor below. Manufacturer claims vary, but usually say that it will dry in the neighborhood of 8-20 feet of free fall. Then once the job is done, you just sweep up the dust off of the floor, and voila the floor is clean! What they don't tell you can only be learned through experience. What really happens is that the overspray particles dry on the outside of themselves (usually) forming a sort of shell (like an egg) around what is still a wet particle inside. So if you just leave it alone, it will be fine, and will usually sweep up for the most part.

The nature of painting a ceiling though requires that you drive your lift back and forth all day. Criss-crossing through your own overspray on the floor. This is kind of like driving on eggs. The wheels on the lift break open the paint particles on the floor, and believe me when I tell you it is STICKY! If you have any slack at all in your  poly floor coverings, it will end up sticking to the wheels, and wrapping up in the axles of your lift. Not fun. By the time you realize whats happened, you probably already ripped a hole in the floor covering, and nicely painted a section of floor. Then you get to waste precious man hours cleaning up your mess, and digging and cutting 4 mil poly out of your axles. Suffice it to say, you can prevent this whole mess by doing a thorough job covering the floor, with all seams and edges of your poly securely fastened to the floor!

To finish out the day (Step 3), we usually get all of the paint pumps distributed to their respective area of the building along with a pallet or more of paint. Sometimes we'll even fill up the paint drum and get the pump primed so that in the morning we just literally grab the gun and go! I forgot to mention earlier, I usually will keep a heater or two going overnight just enough to keep the place warm, but pick the one(s) that are easiest to shut down and mask off tomorrow morning when the actual painting portion of the project begins.

During this time we also had one guy spray some small pieces of galvanized ceiling duct work with a conversion primer, as galvanized duct work is generally not compatible with Alkyd borne paint. At this point, we are finally ready to start painting, and the shop looks like this. 

This is a picture down the main center lane of the auto garage R & H painted in St. Cloud. You can see everything has been covered with plastic at this point and we are ready to start spraying the ceiling. The floor is completely covered with all seams securely fastened down using a combination of duct tape and 3m spray adhesive. The vehicle hoists, drill presses, tire balancer, and many more tools are stashed underneath the poly that is hanging over the hoists to keep the paint spray off them.

Here you can see everything masked and tarped off before we start painting. Radiant tube heaters run the long way down the building.

Friday

A picture of one of our painters wearing full protective equipment. Jobs like this tend to involve specialized coatings with plenty of "flavor". It is essential that proper precautions are taken to protect employees from exposure to these products. Spraying bar joist ceilings can be a messy job, and sometimes requires a fresh pair of safety glasses every hour or so. This guy here is equipped with steel toe boots, a DuPont spray suit, protective gloves, a respirator, a spray hood, and safety glasses.

Spray man is ready to start putting dryfall on the ceilings!!

Right away the "spray techs" start by getting suited up head to toe to keep the overspray off of themselves and fresh filters in their respirators.  This guy here is officially ready to go (Step 1)!

In this picture, we are just getting started spraying the ceiling with an alkyd based dryfall. The picture is of an R & H Painting employee in a scissor lift spraying a bar joist ceiling in St. Cloud, MN.

Here you can see one man just getting going spraying the ceiling with an alkyd based dryfall paint.

 

This picture is large shot down the center aisle of the service garage that R & H Painting painted over a long weekend. You can see three employees in scissor lifts still working. Most of the ceiling is now white, with only a few small areas left to coat. This probably is about an hours worth of work left to go on the bar joist ceiling. You can see that the poly on the floor now has a thick coat of overspray dust on it.

Here you can see the ceilings nearing completion. Still four guys in lifts with about an hour to go. It looks like the primer is on the wall to the left, and the guys were just starting priming the far wall at the time this picture was taken.

I think we had five guys spraying the ceiling on this one. Four of them were in scissor lifts and the fifth was in an electric articulating lift, just for the "hard to get at" spots, like over a four post truck lift. Two more painters followed closely behind spraying the first coat on the walls (Step 2). Another was on the ground, "keeping the pots full". It sounds simple, and it is for the most part. But with 7 people actively painting, you stay pretty busy. Hoses get snagged here and there, stuff needs to get moved periodically, an extension cord may come unplugged. The ground man could even be called a firefighter, because they're constantly running around "putting out fires."

Shortly after we completed spraying the ceiling, the walls were dry enough to put the finish coat on them. This was a two tone paint job so it started by having a couple painters go around spraying and backrolling a solid finish coat of white from about 7' off the floor up to the ceiling. The rest of the crew worked on unmasking everything in the ceiling, and getting some of the heaters turned back on.

This picture is of a Reznor hanging unit heater that we uncovered as soon as R & H finished painting the ceiling. All of the hoists etc are still wrapped. Getting these circulating heaters going right away is important to get the paint drying and keep production moving.

As soon as possible after ceiling painting, we use fans to blow out the fumes and then uncover and turn on a hanging unit heater like this one to help speed the drying process.

Saturday

Morning starts with part of the crew taping off a straight line around the building which will separate the bottom gray paint from the upper part of the walls which are white. Right on their heels is a team of a sprayer and a backroller putting the paint on. Once both coats are on, everybody works together to get everything unmasked, swept, vacuumed and (most importantly) cleaner than we found it. As well as all of our painting equipment hauled out, usually back to the shop or to another job. The length of this paragraph doesn't do it justice. I think that we had 8 painters that Saturday, and it took us well over 12 hours to get everything tidied back up. That would be 96+ man hours right there. There is also plenty of time put in before and after each shift either at our shop, the job or in between.

Floor Cleaning

My floor cleaning plan was mostly laid out in a separate document at a later date. As I mentioned before, at the time of the original Production Plan, the floor cleaning was still "up in the air." I'll let the pictures do most of the talking here. More or less, we have come up with a pretty good system for taking old, dirty, greasy, floors and cleaning them. We use hot water high pressure washers and some detergent. We can also apply a floor sealer that will help keep the floors from absorbing spills in the future. Results can vary a bit, but are usually impressive to say the least.

Enjoy, Bryce

This picture is of me using the walk behind 24" surface cleaner to clean the grime and grease out of the aged concrete floor. You can clearly see the difference between where I have already cleaned and where I have yet to clean. It is hooked up to a Landa hot water pressure washer, which for this job I think we ran at about 180 degrees Fahrenheit. It is amazing how much better it cleans with hot water than cold. The detergent manufacturer states that every 18 degree increase in temperature, doubles cleaning effectiveness. We have found that to be true!

24" surface cleaner in action!

This is a picture of Greg using the 12" surface cleaner. This one is mounted to a regular pressure washer wand, making it easy to maneuver in tight spots, and to go over irregularities in the floor such as bolts that stick up a bit. It is also easier to get up tight to the walls without scratching the wall.

This 12" surface cleaner works good for getting around tight spots and over the bolts that hold the hoists down tight to the floor.

 

 

Another picture of R & H Painting in action with the 24" surface cleaner. The difference on the floor is even more striking once the floor is dry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another picture showing the effectiveness of the surface cleaning system. The portion that hasn't been cleaned yet is basically black wet greasy concrete. The area that the cleaner just went over is a bright gray, about as close to new as you can get without actually pouring a new floor!

As you can see, the surface cleaner, combined with some hot water and detergent, does a fantastic job of cleaning the greasy pores of the concrete.

 

 

 

 

 

This is an overview shot of the whole shop when we are nearing completion with the cleaning and sealing phase. R & H cleaned and sealed this 15,000 square foot facility in one day! The floor is nice and shiny, and will work great for shedding water and NOT absorbing oil like it used to.

Here you can see the floors cleaned and most of it sealed. We had to work it in sections while shuffling equipment and tools around. Once an area was dry, we would move equipment into it, and work on where the equipment was before.

concrete cleaning, cement cleaning, shop floor cleaning, surface cleaner

Before having the customer commit to having the floor cleaning done, we performed a small test patch in a lower traffic area. This is clean and dry, but not sealed.

Healthcare Facilities and Maintenance Painting

 

hospital waiting room

Paint enamel and commercial vinyl by R&H Painting

Maintenance painting in Healthcare facilities

Having painted thousands of rooms throughout our history, R&H Painting is the perfect candidate to handle your clinics maintenance painting needs. Whether it’s remodeling an entire wing of your facility, or just a couple exam rooms or doorframes, trust Minnesota’s experts.

 

If you’re a small practitioner, you can hardly afford to let someone in your waiting room stare at walls that are dirty, smudged, or have nicks in them. If you run a bigger facility, you probably can afford it even less. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so don’t let your maintenance work get left by the wayside.

Services and Products

We understand the busy schedules in your facility, and can accommodate that. Worried about smell? No problem, there is a wide array of products available in Zero VOC (volatile organic compounds i.e. gases) that can help produce an almost odor free painting experience. For a very durable finish, that goes on with minimal odor, we have had great success with acrylic paints from reputable manufacturers such as Sherwin Williams and Hirshfields.

 

R & H even has you covered, no pun intended, for all of your commercial wall covering needs. Whether it be 54” commercial vinyl, woven textiles, or even mica, we have the resources to get your job done right. We have been a consistent supplier of M.D.C. wall coverings since the early 80’s.

 

One commonly overlooked aspect of maintenance work is the condition of door frames. Both metal and wood, but most of the time metal in commercial settings. Are your frames all scratched and nicked like this one?

door frame

Wheelchairs, gurneys, vacuums, cleaning and medical carts, can wreak havoc on metal door frames. Keep an eye open as you move around Minnesota, it seems that the vast majority of HMF’s (hollow metal door frames) have the paint gouged off right down to the bare metal below knee level. Best case scenario, most people may not notice. But what do YOU do when you’re sitting in the doctor’s office waiting? You sit there and stare at.. stuff.

What Do Patients Look At, Care About?

First the posters hanging on the wall. It takes a few minutes to read all of them and memorize the cliff notes on the diabetes chart. Then you eyeball the magazine rack; but you don’t dare touch them because you know that the last ten people (who were sick, with a cold or worse) just got done touching them. So you commence to spending a few minutes eyeballing the various medical equipment, the exam table, the soap dispenser, the sink. About now, you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that the Dr. is never going to come! So, there ya sit, staring at the walls. But who just stares at the wall aimlessly? Nobody. The natural tendency is to find something within, or on, the walls. So your eyes slowly start scanning, in search of “something to look at”.

 

For me, this usually starts with a cursory scan of the three walls I can see without getting out of my chair. Then I start over, slowly this time. Eyes slowly, purposefully, roving the top of the baseboards. Now this is when the magic happens! The walls seemingly come alive! Like Sherlock Holmes, you can unravel the mysteries within. You can see a different texture in the paint where the soap dispenser used to be; while also reasonably deducting that it was repaired late on a Friday, because the repairman skipped the sanding portion of the wall repair. He may have been getting antsy to call it a week. As often happens, his/her boss may have told them to “Get both coats on in one shot”, which typically leaves telltale evidence in the DNA of the paint film. It can be revealed by the texture, the sheen and coverage of the paint; which will differ from the rest of the room.

 

After thoroughly investigating all of the  history within or on the walls, your eyes follow the baseboards and eventually wind up at the bottom of the door frame. Which is invariably a minefield of catastrophes. The outside corners will almost always have some nicks in them. Sometimes gouges, dents, scrapes. To tell what caused what though, will prove to be a little trickier. Is that particular dent from a wheelchair or a gurney? Who knows, it’s tough to tell. So here you sit pondering, wondering how all of this destruction could go unnoticed for so long.

 

Eventually the doctor or nurse will come, as they always do, and rescue you from your own thoughts. Check the blood pressure, look at your nose and ears, and whatever else seems applicable. Then, whoosh, they’re back out the door and you’re back to your own devices, or heading out the door yourself. Either way, you’ve usually had a least a full half-hour, to sit and stare at the walls. What kind of impression did that leave on you? If your hospital or clinic is staying on top of things, hopefully it left you with some warm fuzzies inside, and you’re starting to feel better by the time you head out the door. On the flip side, if the facility is anything short of 100% when it comes to aesthetics and overall physical condition, you may not be feeling any better, and may be contemplating switching to another medical office where you get the “warm fuzzies” as soon as you walk in the door.
To make sure that your on the right side of this coin, work with the Pro’s at R&H Painting! We’ll make sure you pass the sniff test, the stare test, the feel test, and every other imaginable test of paint, coatings, and wall coverings within your medical practice, on your schedule! Not even Sherlock Holmes himself will be making any deductions, other than, “Wow, nice paint job!” R&H Painting, if you want it right…!

How Cold is Too Cold?

Well, it’s been a busy, fun filled year of industrial maintenance painting. The leaves are gone, grass is turning brown, and most exterior painters called it a wrap a month or two ago. Ever wonder why some painters pull the plug September 30th and others go through October or even later? Maybe they’re reckless, and just planning on redoing it when it falls off in the spring? Or the builder/owner is being pushy and insisting it get done? Well, it could be a combination of many factors; a couple of which we’ll examine here.

exterior painting cold weatherCondensation is a Key Element

If you were to pick one individual element that makes painters start thinking about interior work, it would be condensation. The relative humidity and the ambient temperature work together, such that when you get to the job in the morning, there is dew on the grass. Oftentimes, that means there is also dew on whatever the structure might be that you are painting. Sometimes you can’t even see or feel it, but it’s there. That is why most paint manufacturers specify that the substrate (surface that you’re painting) temperature must be at least 5 degrees warmer than the dew point, and rising. Generally, that means the substrate is dry, and/or drying. We use handheld laser thermometers to monitor surface temps throughout the day.

Radiant Heat Plays a Part

A common scenario… Say you pull up to the job, to keep it simple let’s just say you’re painting a metal light pole. Hop out of the truck at 7 am. Using your miscellaneous gadgetry (truck thermometer, laser thermometer, cell phone) you come to the conclusion that the air temp is 48 degrees, the dew point is 46 degrees, and the light pole itself is 44 degrees. The pole is the coldest because it is steel, and its temperature will lag behind actual ambient conditions by an hour or so. In this situation, the pole probably has heavy condensation on it, much like your windshield did when you left home. In the same way you used your defroster to clear your windshield, you’re going to let the sun clear (dry) the light pole. It might take anywhere from an hour (of sunlight) to a few hours, but eventually the radiant heat from the sun will warm the metal pole to above the dew point.

Once that happens, the condensation will start to evaporate from the pole, and in roughly an hour, the pole will appear to be bone dry, and often is dry. Now you re-check your gadgetry (9 am), and determine that the air temp has rose to 58, the dew point has rose to 50, and the steel pole itself is registering 62 degrees. Well lucky you! You’re ready to start painting! But wait, how could it be that the light pole is actually warmer than the air that surrounds it?! Something must be wrong with your thermometer right? Nope, wrong. The gadgets work just fine. The answer is, radiation. When the rays from the sun hit dense objects, they can raise the temperature higher than the air that surrounds them. This is why your body feels cooler when you’re sitting in the shade, than lounging in the sun. The actual air temperature is the same in the sun or in the shade, but the lack of radiation (radiant heat) is what makes it feel cooler in the shade. Ever felt yourself getting a good sunburn in the sun? That is the radiant heat doing its job, and it works just as well for warming up objects for painting.

If you’re painting a dark object, it works even better and can help you later into the colder season, than if you were painting over something that is a light color, such as white. During the summer, I have often seen surface temps almost double of the air temps. A good example of that is when doing corrugated metal roofs. On a nice 80 degree day, we have observed surface temps on dark roofs in excess of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Ever seen a cat on a hot tin roof? Kinda makes sense now…

A Favorite Novolac Epoxy

Ok, back to where we were. The light pole scenario is an actual situation, that we have been through countless times. As long as your cognizant of the conditions, and follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions, it is amazing what you can accomplish with modern paint technology. One of our favorite go-to Novolac Epoxies is actually approved to go on down to ZERO degrees F. The rules regarding dew point still apply though, so careful consideration and expert knowledge is mandatory if you decide to work in those extremes. I personally did a project with that epoxy several years ago, and it was 28 F in late November when we did it. I have stopped by every fall since then, and been nothing short of impressed with how it has held up. So far, there is no appreciable difference between that project and countless others we have done during prime exterior season.

So in conclusion, when is it time to to pull the proverbial pin on exterior season? The cause is usually condensation, which effects efficiency. In the scenario I described above, there is a good chance that the crew is sitting in the truck or otherwise milling around (assuming everything else is prepped/cleaned), unproductively, while waiting “for things to warm up”. Sometimes you can get working by 9 or 10 am; some days you may have to wait until noon. Generally, you also end up having to quit earlier in the afternoon, because the evening dew will be settling in earlier as well, which doesn’t give your coating much time to dry. Therefore, it affects profitability if you can only get in 4 or 6 hours a day working productively; not to mention the fact that most tradesmen like to work a full day. That is why most contractors will switch to interior work as soon as the dew starts disrupting their work schedule.

Well, I hope you had a fun, eventful year as we did. We look forward to putting our knowledge to work for you, in the near future. Happy Trails, Bryce

Understanding The Costs of Painting Your Commercial Building

Commercial Painting Estimates

Painting a commercial structure or  space is quite a bit different than a residential painting project. While the paint inside or outside your home is designed to protect your home and make it look good, a commercial painting customer is going to have much higher expectations as to the performance and longevity of their building.  As a business you need to attract and retain customers, make them comfortable in your establishment and get them talking so their friends come by too.

Color plays an important role in the appearance of your commercial building and it’s paramount to how the public will perceive it.  For these reasons commercial painters who are good at what they do, and reliable are usually in very high demand and often booked well in advance.

Coating System EconomicsBecause of the additional work and special circumstances that can arise while painting a commercial space it’s no surprise that commercial painting projects are often more expensive then their residential counterparts.  Often a business or property owner will be quick to suggest the painting contractor is charging to high of a price.

This can often be the case especially if you’ve received several bids and one seems way out of whack. However, and this happens more often then not, it could be a case of the property owner not fully understanding the scope of the project and what is involved on the part of the painter to complete it.

To make the problem much worse, there are many small painting companies masquerading as professional commercial painters. These are the painters who’s work we are often called upon to repair. Thankfully these painters who don’t run reputable businesses and their unprofessional estimates are very easy to spot once you know what to look for.

Professional Painters Offer Commercial Color Consultations

Commercial Painting Color ConsultationsThe colors you choose for your business or commercial space play a huge role in how your customers will respond to your brand. Many painting contractors offer color consultations as a courtesy for their customer. Color consultations with a professional painter that has painted hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space can be very insightful and help you make the toughest color decisions the right decisions.

A productive color consultation appointment for your commercial space could take an hour or more, sometimes several. This is time your painting contractor generally puts in before you’ve ever agreed to hire them. The time your painter spends with you consulting on your commercial painting project is time they are likely going to bill you for in the final estimate.

Professional Painters Use Contracts For Commercial Projects

Painting ContractAs a business owner, you’d probably expect your commercial painting estimate to look professional, and be presented in a professional manner. If you’re getting a bid estimate on a napkin with some hand-scratched notes it might be a sign you need to seek a new painting contractor.

An estimate to paint the interior or exterior of your commercial space from a professional painter will be very detailed, and likely itemized. Your painting estimate could even be several pages long depending on the amount of surface area to be painted and the amount of materials that will need to be purchased.

With a good painting estimate you’ll receive a thorough description of the work involved, along with all of the materials being used and any special requests or considerations you’ve asked for in writing. Having everything in writing protects both parties.

From the moment a commercial painting contractor takes on your bid they must assume they’ve already got the job and start to plan accordingly. It’s the only way to really give the customer an accurate estimate. This process can sometimes take several hours depending on the size of your project. This is all time a professional painter definitely deserves to be compensated for.

Commercial Painters Are Licensed, Insured and Bonded

Painting Insurance and LicensingLicensing and proper insurance both for employees and the projects a painter works on are very expensive business expenses we must pay as professionals. You’d think that licensing and insurance would be obvious requirements but you’d be surprised to know that many painting contractors have neither. I’m sure you’d agree that in a commercial setting, no insurance and licensing is a disaster waiting to happen.

What if something were to happen on the job? Do you think that an unprofessional fly-by-night painter you found in the classifieds will be equipped to handle that situation, professionally and financially if required? It’s unlikely.

Your estimate to paint your commercial space will probably mention the fact they are licensed and insured to do business in your area. Licensing and insurance are something any good painting contractor will have, it’s your responsibility to make sure though.

Professional Painters Use High Quality Paints and Coatings

High Quality PaintsThere are many different grades of paint from many different paint manufacturers. They are not all created equal and especially when used in a commercial setting. This is why professional painters work with proven brands from paint manufacturers that have a solid reputation and stay on the cutting edge of painting technology. We’ll tell you exactly what brands and specific paints we’re using for your project. Some contractors will tell you that you’re getting high grade paint but is it really what they are using? You’d be surprised!

A professional painting contractor will be able to prove it and provide you with the necessary documentation for any warranty that might be available too with the paint products you’ve chosen.

Professional Painters Offer A Written Warranty

Interior Painting WarrantyThis is an important one and it’s a little bit deceiving because while some contractors will offer a warranty, they simply just won’t service it. This is especially so with the lowest bids. These painters under value their time because they need the next dollar quick. It’s not a guarantee that they’ll be around in a year to fix that flaking, peeling paint they’ve left you with.

A professional painter will offer you a rock solid warranty, in writing and while that’s still not a guarantee you’ll just have to look at the contractors reputation, the length of time they’ve been in business and how they conduct themselves to make that determination for yourself.

If your warranty information is clearly detailed and explained on the estimate you’ve received then it’s a good sign.

Preparation Work, Property Protection and Working Around Your Business

Trying to paint a business or commercial space can pose several unique challenges to a painting contractor. For example, if you’re just refreshing an existing business you might not want to have painters inside your establishment during regular business hours, maybe you want it done at night, or maybe your lease agreement requires the work be completed at night.

If it’s an exterior we are painting we’ll need to clean the building with a pressure washer, sometimes with several passes to get all the dirt and soot (from car exhaust) off the building before hand. If you’ve got 20,000 square feet of exterior space this can take a couple of days.  Working on commercial projects often means changing our schedule to accommodate the project, this could mean night shifts, odd hours and very long days trying to meet deadlines.

Another big part of the preparation work is making sure your property is protected. This could mean protecting merchandise from paint overspray, setting up ventilation or exhaust systems to handle potential fumes (depending on paint choices), placing drop clothes around your facility, safety precautions and more. Every project has different requirements and a good painting contractor will try their best to foresee these issues and write their estimate accordingly.

Who Offers Commercial Painting Estimates in Minnesota?

R and H PaintingR and H Painting is a full service commercial painting contractor serving the entire state of Minnesota. We specialize in working with business owners, property owners and building managers to revitalize and refresh both the interiors and exteriors of their commercial facilities.