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Keys to a Mondo Condo Failure (I)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

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First of Two Parts

This inspector was asked to write a repaint spec for a project that involved a premature (and fairly thorough) coating failure on a very posh condo complex in a high-priced area of town.

This five-story wood-siding building had been finished in 2009 with a water-based semi-transparent stain. Within two years of construction, bare wood was already showing on the southern elevation; by the inspector's visit, the paint job was virtually gone.

And judging by the condition of the bare wood, it had been gone for years.

The exposed wood was so dry it was splitting and noticeably bleached.

Coating failure

Photos: MPI

The problems with the paint were obvious. Coating is eroded from the substrate at left, while stain has been applied unevenly to the shingles at right. Note the sagging of the shingles. The expensive building was less than five years old.

The other sides weren't quite as bad, but they still exhibited substantial areas of failure that no owner should expect to see so soon. The inspector gritted his teeth and prepared a repaint spec.

Action Plan

Recoating with a semi-transparent stain was not an option. Semi-transparent stains are feasible only when the wood and/or existing finish are in good condition; once the original coat has failed and the wood is bleached out, applying a semi-transparent stain yields a patchy, unattractive appearance.

So the inspector specified repainting with a solid-color stain.

All told, the inspector’s repaint spec for the southern exposure walls called for these steps:

  1. Mildew treat and powerwash to remove all surface contaminants.
  2. Scrape off whatever bit of stain is remaining.
  3. Power sand off the dead layer of wood on top.
  4. Apply a complete prime coat of a product approved under MPI #5 Primer, Alkyd/Oil for Exterior Wood (and if a waterbased product had been required, MPI #6 Primer, Latex, for Exterior Wood)
  5. Apply two coats of solid-color stain (MPI # 16 Stain, Exterior, Water Based, Solid Hide).

As for the Rest...

There was a little bit of stain left on the other sides, so that part of the spec called for mildew treatment, powerwashing, scraping and spot priming in areas where the deterioration was the worst, and all surfaces finished with two coats of the same solid color stain.

Degraded siding

A semi-transparent stain is not an option for a surface this degraded.

Fortunately, power-tool cleaning would not be required on these sides.

One might think that not applying a full prime coat on all sides would create an aesthetic problem. Fortunately, however, the building’s configuration is split up such that any slight difference in appearance between the southern exposure and the other walls wouldn't be an issue.

Also, most products approved under MPI 16 Solid Latex Stain are self-priming when darker colors are used; if light colors are specified, a primer is required. The repaint product for this project was a dark “self-priming” solid-color stain, so this inspector determined that a full prime coat on the less-deteriorated walls would not be required.

The price tag for this repaint project? $165,000. That's not only a tall figure, but certainly one that the owner had not budgeted for or planned.

And the question remains: Why did the original paint job on this very expensive piece of real estate fail so quickly in the first place?

About the Author

This article was written by Paint Quality Assurance Inspector Clayton Des Roches and is reprinted with permission from the MPI (Master Painters Institute) newsletter. MPI content describes best practices for commercial, institutional, and light industrial painting.

Tomorrow: What Went Wrong?


Tagged categories: Coating failure; Coatings Technology; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Exterior Wall Coatings; Latex; Master Painters Institute (MPI); Stains

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