The Case for Commercial Coatings


ORLANDO—Commercial coatings protect buildings as surely as industrial coatings protect infrastructure, so why are there so few standards and certifications for the former?

That's the crux of the case made this week at SSPC 2014, which had a substantial commercial coatings track hosted by Durability + Design Magazine.

The lineup included “Commercial Contractor and Applicator Certifications,” a presentation Tuesday (Feb. 11) by  Jeff Theo of Vulcan Painters Inc., an industrial and commercial painting contractor in Bessemer, AL.

In his session, Theo updated progress on bringing commercial coatings the kind of standards, certification and training now common on the industrial protective side of the industry.

“It’s a common perception that industrial coatings provide corrosion protection, while commercial paints provide aesthetics,” Theo said at one of 10 sessions over two days on Assessing and Treating Building Components.

The conference’s architectural track was hosted by Ken Trimber, president of KTA-Tator Inc. and chair of SSPC’s Commercial Coatings Committee.

Theo chairs the Commercial Contractor Certification and Power Tool Cleaning subcommittees, as well as serving on the Standards Review Board. 

'Only One Chance'

Commercial coatings offer more than just aesthetics, Theo said. These coatings require diverse specifications, and can provide environmental protection, improve energy efficiency and safety for a building’s occupants.

Spray painting
Vulcan Painters Inc.

Application of high-performance commercial coatings should involve standards and training similar to those now used for industrial painting contractors.

Like industrial protective coatings, commercial coatings are high-stakes materials. Defects and failures can "result in a wide array of building problems on the building components," Theo said.

For example, Theo pointed out, building problems can result from atmospheric moisture infiltration, which can rust structural steel, corrode reinforcing steel in concrete construction, decay wood structures, and contribute to mold and mildew growth.

Commercial coatings should thus be considered as part of the building system, not just an aesthetic treatment, Theo said.

“You only get one chance. …It can’t be an afterthought,” Theo said.

Looking at initiatives to improve and assure quality, the commercial painting sector has lagged behind the industrial sector—until recently, Theo said.

Closing the Gap

SSPC is making efforts to close this gap, such as the January 2014 revision of SSPC-QP 9, Standard Procedure for Evaluating Qualifications of Painting Contractors Who Apply Architectural Paints and Coatings, Theo explained.

commercial coatings
© iStock / ranplett

Commercial coatings offer more than just a pretty face, and their numerous building functions need to be addressed through standards, Theo said.

Revising QP 9 was the first priority for the Commercial Contractor subcommittee, part of SSPC's Commercial Coatings Steering Committee, which was formed in 2011.

The committee's mission is to develop independent, consensus-based standards for coatings selection, coatings application and surface preparation for the commercial, architectural and institutional sectors. 

The goal of QP 9 is to provide owners and specifiers with more qualified commercial painting contractors who can apply functional coatings, but there is still a critical component missing—a standard to qualify the individual applicator, Theo said.

Work is underway to address this issue, with an Applicator Certification Standard currently being drafted.

Pathways to Improvement

In 2008, SSPC and NACE published the joint standard, ACS 1, “Industrial Coating and Lining Application Specialist Qualification and Certification,” which provides criteria for the education, training, experience, knowledge, and skills required by an Application Specialist to prepare and apply protective coatings to steel and concrete surfaces of complex industrial structures.

The following year, SSPC published the Coating Application Specialist (CAS) Certification Program with “pathways” to individual certification through a combination of training, experience, and written and practical exams.

SSPC’s QP 1 (Field Application to Complex Industrial and Marine Structures) Program contains a provision to include CAS craft workers on eligible projects, steadily increasing the ratio of CAS to non-CAS workers through 2020.

The Applicator Certification Standard currently being drafted will contain a body of knowledge to address proper application of functional coatings products on the variety of substrates found in commercial structures. The body of knowledge will serve as the syllabus for applicator training programs.

ACS proposal
Jeff Theo

The draft Applicator Certification Standard details core competencies across four levels.

There will also be four levels of applicator certification, Theo said. 

Expanding Certification

SSPC has been working on developing contractor and applicator certification standards since 1986, when the association established the Painting Contractor Certification Program—a tool designed to provide facility owners with a way to independently prequalify painting contractors.

In 1989, the first qualification standard, QP 1, was published to evaluate the qualifications of industrial and marine painting contractors. An administrative program to certify contractors to QP 1 was also established that year.

Since then, a series of qualification procedures and revisions have come from SSPC: QP 2 for field removal of hazardous coatings; QP 3 for shop painting, QP 6 for metallizing, and QP 8 for polymer coatings on concrete.

It wasn’t until August 2008 that the SSPC Board of Governors approved SSPC-QP 9, adding commercial painting contractors to the certification fold.


Tagged categories: Architectural coatings; Certifications and standards; Coating Materials; Commercial Construction; Paint application; SSPC 2014; SSPC Commercial Coating Committee; Vulcan Painters

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