As a painting business grows, it’s natural for an owner to be less involved with crews. From a business operations standpoint, that’s a good thing. An owner’s time is limited and, to maintain growth, he or she must focus on ways to build revenue instead of tending to day-to-day job details.
While a company grows, however, materials and application methods may shift for those in the field. Being in touch with coatings advances and how they affect a crew’s spraying capabilities, for example, is one important aspect to keeping crews completing jobs successfully and on time.
For some owners, it may seem like a hefty expense to pull a crew and have it spend a day for sprayer training, but the move could save money in the long haul if more customers call back for repeat work instead of overspray complaints. Here’s a look at some common spraying challenges and how sprayer-training programs tackle them:
TRAINING, CHEMISTRY, TIP TECHNOLOGY
Customer complaints and increasing job costs are the two primary drivers that push painting companies to call a time-out for sprayer training, says Scott Burt, cofounder/ co-owner of Prep to Finish, a VT-based training company that serves painting crews all around the country.
“We hear from contractors who say, ‘we want to make sure everyone is on the same page,’” Burt said.
Bob Zaffino, president of Medfield, MA-based The Paint Project, Inc., an industrial paint equipment sales and service business, says they just added a new 4,000-square-foot sprayer training facility to its business. Zaffino’s greatest demand comes from contractors with employees new to the trade.
“They see it as imperative to have the newbie end user trained correctly,” he said.
Burt says that through the years, with the shift toward low-VOC and latex or water-based paints, pros have had to shift some habits. With those changing formulations, a pro may need to prep the coating differently prior to spraying, or a different tip may be needed for a thicker or thinner coatings.
Burt says one of the biggest game changers influencing spraying today is the use of low-pressure tips for airless sprayers.
Chris Noto, director of products for WAGNER, which owns Titan, says its new ‘high-efficiency airless tip’ is not a low-pressure tip by HVLP standards, but it offers a considerably lower pressure than standard tips traditionally found on airless machines. If used properly, it can help minimize overspray. Titan sales reps work with local paint distributors to do hands-on training sessions to help paint store employees and end users understand the new technology.
“It’s important for the end users and store employees to pull the trigger and actually see how it works,” Noto said.
Titan works with coatings manufacturers in order to recommend the best tip for any coating. Mike Collins, Titan’s channel marketing manager, emphasizes that typical drywall spraying offers some leeway with the type of tip used.
“People don’t really run into problems spraying latex on walls or the exterior of houses. It’s spraying cabinets and the fine finishes … that’s where you have to be smart about your equipment choices, tips, and your system,” Collins said.
Zaffino says pros must also pay attention to tip wear. They may not realize it has a factor in overspraying or simply using too much paint on a job.
WEATHER, DATA SHEETS
Even with the correct tip, Zaffino says each paint requires a specific amount of thinner or special emulsion to better flow through spraying equipment. Also, some crews may not take weather into account; as temperatures drop, problems can arise.
“A cold paint needs more pressure. It becomes thicker. If you’re not careful, you can start to see an inconsistent pattern,” he said.
Nick Slavik, founder of Nick Slavik Painting & Restoration Co. in New Prague, MN, lets a coating’s data sheet be the ultimate guide. It helps him match the right tip to the coating and he makes it a point to follow the exact coating manufacturer recommendations.
One common mistake pros make is rushing a second coat before the first one has had ample time to dry, or has dried as long as the data sheet recommends, Slavik added.
“If you follow that data sheet, it’s sad to say … honestly, you’ll be better than 90% of the painters out there,” he said.
EFFICIENCY, TECHNIQUE, MAINTENANCE
Burt often sees company owners invest in high-dollar equipment, only to have it used incorrectly or simply not maximize the payback.
High-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) machines, for example, can help to reduce overspray by improving transfer efficiency, but may not be the best option for high-production situations with long runs of drywall, or exterior surfaces. With a lower atomization rate, the need to slow down could also frustrate a crew member who is used to spraying faster with an airless machine.
“If you spent $2,500 on an HVLP machine with an $800 gun on it, but always used an $800 airless with an $80 gun in the past, you may be underutilizing the investment,” Burt added.
While coating data sheets are a great guide, getting the right coverage and best overall look comes down to refining technique.
“Mil thickness is really tied to how fast you’re moving [your pace], as we say… if you’re too slow, it’s too heavy, you’re too fast or too far away, it’ll be too thin,” Burt said.
He emphasizes the importance of a trainer watching a painter, and narrowing in on specific technique problem areas.
“In the field, the painter doesn’t have someone watching him so he doesn’t really see what he’s doing [wrong],” he added.
Burt also says the type of gun can impact technique, too. Some inexpensive four-finger guns, for example, may be hard on crew members who spray a lot.
“You do that for 30 or 40 hours a week and that’s going to impact your game,” he said.
Some spraying problems are also tied to poor machine maintenance. Zaffino commonly finds clogged filters and pumps during trainings. A good training session is grounded in equipment basics and should show a team exactly what’s being overlooked with regards to maintenance and equipment troubleshooting, he added.
He recommends using hot, soapy water to clean a unit after a job is done. Hot water removes paint better from manifolds, strainers, guns and tips.
ONLINE TRAINING OPTION
Online training options can be attractive as timesavers for busy painting-business owners. Prep to Finish recently launched an online training program: PainterTrainer.com. It allows busy owners to empower employees to train themselves through an online course with full support from Prep to Finish. The employee can then train other staff members.
Noto and Collins say Titan is in the process of adding to its already large collection of company web site and YouTube tutorials. If online insights are the only option for a business owner, it’s better than nothing, according to Collins; but it may not be the best option for those new to the trade and without foundational knowledge. “At the end of the day, it’s always better to get your hands on the equipment,” Collins added.