No Paint, No Gain

by Katie Lee

How a great paint job can bring customers in the door — and what to look for in your commercial painting partner.

By Jim Kaloutas

The first impression a business makes can be a determining factor in whether a customer walks through the door. Even more critical, the appearance of a business can have an impact on how a customer responds to that business — whether they are proud of doing business there, whether they refer their friends, whether they return. And the key to a professional appearance is a superior commercial painting partner.

The selection of a commercial painting partner is nothing that a retail business should face lightly. In fact, there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration.

First and foremost, the commercial painter that is selected should demonstrate a strong grasp of both the business, and the business’ customer. Doing so will ensure that the painting company understands the needs of the retail facility.

Expertise and experience are also critical. The company that a retail firm partners with should have years, if not decades, of experience in the field. This background offers a deep understanding of commercial painting and exposure to every kind of project, from which they have been able to learn and grow by experience. When it comes to logistical challenges and job-specific product knowledge, a company with years of experience will provide the appropriate tool kit to handle any trial. And on commercial painting projects, there is very little room for error.

The years of experience of a commercial painting company is also reflected in the professional knowledge of their estimators and foremen. During the bidding and pre-work stages, experienced estimators and foremen should ask lots of questions. This is to ensure that they understand the scope of the project and all pertinent dynamics of the job. When choosing a commercial painter to partner with, expect to speak with competent managers who understand the complex logistics of commercial painting jobs.

In addition, the commercial painting company chosen should have a responsive and scalable workforce. Ensure that the business has the appropriate manpower, equipment and expertise to meet demanding timetables and sophisticated projects.

A commitment to safety is also critical. Retail facilities should expect any painting or coating job should be kept as an orderly and safe worksite that protects people and facilities from injury or damage, as well as making sure all safety equipment is in working order. A commercial painting company committed to safety will feature offerings such as jobsite-specific safety programs, jobsite hazard analysis, OSHA 10 certification and employee safety training.

Along with a commitment to safety, a commercial painting company should offer options to protect the future safety of a retail facility’s employees and clients. When a fire emergency occurs, good fireproof coatings can save lives and prevent a great deal of damage. Retail facilities should partner with commercial painting companies that take this responsibility to heart, making sure that fire-retardant coatings are installed properly. Intumescent coatings are fire-retardant paints that change state when exposed to flame or excessive heat. Though these coatings appear just like normal paint, and come in a variety of colors and sheens, they decompose and puff up during a fire, creating a thick, spongy foam that slows the spread of fire and heat penetration.

During a fire, intumescent paint will protect structural steel, giving those in the building a longer time to escape and firefighters a longer time to fight the blaze before the stability of the edifice is compromised. Fire-retardant coatings can also be applied to wood, drywall, concrete and cinderblock walls. Additionally, they can be applied to ceiling tiles, lath and plaster ceilings, firestop doors, pipes, electrical cables and panels, tanks, vehicles and more.

Long term, a facility maintenance plan is important to anticipate and enact. When commercial painting is performed only on a “one-time” or “as-needed” basis, everything tends to slowly deteriorate until there are serious problems: failing coatings, unsightly surfaces, rust and so on. Smaller items tend to be overlooked, and larger items are put off until the need for remediation is urgent.

For the retail business owner, maintaining the facility can pull one’s attention in a thousand directions. A commercial painting partner should be able to offer a customized maintenance plan after listening to the needs and nature of the retail business and determining the right balance between maximizing performance and minimizing disruption.

With a typical facility maintenance plan, coatings are inspected on a regular basis, and all surfaces are kept clean and fresh. The benefits of this are clear: the facility’s buildings and equipment are kept looking bright and attractive, and expensive repairs are prevented by proactive maintenance.

In addition to these services, every business has unique needs and concerns; therefore, it is important to partner with a commercial painting business that will tailor their services to match the specific work environment. For businesses that are concerned about protecting and preserving not only the external ecosystems but also interior working environments, low-VOC and zero-VOC painting options are an important choice. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are found in most paints used in commercial settings. As these paints dry, the compounds evaporate into the surrounding environment. Now, however, new lines of paint from respected manufacturers provide a solid array of eco-friendly painting options. A commercial painting company should be able to offer these options.

With hundreds of uses in thousands of applications, epoxy coatings are a common service in the field of commercial painting. When selecting a commercial painting partner, consider the variety of epoxy coatings offered, which should include a range such as ArmorSeal, Tnemec, insulating epoxy coatings, hi-build epoxy, fiberglass reinforced epoxy, 100% solid epoxy, water-repellent epoxies, antimicrobial flooring, thermal-shock resistant coatings, anti-slip safety flooring, and chemical resistant coatings. Keep in mind as well that with the installation of epoxy coatings, a contractor should be selected based on his or her skills, experience and management to do it efficiently and correctly. A commercial painting company should be flexible to work whatever hours are necessary to minimize downtime and get the coatings installed quickly.

Typically, when a retail facility is looking for commercial painting services, other services will also be needed, either at the same time or at some point in the future. It makes sense to look at commercial painters who also feature other services, such as: electrostatic painting, faux and decorative finishing, drywall finishing and repair, wallpaper and wall coverings, wall texture coatings, warehouse ceiling painting, freezer applications, silo and storage tank linings, multi-color coatings, intumescent (fireproof) coatings, corrosion resistant coatings, elastomeric waterproofing coatings, energy-efficient coatings, EFIS stucco coatings, multi-color coatings, Multispec, Polomyx, Zolotone, Scuffmaster, silo and storage tank painting and coatings, structural steel painting and coating, pressure washing, sandblasting, electrostatic painting, line striping, impact resistant coatings, mildew check wash, and vapor barrier paints.

Finally, partnering with a commercial painting company that focuses on people and relationships goes a long way toward ensuring a positive and productive working relationship that will last for years to come. A business model built on creating trust and long term relationships with employees, general contractors, vendors and suppliers is a great reflection of a company that cares about its customers as well.

— Jim Kaloutas is president of Kaloutas Painting, a commercial painting company serving clients throughout New England since 1987. Email him at [email protected].

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