Painting Bar Joists, I-Beams, Sprinklers, and everything Else in Industrial Ceilings.

Being a Commercial Painting Contractor has its perks and challenges.  The perks are the satisfaction of knowing that a job is successfully completed.  But that completion isn’t without its headaches, which is where the challenges come to play.

One of the most common substrates to paint in commercial and industrial facilities are the ceilings.  And when a typical human thinks of ceilings, they’re probably thinking of drywall.  Which might require some trisodium phosphate and Spackle.  But when you’re a commercial painting contractor, you’re dealing with more than drywall.

Recently, we were tasked with the objective to paint a ceiling and wall.  And although this sounds pretty straight-forward, there’s a lot more that meets the eye.  Like what’s the room temperature?  Any of these infrared thermometers will be beneficial in helping you decide which material is right for the job.

Firstly, the ceiling is constructed from acoustical panels.  Which may not sound like a big deal.  But in reality, acoustical panels have a high absorption rate.  Which means that they’ll require a lot more paint than the typical 400 square feet per gallon.

Secondly, the ceiling also has bar joists, cross braces, and other structural steel holding it together.  These components involve numerous turns, edges, corners, pits, peaks, and valleys.  So when estimating from 23′ below, the estimator will need to make the appropriate adjustments to be sure that he is factoring in enough material for his estimate.

Thirdly, what type of prep work should be considered?  Commonly, power washing is an excellent method to prepare the substrate in a greasy facility.  However, this facility is fairly dry.  Or so it appears from the floor.  So although a good power washing would provide the best prep work, in some situations, optioning for a good air cannon can suffice.

And Here’s Are Some Note Worthy Challenges that Occurred on the Job…

Firstly, hanging the plastic was not as simple as it appeared.  From the ground level, one might think that because there’s a straight run, without any obstructions, then a person can whizz through with a scissor lift, and clamp the plastic to the top of the bar joists.  And this was not the case.

The bar joists had conduit, cross braces, and sprinkler lines running perpendicular with the bar joist.  So instead of easily clamping plastic to the top of the bar joist, we had to cut and suture the plastic around all of the conduit, which slowed down our production rate pretty drastically.

The second problem that occurred was that the air cannon prep method was marginal.  As everyone claiming to be a professional painter should know, prep is the most important step in painting.  And although power washing was not an option in this facility, the air cannon was the only course of action.  However, the initial site visit only suggested that the dirt and debris was loosely adhered to the steel.  But after rising to the rafters in a scissors lift, it was evident that some of the debris was gunky.

And as the picture shows, this dirt is caked on the steel.  Air prep was challenging.  The material required a scrub or brush to agitate the dirt first, which then made it easier to prep it with the air cannon.

The third problem that showed up was the absorption rate of the ceiling tiles.  During the initial site visit, only the square footage of the ceiling was documented.  But in reality, not only the surface area, but also the fact that the tiles are acoustical tiles.  And those tiles are very porous and will absorb a lot of material.  Which means then when the installers went to spray the ceiling and steel, it required a lot more material than what was originally estimated.

As the picture shows, applying only 1 coat of paint does not adequately cover the surface.

Overall, regardless of the on site problems that appeared, the job was a success.  It did not require more hours than what was estimated to complete.  And although it did require a significant amount of paint than what was estimated, the customer was ultimately satisfied with the results, and have since requested more work due to the successful outcome.