Building and Construction, Operations, V7I6

Painting Sheds for Maximum Coverage, Efficiency, Sales

(Photo courtesy of benjamin lehman on Unsplash)

Painting a shed can seem like an easy part of the shed-building process.

However, using the wrong paint, tools, and techniques can affect quality, durability, the cost of painting the shed, and customer appeal.

Shed Builder Magazine heard from two experts in the field of shed paints to find out some best practices for proper shed painting.

Richard Burton has been in the paint industry since 1972, working with shed products since 1984. He is in charge of the wooden structures business segment of Davis Frost.

Jamie White has 22 years of coatings industry experience and is business development manager for PPG.

What comes to mind you think about painting sheds?

BURTON: First, I want to know what are the substrates that need to be painted. Are we painting over LP SmartSide, Duratemp siding, pressure-treated pine T1-11 siding, Miratec, LP Trim, or pressure-treated pine runners? The substrate will determine your paint options. 

1. LP SmartSide should be coated with an acrylic barn paint or an acrylic/urethane stain which will provide the longest-lasting durability. Acrylic semi-transparent or solid stains can be used but will require frequent repainting. 

2. Duratemp siding should be coated with an acrylic barn paint or an acrylic/urethane stain. Be sure that the white paint has stain-blocking pigment in the formula. If it doesn’t, you will get tannin stains in the grooves. The acrylic urethane stain requires a primed surface or the coating will fail in the grooves.

3. Pressure-treated pine T1-11 is normally coated with an acrylic semi-transparent stain. This type of panel will need to be recoated within two years once the coating begins to disappear. Expansion and contraction due to moisture make an acrylic barn paint or an acrylic/urethane stain likely to crack in a short period of time.

4. Miratec and LP trim are best coated with an acrylic barn paint. Acrylic/urethane stain can be used with very good results provided that great care is taken during the spray application. 

5. Pressure-treated pine runners can be painted with an acrylic barn paint or an acrylic stain. Acrylic/urethane stain tends to crack. Masking or trim shields should be used to keep an acrylic/urethane off the runners. 

WHITE: Paint is what brings the shed to life. While it’s not the most expensive part of the build, paint is the most important because it’s the first thing a customer sees.

What’s more important in your mind: the paint or the technique?

BURTON: Both! The paint formulation is the foundation. In order to produce the maximum number of sheds, we need to make the paint application as fast as possible. In a perfect world, one-coat coverage is the best possible outcome.  

If the paint formula has a higher sag resistance and a higher solids content than a conventional house paint, one-coat coverage is achievable. The spray technique of the painter requires a 50 percent overlap of the spray pattern to make this work. 

If one-coat coverage doesn’t work for you, two wet-on-wet coats has been the industry’s go-to spray application for over 40 years. Both methods allow the painter to avoid watching paint dry between coats. I like to call it run and gun.

WHITE: Both are equally important. A high-quality paint is worthless unless you know how to apply it. On the other hand, a great painter will find it difficult to do great work with a substandard coating. 

This is why we’re always willing to help our customers. From my perspective, high-quality shed paints and great customer support go hand-in-hand.

What paint qualities should a builder be looking for?

BURTON: Consistency. Consistency in color (batch to batch), viscosity (thickness), and cleanliness (no grit).  Don’t be afraid to ask your paint supplier questions. 

Does the formula contain any flash rust inhibitors, stain-blocking pigments or dry ground pigments? Are the colors factory batch manufactured or are they tinted by a colorant machine? What is the weight solids percentage of the formula? How high of a film build can I spray before the paint sags?

WHITE: Ease of application, great coverage (you want thorough coverage in the fewest amount of coats), and long-term durability with respect to color and gloss retention.

In your experience, what mistakes do you see builders making when it comes to painting a shed?

BURTON: Not having multiple paint sprayers or a paint system that will minimize clean-up during color changes. You can start out building barns using an electric sprayer for under $1000; however, you will quickly see the shortcomings of a single-sprayer method. 

There will be clean-up before every color change. A small electric sprayer’s pump packings tend to wear out quickly because of the short stroke of the piston rod. Electric motors will eventually need to be repaired or be replaced.

Air-power airless sprayers (Graco 36:1 Merkur) are almost indestructible. Air motors and pump packings hold up for more than 10 years in real-world conditions. When this pump is used in a multicolor manifold system, color changes are nearly seamless. The results are no waste, no clean-up, and labor savings.

WHITE: The most common mistake I see is a painter using a spray gun with a tip that is too large. A painter might think using a large tip will apply more product and therefore decrease the amount of time needed to spray a shed, but doing so will waste a lot of product. 

I suggest having a painter consult with the paint manufacturer to determine the correct tip to use for the particular coating. Again, this is where customer support plays a big role.

What techniques should a builder be using to apply paint?

BURTON: Spray, roller, and brush. Spray as much of the surface as you can. Use a 4-inch roller to face paint trim boards that have already been installed. Use a brush to touch up nails, caulk, spackle, and a multitude of other small spots.

The amount of paint wasted during color change is a lot more than anybody in this industry would ever care to admit. Your paint supplier should want as much paint as possible to end up on the shed—not in a wash water bucket.

How do I dry sheds in cold temperatures and high humidity? Leaving the shed inside overnight may not be good enough to avoid cracking. If your paint supplier tells you that your barn will properly dry as long as it is left in the shop overnight at a temperature slightly above freezing, you should ask for another opinion. 

Read Jamie White’s article about air movement and speeding up the drying process in the October/November 2021 issue of Shed Builder Magazine. Sometimes fans and radiant heaters need to be used to properly dry a shed before going outside into subfreezing and high humidity conditions. 

I would look at the Val6 line of portable radiant heaters to raise the temperature of your shed drying space. A Val6 heater can be placed inside the building with the doors open allowing you to dry the building from the inside out. Using a Val6 heater with floor fans is the most effective way to dry paint on the runners.

WHITE: The fastest, most efficient technique is to paint a shed using an airless sprayer for the body. For the trim, I recommend a brush or small roller.

How much of the cost of a shed should be paint and labor?

BURTON: The cost of paints, acrylic urethane stains and acrylic stains can vary greatly in their price per gallon. Current acrylic paints and stain prices can run between $18 to $32 per gallon. Acrylic/urethane stains generally cost between $28 to $50 per gallon. The acrylic paint may require 25 percent more paint than an acrylic/urethane to coat the same size building. 

Labor costs are fairly constant to spray apply most coatings. Semi-transparent urethanes that require two coats slow down the process with longer dry times between coats. 

How much money does a color change cost you? You can see that there is no easy calculation to arrive at true paint labor costs.

WHITE: There are multiple variables that affect the cost, such as type of coating, the number of coats applied, and the manner in which the painter is paid (percentage, per unit or hourly). A general guide would be 4-7 percent for materials and labor.

If a builder were to ask you for some of your top shed paint advice, what would you tell them?

BURTON: Paint is messy. It will get on your clothing, skin, and hair. You need to wear a mask or respirator when you spray it. I want to see every painter in the barn industry wear, at a minimum, an N95 mask and preferably a 3M two-stage respirator with cotton and charcoal filters. 

I’ve heard every excuse to not wear breathing protection: “The respirator fogs up my glasses.” “I don’t like how it feels.” And, “I can’t smoke while I’m spraying!”

You don’t need paint overspray in your nose and mouth if you can protect yourself. I simply want everyone that is spraying sheds to stay healthy.

WHITE: Partner with a paint company that will work with you on day one to help maximize the quality and efficiency of your shed painting operation. 

Is there anything else you believe builders should know?

BURTON: You must streamline your paint operation. Multiple fully functioning spray pumps are a must for shed production. The less that you need to clean up between color changes saves time and materials. The long-term investment in high-quality spray equipment is an important part of a barn builder’s manufacturing process.

All paint manufacturers are experiencing raw material shortages that are at an unprecedented level. Shortages in paint raw materials are going to remain a problem going into 2022. Choose a manufacturer that tells you the truth about their supply chain problems. Things will get better. 

 WHITE: I think it’s important for shed builders to use paint as a selling tool. Builders typically do a great job of selling the quality and the durability of their sheds but don’t really promote the attributes of the coating they use. 

Paint plays a major role in the decision-making process of the customer. If you are using a high-quality paint brand that’s available in a wide selection of colors, use it to your advantage. It will make your sheds look that much better.

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