Practices for Precision: How to Eliminate Color Issues on Every Project!

Practices for Precision: How to Eliminate Color Issues on Every Project!

One of the most common issues we see lately is color consistency with larger scale jobs. This can have serious consequences, all of which cost you money, and can potentially result in respraying an entire job from the ground-up. 

I want to cover the 3 most important parts of developing a set of standard operating procedures to help eliminate color problems with your project. These steps fall into these categories:

  • Bidding
  • Boxing
  • Budgeting

Bidding

Measuring and accurately forecasting your coatings order for a project is the first step to eliminating many color issues. It’s not uncommon to hear of jobs that are held up or go south because the finisher runs out of paint at an inopportune moment. Buying 3 gallons on Thursday to do a good size weekend kitchen job is a gamble, especially when you find yourself with a quart left on Saturday afternoon, with a dozen or so doors left to spray…

A conservative estimate for sprayed finish coverage is 300sq/ft per gallon. Basically, you can spray 2 sheets of 4’ x 8’ material with 2 coats of appropriate build, front and back, and still have plenty of material left over to box into your next batch.

This is by no means a rock solid rule, since some colors (darker) will cover better and stretch further than others (whites). How you reduce your material and what you use to spray (turbine, pneumatic HVLP, airless, air-assisted airless) will also affect your coverage yield. However, using 300sq/ft per gallon when bidding is a quick way to estimate materials to ensure you have enough paint to finish the job, and have a bit left over for any touch-ups or added pieces.

You also must factor in the time and labor versus material cost that you may encounter by underestimating your coatings. Having to stop dead in the middle of a job to get another few gallons of a color eats into profit faster than anything, with wasted labor and time spent driving to and from your supplier. This is further complicated by the fact that a subsequent batch may not be a 100% match, which we will discuss in the next section.


Boxing 

It’s best practice to reserve at least 30% of your remaining material to intermix, or “box,” with your next gallon or pail. This will help ensure uniformity and ease any variance in color as the project progresses. All too often, we have instances where a customer has started a project, used all of the initial batch of material, and the subsequent batch or batches may not match exactly.

This is simply the reality of industrial coatings; in order to provide tinted colors quickly and at a reasonable price, a finisher should not expect batch consistency on par with the cosmetics, automotive or food coloring industries. In fact, a consistent DE of <0.20 is often a significant upcharge for any industry. At Finisher's Warehouse, we strive to maintain accuracy, and we do test every color we tint against the initial standard, but exact matches can take up to a week to turn around, which ultimately cuts in a finisher’s schedule, and bottom line. 

It’s best to avoid that by following best practices when spraying. When possible, we recommend starting with the most visible parts of the job with the first batch of material, since drawer fronts and cabinet doors are the most scrutinized pieces of any project. If you need to box in a second or third batch, try to use that blend for lower cabinet boxes and side panels. These are great ways to offset any color variance by spraying pieces in areas where everyday line of sight visibility isn’t as common. 


Budgeting

So, you bid the job correctly, followed best practice with boxing each batch, and it turned out great. Just one problem, now you have 3 gallons of an off white colormatch that you’ll never use again left over in a 5 gallon pail. There’s a few ways to look at that and how it impacts your budget for the project.

When you initially bid the job, buying too much material may have seemed like a waste of money, but it really isn’t. Remember that the cost of labor is the most important part of every job, but also the most expensive. Having gallons of leftover material is a drop in the bucket compared to a pricey workforce sitting idly while you procure more paint for them.

More importantly, it shows that you are able to accurately build in the appropriate cost into the job down to +/- $100, which you know you can now add into future bids to cover that remaining material. It also saves money if you need to fix a door damaged by another trade (always happens with granite guys, plumbers and electricians), or spray something was added in last minute. You can be comfortable knowing that no matter what happens, and touch-up short of respraying 30 doors is doable!

After 3-4 jobs, you’ll find yourself with a surplus of unique custom colors that really have no use for future projects. This is actually a positive, since these colors can be mixed together to create primers in useful tones for future jobs.

There is no problem mixing sealer and topcoat from the same manufacturer in most cases, and in the case of Mohawk, their Duracoat Pre-Cat Sealer is the same formulation as Duracoat 10° lacquer. The lower the sheens your intermix to create a primer, the better the sanding characteristics will be. Lower sheens are inherently softer and sand easier because of the flattening agents in the formula. 

I hope some of these tips and procedures can help mitigate many of the issues our customers face when it comes to color. Ultimately, spending another $100-200 at the beginning of a project on a generous amount of paint will save you more than twice that amount down the road if you were to run out. Saving time and labor always leads to saving money!


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