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Your Pre-Flight Checklist – Five Essential Tips for Every Contractor

We asked our team of technical specialists for their top five tips every contractor needs to know – and it’s no surprise that their most important tips all have to do with proper preparation. As experienced painting contractors know, paint failures are almost always due to improper and insufficient surface preparation, which causes inadequate adhesion of the coating.

Just as pilots have a pre-flight checklist they follow before takeoff, painters, too, have a checklist they tend to follow faithfully. Here’s ours:

  1. Before any exterior surface preparation begins, pressure wash all loose dirt, soot, debris, spider webs etc. This will ensure substrates are clean and free of any loose contaminants that can cause paint failure due to poor adhesion.
  2. Pressure washing alone won’t remove all surface contaminants such as, heavy oils, form release agents or efflorescence. These types of contaminants will require mild cleaning agents to completely remove any substances that could cause paint failure. Be sure to rinse any remaining cleaning agents with clean water to ensure a clean and sound substrate.
  3. Inspect for signs of mildew or algae around the base of the homes due to constant moisture from sprinklers or vegetation. Mildew and algae must be neutralized with a mixture of 4 oz. bleach and 4 oz. TSP (trisodium phosphate) in one gallon of warm water. Mix this in an empty five-gallon bucket and apply with a soft bristled brush, then thoroughly rinse with clean water.
  4. Paint failure usually occurs at the weakest point of adhesion, which in most cases happens when previous layers of paint deteriorate. Scrape or sand any loose or chipped coating to ensure the new coating will have a sound surface for adhesion.
  5. Before applying any patch, caulk or sealants, a “back prime” primer coat must be applied to ensure good adhesion for any repairs.

For more information, check out some of our Technical Bulletins for tips on dozens of painting challenges; and previous Under the Lid articles, including How to Prep and Paint Loose and Peeling Paint and How to Properly Pressure Wash.

Do you have a tip to share? Let us know and we’ll feature it in an upcoming newsletter! Submit your tip to