All things have a working lifespan. The most important factors that determine paint’s working lifespan are quality products, effective surface preparation and knowledgeable application. Accepting compromises on these three factors can seriously lower the expected lifespan of a coat of paint. Here are some of the common types of premature paint failure, along with their most common causes:

Cracking and Flaking: This is a common paint failure with lower quality paints. Shortly after application, a series of fine cracks appear in the paint and over time, the cracks allow the paint to flake off. Basically the paint is not flexible enough or is unable to adhere properly to the substrate. Painting over bare wood without a primer can lead to cracking and flaking. You can also get this effect if you try to “stretch” the coat by over-thinning or by spreading too thinly.

Alligatoring: Similar to cracking and flaking, except the surface of the paint resembles an alligator’s hide. Alligatoring often occurs when the top coats are applied too soon, before the undercoats have dried properly. This paint failure can also result from using a harder, less flexible paint.

Efflorescence: This paint failure is caused by water passing through cement or masonry. Florescence creates salt-like deposits on the surface of the paint. Good surface preparation prevents this from occurring. The masonry or concrete must be properly cured, cleaned, sealed and dried before painting. Efflorescence may also indicate a previously un-resolved water issue, such as a leak or improper levels of moisture in a building.

Coming Up: A Facility Managers Guide to Paint Failure, Part II