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Old 04-01-2012, 09:29 PM
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loveallmedia loveallmedia is offline
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Painting on metal building...help?

Hi all, hoping for some help & advice on painting a logo on a big metal building...

I've done murals before and always worked in exterior latex/acrylic, on walls, houses, etc. This is the first time I've had to paint on a metal building. I'm not sure what to call the surface...it's just one of those very common generic metal structures you see popping up everywhere used as sheds, churches, barns, shops, offices...it is smooth with angular indentions every couple of feet, like, it sort of stairsteps in & out (not sure if the right term would be "corrugated" or what). This particular building is colored blue, although I don't know if you'd say that it's coated, painted, powder-coated, or whatever.

Being familiar with latex/acrylic paint, I've always hated using smelly oil-based enamels (like what would be used to paint outdoor metal poles, etc). In my experience, any time I've tried to use an oil-based enamel, the fumes make me sick, and the paint seems gloppy, gummy, difficult to work with, ends up dripping/running/oozing, and covers unevenly. I'm not even sure what I'm referring to other than non-latex paint!

Here's my dilemma so far: I wasn't sure what to use, so I called several paint stores. I got the sense that no one seemed very knowledgeable. Finally I visited a more high-end commercial-grade place that specializes in all kinds of paints & coatings. They immediately told me that I needed this particular paint that they sell. I was thrown off when they said it was water-based. I said, "But that won't bond to metal, will it?" They insisted that it was a modern reliable product, and that it had the handling properties of latex paint with the addition of a strong resin. I continued to express my disbelief at its durability, until they pointed out that their building itself, which is a similar-type of big metal industrial building, had their business logo painted with this exact same paint. I went outside & looked at it & felt reassured. Also, if these people were "experts", I was very, very glad to use something that is water-based & has no fumes.

What ended up happening was possibly (I'm not sure) a blessing in disguise: I went out to project the design on the outdoor wall that night. The client had provided a scissor lift to reach the high parts of the building. I got everything set up to where the projected image looked good, and started outlining. My plan was to come back in the daytime and paint it all in. But the lift stopped working, and I finally had to give up--and I hadn't gotten much outlined yet. I was very upset because it is going to be very difficult to get the projector lined back up exactly...but there was nothing I could do. Had to quit working for the weekend.

While I was outlining the little bit of lettering I was able to accomplish, I periodically would go back to earlier parts I'd sketched out that seemed touch-dry. I knew the paint wouldn't be cured yet, but I was still curious as to what its adhesion might be. I was a little put-off by the fact that it effortlessly came right off anywhere I lightly scratched it with my fingernail...but it was also cool & humid outside, so I thought I'd give it some more time.

When I got home, out of curiosity, I took the paintbrush I'd been using and painted several swatches on lots of different surfaces I had lying around: anything metal I could find; coins, cans, lots of random things, any surface I could find that wasn't absorbent like wood or paper. I even did some swatches on glass. To my dismay, now, almost 24 hours later, in a dry indoor environment....every one of the swatches I painted still easily flakes right off with no effort from my fingernail. I left one swatch on a metal can in front of a fan all night--so it had constant air moving around it for hours & hours--it still scratches off easily.

I know paint needs to cure and I still wonder if the paint spending a few days baking in the hot sun would strengthen it...but I'm very skeptical at this point.

I know there have been advances in paint films over the past years. For example, Killz or Zinsser (not sure which) makes a latex/acrylic primer that bonds very well over glossy surfaces like plastic. So far this "excellent" paint that was recommended to me doesn't seem to behave even remotely as well as this. At the paint store, I really quizzed them down, and they said the only possible problem that could potentially arise would be painting on a galvanized surface. This building is colored blue, so I'm assuming it's not galvanized, since that makes me think of that silvery/metallic color you see on old barns.

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So I guess I have 3 questions:

* Uh...what do I do? I've lost a lot of valuable time already, and I imagine when I go back to that paint store, they're going to assure me that what they recommended is the best paint for the job.


* If I do switch to a different paint, what happens with the parts I've already outlined? It's a large enough area that it's not convenient at all to try to remove the paint. It's already going to be a huge struggle to try to get the projector lined back up where I had it.


* Perhaps the most obvious: What kind of paint SHOULD I be using? I mentioned above that all my experiences with oil enamels (not even sure if I'm using the right terminology) have been bad, very bad. I've often heard of something called "One Shot" and I'm not even familiar with anything like this.

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If there's anything reliable that covers well and handles well, I'd love some recommendations here. This isn't something that I can spend forever on, and I wish I could find something fluid enough to easily tackle the curves & changing shapes/edges of the lettering & logo I have to paint. It's too bad I'm so accustomed to latex paint, because I've gotten really comfortable with its speed of drying & being able to get clean sharp edges without taping everything off. I'm really worried about what I'm going to do.

Thanks, sorry this is so much to read.

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Last edited by loveallmedia : 04-01-2012 at 09:48 PM.
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Old 04-03-2012, 09:11 PM
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Autumnwillow Autumnwillow is offline
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Re: Painting on metal building...help?

Did you prime first? I think not knowing what the existing surface was, that might have been a good idea. I personally would do a small area (less than a sq foot) as a sample, with and without a good primer. If it's a glossy paint, you will have more adhesion issues regardless of what you put over it. Might even need to scuff-sand to give the surface "tooth" if it's an enamel/ oil-based original paint. I'm all for just throwing paint on an untested wall, unless someone's paying for it, in which case I would do a paint test to figure out what the wall already had on it and go from there.

I personally use Nova Acrylics, but any exterior grade acrylic (latex is a bit of a misnomer as paint is no longer made with true latex, but people still use the term) should work well on a properly prepared surface. If you get lucky, the existing surface is acrylic and you can paint away (unless it's glossy), but if it's not, more prep is called for.

You might be in a bit of a mess, only time will tell. Painting over your paint that isn't adhering will just mean the new layer will also have adhesion issues. Kinda like painting on sand. You may eventually get the top layer to look nice, but if nothing's holding it to the surface, it will eventually fail. Exterior murals are not for the faint of heart

Keep us posted...

Michele
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Last edited by Autumnwillow : 04-03-2012 at 09:15 PM.
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Old 04-04-2012, 01:23 AM
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loveallmedia loveallmedia is offline
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Re: Painting on metal building...help?

I appreciate your input. I was starting to worry that my original post was so long that it didn't make sense or seemed difficult to understand.

I agree with everything you said. I'm a stickler for paying close attention to adhesion aspects. Not sure what it was about my conversation with the paint store that made me willing to suspend reality, except for the fact that I absolutely hate solvent-based paint, and I guess they convinced me that this paint was an "advanced" modern formula that was chemically engineered to work. I'm still puzzled as to the fact that they claimed this is what they used on their building. Their painted design looked pretty well done and has held up perfectly well.

Part of what made me open to trying this paint out is, a few times I've used some acrylic primers specifically made for glossy surfaces (like plastic), and they worked pretty well. Once I used an acrylic primer that was from Sherwin Williams, made for glossy surfaces, and it stuck incredibly firm to some slick, shiny plastic sheeting. Funny thing is, I still wouldn't be comfortable using something like this outdoors. The fact that this new paint I tried doesn't work even half as well as the aforementioned ones, is disturbing to me.

I agree on roughing up a smooth surface first to ensure good adhesion. The problem here is it's all lettering (as opposed to a fully covered wall). So I can't just go hitting the whole thing with sandpaper, as the existing wall must remain unharmed. And I can't imagine having the surgical precision to only sand inside the letters I'm painting--not to mention how inefficient that would be.

I agree with what you said about what I've already got on there not being reliable. I guess I'm fortunate that it's only outlines & that I didn't get very far in my outlining. Maybe I can clean it off...
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Old 04-04-2012, 07:35 PM
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Re: Painting on metal building...help?

I'm going to "ass-u-me" you've checked it again now that it's been on the wall for a bit? Just curious.

No reason that an acrylic shouldn't work, but again, all depends on what's already on the wall. For all you know, they may have put some kind of anti-graffiti coating on it... such a thing DOES exist and makes painting over it pretty darned impossible- by design. Do the owners of the building know what it was painted with, and when? I would be very curious to know

As for sanding only the lettering, you may have to bite the bullet and just use a primer on the lettering areas first. Try a spot-test first with your primer to make sure it'll stick. That's pretty much the only thing I can think of that will prevent a problem with adhesion later, and I know several muralists who spot prime only where they will be painting when the background can't be painted too. Hope you bid the project well!

Michele
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Old 04-14-2012, 03:57 PM
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loveallmedia loveallmedia is offline
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Re: Painting on metal building...help?

Autumnwillow, you mentioned an anti-graffiti coating. Have you ever used such a thing, and do you have any recommendations of one? I have been told you have to be careful with clear protective coatings as they could become cloudy, change the look of the mural, or turn yellow in the sun.
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Old 04-14-2012, 10:34 PM
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Re: Painting on metal building...help?

No, I haven't. I just know they exist. Sorry. I generally don't use sealers because of the reasons you mentioned. I just use a good quality exterior paint (Nova Acrylics) and hope for the best.
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Old 04-28-2012, 02:33 PM
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Re: Painting on metal building...help?

Hi!
Here are my suggestions. First clean the surface, wet, use soap with sponge and rinse well (a pressure sprayer is not bad to use either) Use zinner 123 primer-sealer. Do it during the day with temps above 60 or what ever it says and early enough to have an hour or two before sun down to avoid quick temp change and dew point. I think you can top coat in 24 hrs but check label. I use exterior acrylic house paint satin or semi gloss to gloss. What is the paint they gave you exactly? I bet it calls for some surface prep and priming. Call the paint manufacturer to discuss. Acrylic paint often take a week to ten days to cure out. I often take a gray 3M scruff pad to slick painted surfaces to give it some tooth for the primer. Acrylic often needs two or more coats to cover well. I will tint my primer with some of the primary color I will be using or grey it out so it will cover easier. Alcohol will break down acrylic paint, lacquer thinner is hotter but may damage building paint, do a test. I think a pressure blaster might be the best deal to remove the paint you have on there now. Remember the 3 Ps Prep, Prep and Prep. each combination from surface, paint and condition will have special concerns, but clean, scruff and prime will be done most times.
As for transferring the art to the surface you have some choices 1 projecting (you have already figure the plus side and the negative side to that) 2 Project on to a paper pattern, then use a pounce wheel, laying paper on Styrofoam so wheel will pass thru paper easy use the wheel with the biggest teeth if you have a choice. Then used an old sock with chalk line chalk in it to pounce the paper leaving the chalk on the building surface use a stabilo pencil to draw out the chalk because it will rub off easy the stabilo pencil can be washed off after the paint has dried with water. You will have to tape patter to wall duck tape is good just find some that will leave glue on the building(the cheap stuff) Take a helper to mount pattern to wall.
3 Scale your art work out the ribs on those building are usually on 1 foot centers but check it out then grid your art accordingly snap your horizontals with a chalk line( note chalk comes in blue ,white and red to contrast with building color) I number my vertical and letter my horizontal so I can find where I am on wall and art, then just layout each square at a time.
Well that is a long winded explanation! hope it helps.
Mike
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