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The Elements of a Quality Paint Specification

Breaking Down Paint Specifications

The paint specifications sheet will determine the entire scope of any coating project. Specifically, for a painting project, this is broken down into three broad categories; the product to be used, the surface preparation required and how the product should be applied.

As mentioned in our previous post on how to write paint specifications, a specification’s worth is largely a matter of detail. Instructions must be detailed enough to avoid misunderstandings between the contractor and the owner, while not being unnecessarily restrictive. The following are details that may be included for each category of the specification.

The Product

“Sole spec” sheets are written specifically for a certain product. This is a situation where “shall” or an equally stern term will be used to refer to the product to be used. In some instances, such as federally funded projects, sole spec sheets are not permitted. In these instances, a few options may be provided, or “may” will be used to indicate a tolerable substitute. Here a product may be referred to as “trade name or equal”. This section will also likely specify any unique product formulations the project requires. For instance, if strict VOC regulations are a concern, this section could stipulate a high solids or even 100% solids formulation.

Surface Preparation

The most commonly accepted industry standards pertaining to surface preparation were devised by the Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC) and the National Association of Corrosion Engineers International (NACE). These are the gold standard for measuring the readiness of a surface to receive a coat of paint. These surface preparation standards range from SP1 to SP14, though a higher number does not necessarily indicate a higher level of surface cleanliness. Each standard indicates the method of cleaning as well as criteria for evaluating the outcome. For instance, an SP5/NACE 1 level of surface preparation is a white metal blast cleaning “that should leave the surface free of visible oil, grease, dust, dirt, mill scale, rust, coating, oxides, corrosion products and other foreign matter.”

Because surface preparation is such a tremendously important step in the process (improperly preparing a surface is a surefire way to shorten the coating’s service life) spec sheets must either stipulate the required level of surface preparation or direct the contractor to a product data sheet that does so.


This is another section of the spec sheet that should heavily reference specific product data sheets. The ambient conditions, number of coats and mil thickness required for a successful application should be spelled out in that document.

The specification sheet should also specify the method to be used during application. If a specific formulation, such as a 100% solids formulation is called for, then this section should also include any notes on required application equipment such as plural component pumps. The contractor should also be made aware of any other challenges that may arise during the application process in this section of the specification sheet.

Your paint specification sheet will specify what products are needed and how they need to be applied, as well as the surface preparation required for the job. These are the core elements of a paint specification, but to learn everything there is to know about paint specifications you can download our comprehensive guide below.




The Elements of a Quality Paint Specification

What are Paint Specifications?

Implementing corrosion protection for your facility all starts with one important document: your paint specifications sheet. Your paint specifications sheet will outline the entire course of your project. This document must clearly and concisely lay out the conditions and processes that will prevent corrosion and other harmful damages to your facility.

It is not a statement of how the project should look once completed, but rather a detailed explanation of the conditions necessary to achieve maximum service life and corrosion protection. Paint specifications are the project template, and if something is wrong with the template, the finished product simply won’t perform properly.

In the unfortunate event of a dispute between a contractor and a project owner, the project specifications will also likely be used to determine whether each party lived up to its responsibilities. This is just another reason to make sure your paint specifications are thorough and clear before a project gets off the ground.

How to Write Paint Specifications

Well-written paint specifications contain exactly as much detail as they need to make expectations clear and no more. Industrial coatings are more complex than they used to be, and paint specifications need to reflect that complexity.

At the same time, these specifications need to be unambiguous in order to avoid confusion about an owner’s expectations. It should be clear to a contractor that the owner expects all aspects of the document to be lived up to, or else any recommended changes should be clearly mentioned during the bidding process.

Clarity of the paint specifications will reduce the likelihood that a contractor’s work does not conform to expectations. A clear understanding between both parties will also reduce the probability that expensive change orders will need to be filed during the course of the work.

As mentioned before, specifications can act as legal documents in the case of a dispute, and any confusion resulting from unclear specifications may increase the risk of a breach of contract or a legal dispute.

But what are the actual elements of a specification document?

What exactly is being specified?

For answers to these questions and more info on who to talk to about paint specifications, download our whitepaper below.




The Elements of a Quality Paint Specification

The cost effectiveness of flow efficiency coatings

Note: This is the fourth of a series of posts covering the definition, development and properties of flow efficiency coatings. Click the button at the bottom of this post to download the full PDF.

internal pipe coatings

Our series on flow coatings has hopefully been building the case that, when the advantages of flow efficiency coatings are combined with the corrosion-resistant properties of 100 solids coatings, they more than justify the expenditure.

Flow coatings have been shown to reduce both capital and operating expenditures over the long term. A 2000 study demonstrated that flow coatings were capable of cutting friction coefficients by 50 percent in carbon steel pipes.

Another study by Rafael Zamorano shows that a 1,200 km pipeline owned by GasAtacama returned substantial savings by using internal flow coatings. The company reported saving $2.4 million in fuel for compressor stations alone. When this figure was added to reductions in capital and operating costs, savings exceeded $20 million.

Shell Global Solutions was recently able to demonstrate cost savings of 5% on a 250 km stretch of pipeline because flow efficiency coatings allowed them to move to a smaller diameter pipe. France’s Institut Francais du Petrole realized cost savings of 7-14% in lightly corroded pipe and 15-25% in the case of highly corroded pipe.

The sticker shock that accompanies these 100 percent solids has discouraged owners from investing in them, despite the returns on investment they have been found to deliver. On average, 100 percent solids run around twice the cost of the same amount of 50 percent solids.

Fortunately, these higher solid coatings end up covering about twice the surface area of the lower solid option. This turns the price difference into a relative wash. Once the added benefits of a 100 percent solid are factored in—zero VOCs, no loss factors since the components aren’t mixed until the time of the application and added corrosion protection—then 100 percent solids bring far more to the table than their apparently lower-priced counterparts.

The debate over the cost-effectiveness of flow efficiency coatings has raged for some time. But developments in 100 percent solids coatings lead to added benefits as internal pipe coatings that tip the balance in favor of these coatings. Unlike their forerunners, these coatings allow for added mil thickness when corrosion protection is a concern. In addition to increasing hydraulic efficiency and preventing buildup, internal pipeline coatings are now able to provide effective corrosion protection. And given the rise of new forms of oil and gas extraction, corrosive materials will soon be flowing through a lot more pipeline.

Flow efficiency coatings


The Elements of a Quality Paint Specification

Note: This is the third of a series of posts covering the definition, development and properties of flow efficiency coatings. Click the button at the bottom of this post to download the full PDF.

Flow efficiency plus internal pipeline corrosion control

For years, regulatory agencies have focused on the issue of external pipeline corrosion, sometimes neglecting or leaving aside the question of internal corrosion. Not surprisingly given the harsh environments many oil and gas pipelines operate in, most of the energy has been allocated to preventing corrosion occurring on the outside of pipelines.

Only recently have pipeline owners begun to focus serious attention on problems (and missed opportunities) stemming from internal buildup and corrosion. As documented cases of internal corrosion pile up, the argument for flow efficiency coatings being a sound investment is strengthened. The proliferation of hydraulic fracturing and similar methods of oil and gas extraction only furthers this conclusion. For an explanation of why these methods introduce more corrosive elements than traditional extraction methods, see this post on tank linings in the age of hydraulic fracturing.

Traditionally, internal pipeline coatings have been divided into two groups: those aimed at improving hydraulic efficiency and those aimed at controlling corrosion. Flow coatings, typically applied at a thickness of around 2 mils, were not sufficiently thick to be considered corrosion resistant linings, which are typically around 5 mils thick.

But 100 percent solids can help to close this gap between traditional flow coatings and corrosion resistant ones. Unlike with water or solvent-based coatings, 100 percent solids allow for the addition of mil thickness until the desired level is reached. There is no danger of water or solvents becoming trapped within the film build because there is no water or solvent.

This feature allows 100 percent solids to provide added value as internal pipeline coatings, since they serve both to increase hydraulic efficiency and to fight the sort of corrosion that can lead to disastrous financial and environmental setbacks.

Internal pipeline corrosion control

As mentioned in an earlier post, increased attention is being paid to flow rate and instances of internal corrosion. According to a study conducted by the API, corrosion was still the leading cause of leaks by 2012. There were 204 total incidents of internal corrosion between 1999 and 2012. Of these incidents, 31 occurred in portions of pipeline that had intermittent flow and seven in portions that had no flow. In these instances of low to no flow, water is more likely to collect against the side of the pipe, creating the conditions necessary for corrosion to occur.

The report concludes that, while instances of external corrosion continue to be the leading cause of incidents along pipelines, much more has been done to address these external issues. As a result, their rate of occurrence is dropping far faster than instances of internal corrosion.

When the stakes include the costs of a damaged asset, time lost with the asset out of service, leaked material and environmental liabilities, then it stands to reason that internal anti-corrosion coatings justify the initial cost output. If they also combine flow-efficiency properties, their value is all the more certain.

Flow efficiency coatings


The Elements of a Quality Paint Specification

Note: This is the second of a series of posts covering the definition, development and properties of flow efficiency coatings. Click the button at the bottom of this post to download the full PDF. 

Flow efficiency coatings: A history

For years, the most common formulations of flow coatings were based on low solids epoxies. But recent regulations governing VOCs emissions at the regional, national and international levels have made these formulations difficult or impossible to use. In response, some companies have begun to experiment with new formulas for internal pipe coatings.

Flow efficiency coatings: A history

Water-based epoxies emerged early as a potential solution, but problems have surfaced. Water has proven difficult to remove once the coatings have been applied. This makes climate a major factor in the application process. In predominantly humid environments, water-based coatings have a tendency not to dry at all.

Plural-component, 100 percent solids coatings have superseded water-based epoxies as a solution to the problem of flow efficiency coatings and emissions regulations. These have been shown to have quick cure times, regardless of weather conditions. Even in rain, 100 percent solids tend to dry. And of course, because they contain no solvents, they comply with even the strictest regulations.

It is true that some investments must be made in order for an operation to make use of plural component coatings. Pumps and other application equipment are on consideration. The products themselves are generally about twice as expensive, as well. This turns into a relative wash, though, because they also tend to cover twice the surface area of lower solids coatings, so about half as much product is required. Waste is also a non-issue, since plural component coatings are not mixed until the moment before they are applied.

These benefits make 100 percent solids a viable option for use as flow efficiency coatings. But there is another benefit high solids coatings can bring to flow efficiency that may ultimately tip the balance in favor of the cost-effectiveness of these types of coatings. In our next post, we’ll be discussing how, and why, corrosion-resistant properties can be combined for ultimate utility.

Flow efficiency coatings


The Elements of a Quality Paint Specification

How internal pipe coatings affect pipeline-pumping efficiency

internal pipe coatings

Note: This is the first in a series of posts covering the definition, development and properties of flow efficiency coatings. Click the button at the bottom of this post to download the full PDF.

Flow efficiency coatings are meant to reduce operational costs associated with pumping petroleum products through a pipeline by enhancing the smoothness of the pipe’s interiors.

These pipe linings improve hydraulic efficiency by smoothening the interior surface and preventing the buildup of corrosion and deposits. The elimination of even minor variations in surface height inside of a pipeline has been shown to drastically reduce the costs associated with pumping products through the line.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), one of the agencies which publishes standards for flow efficiency coatings, cites the following four benefits of flow efficiency coatings; improved flow characteristics, corrosion protection during the period preceding construction, enhancement of visual inspection of the internal pipe surface and the improvement of pigging efficiency.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has also issued guidelines for friction reduction coatings. In 2001, these standards began to account for some developments not accounted for in the standards issued by the API. But neither of these most common industry standards for flow efficiency coatings makes any provision for the presence of corrosive gasses. In fact, ISO 15741 explicitly states that the standards do not account for the presence of corrosive gasses.

As more and more oil is procured from water-intensive methods such as hydraulic fracturing, pipeline owners will have to account for the presence of corrosive materials. This trend will have to be reflected in domestic or international standards regarding the use of flow efficiency coatings, and has potential to shift the most desirable formulations for flow efficiency coatings.

In our next post on flow efficiency coatings, we’ll discuss some basic formulations, the reasons they haven’t been universally adopted and improvements on the horizon.

Flow efficiency coatings


The Elements of a Quality Paint Specification

Aboveground storage tank regulations changing in West Virginia

WV Aboveground Storage Tank Regulations Changing

A disastrous spill of chemicals into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia early this year left 300,000 people without clean drinking water and prompted legislation mandating tighter regulations for inspecting aboveground storage tanks.

The spill, which left area residents completely reliant on bottled water, understandably prompted fears that a similar incident could again occur in the future. Legislators responded with Senate Bill 373, which contained sections entitled Aboveground Storage Tank Act 22-30 and Public Water Supply Protection Act 22-31.

An Interpretive Rule was released to assist in understanding and complying with the inspection guidelines set out in West Virginia’s Aboveground Storage Tank Act. Broadly speaking, this new legislation requires aboveground storage tank (ASTs) owners to have their tanks inspected before the first of the year, and to address the issues described in the Interpretive Rule.

We can help

The Interpretive Rule was released solely for the purpose of helping AST owners understand the inspection demands in light of the quick action required. Imminent deadlines have made compliance a tricky issue for AST owners.

Here’s where we come in. US Coatings offers coating specification consulting at no cost to you. Meet with an experienced coatings representative to discuss some of the challenges your tank linings will face. We’ll select coatings based on the appropriate chemical resistances, discuss the application procedure and begin to draw up a maintenance procedure for moving forward.

Corrosion maintenance plans help to reduce instances of unforeseen expenditures on your AST in the future. When well designed, these coatings maintenance budget projections can spread costs out over time and help to avoid the sort of tank lining failures that could be catastrophic for the environment and area residents.

A highly unfortunate turn of events led to a change of regulations in the state of West Virginia. But the burden of that change shouldn’t be unbearable for the state’s AST owners. We think we can help make the transition a little easier.

Tank lining systems guide


The Elements of a Quality Paint Specification

Choosing coatings for the power generation market

Coatings for the power generation market

The power generation industry is not a homogenous market. It is often broadly divided into the categories of nuclear and conventional power generation. But the “conventional” category can be divided into well-established power generation methods such as fossil fuels and hydroelectric, and newer, renewable sources such as wind and tidal power generation.

Because these various sources of power generation face such different challenges, and require diverse and sometimes very specific characteristics of their protective coatings, the power generation market possibly has the most to gain from on-site surveys and coating systems recommendations by NACE-certified coatings professionals. Site-specific recommendations based on the unique needs of any given asset in a facility are simply more likely to perform than those recommended by “experts” who have never set foot in the facility.

Power generation operations will share certain needs to be sure. Most of them will likely have large amounts of structural steel that must be guarded against corrosion. High operating temperatures and the need for high temp coatings will be prevalent in power generation facilities using a variety of energy sources. Guarding against corrosion under insulation will likely be a concern.

But there will also be a number of challenges that are unique to each type of industry. Wind turbine coatings will require quick cure times and more UV-resistant properties, for example. Nuclear facilities are subjected to very strict regulatory standards, one area of need being high levels of fireproofing. In hydroelectric facilities, permanently submerged structures need to be taken into account.

Additionally, power generation facilities are likely to have OEM assets that are completely unique to that facility. Sometimes the application process for this type of equipment can be quite complicated. A coatings professional, evaluating the situation on-site, should be able to recognize these situations, and perhaps even make recommendations to the owner on how to proceed.

The better facility managers and owners understand the specific conditions of their own assets (operating temperatures, moisture levels, etc.) the better they can protect those assets. It will also increase their ability to predict when maintenance is required, reducing the likelihood of unscheduled downtime.

Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution for a market as diverse as power generation, it is crucially important that the managers of these facilities work closely with coatings professionals to understand the unique corrosion protection needs of their site. On-site surveys provide an excellent opportunity for achieving this understanding.



The Elements of a Quality Paint Specification

US Coatings partners with industrial coatings distributor for Southwest region

US Coatings is proud to announce its new partnership with B&W Distributors. The Mesa, Arizona-based company will now be distributing industrial coatings products from US Coatings throughout the Southwestern United States.


B&W Distributors, Inc. has been in business since 1995, striving to supply its customers with the “best infrastructure repair and corrosion control products available.” They pride themselves on choosing only the finest suppliers of specialty coatings, sealants, linings and repair compounds.

“It’s a testament to the quality of our products that such a discerning distributor has chosen to carry our label,” said US Coatings General Manager Mike Reed. “It’s an honor to be partnering with B&W.”

B&W Distributors is a Certified Woman’s Business Enterprise. Visit their website for complete contact information.


The Elements of a Quality Paint Specification

How long will my marine coatings last?

Marine coatings durability

Durability is often one of the first topics to come up when discussing marine coatings. How long will this coating last? Given our emphasis on the importance of marine coatings maintenance, it’s something we put a lot of thought into. As with any coating application, a lot of factors go into predicting the lifespan of marine coatings.

When it comes to exterior marine coatings and durability, ship and barge owners have some pretty simple expectations. A good exterior marine coating must have excellent corrosion protection, high UV-resistance (it’s not like tugboats pull into a garage come quitting time), high gloss retention, and solid abrasion resistance characteristics.

Even with these characteristics, the coatings that protect the hulls of barges are faced with an uphill battle. With all the abuse they encounter—from raking against other barges, scraping river bottoms, hitting driftwood and other debris—it’s normally a good idea to maintain these coatings every two to four years, when the barge is dry-docked for maintenance.

Besides the hull, coatings in other areas of a vessel face their own challenges. Non-skid coatings are safety coatings that are popular because they reduce or even eliminate fall hazards in high-traffic areas. But because non-skid coatings are subjected to such heavy foot traffic, they’re susceptible to wear and it’s important that owners keep a close eye on them and pick the best option for their application.

One solution we often recommend is an epoxy-based system, where an aggregate is broadcast onto an initial, wet application and then a topcoat is applied over that. The aggregate can be anything that can be ground up into a fine material that’s still course enough to cause friction. Some of the most common are glass, coal slag and sand. When it becomes apparent that the coating has reached the end of its life expectancy, it should be replaced immediately.

A consultation with a certified coatings professional will leave a barge owner with a much better understanding of how long a coating will hold up under given conditions. This meeting should also work to establish a maintenance plan, which will simplify service schedules moving forward, and give the owner a better idea of how to budget for coatings. The professional should be able to give options at several price points, tips for extending the coating’s lifespan, instructions for proper maintenance of the coating and specific recommendations for how and when to reapply the product.

If you’re ready to talk now about marine coatings for your barges, get in touch with US Coatings today.


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