How to Revamp Your Office Building's Exterior for Employees Coming Back to the Office with Surface Preparation Technologies

calander Jan 2 , 2021 user-icon Nash Painting

Coming back to work after a relaxing reprieve is never easy -- it’s made all the more challenging if you return to an office building that looks like it’s not ready for work either. Refreshing your property inside and out will help you and your employees hit the ground running for the new year and beyond. And because your building’s exterior is the first thing your people will see upon their return, it’s crucial to give it the care and attention it deserves. If it’s been a long time since you last invested in commercial exterior painting, this task might be a major priority. That said, a number of steps must take place prior to the painting itself. These various preparatory steps fall under the umbrella of “surface preparation.”

Let’s discuss how to revamp your office building’s exterior for returning employees and customers with surface preparation techniques and technologies.

What’s the Purpose of Surface Preparation?

Given the proper context, the purpose of surface preparation is implied in its name: to prepare surfaces for an ensuing coating (i.e. paint, specialty coatings, etc.). Of course, this simple definition leaves out plenty of detail. To be more specific, surface prep methods are designed to remove residue, oxidation (rust), previous coatings, surface imperfections, organic matter, and other contaminants from a surface in order to maximize the adhesion of the incoming coatings, enhance their beauty, and prolong their lifespan -- this is done via mechanical and/or chemical means depending on the material, its history, current condition, and environmental context.

Simply put, proper surface preparation is key for getting the most out of any exterior or interior paint job on any type of surface (i.e. wood, steel, plastic, concrete, etc.).

Determining the Degree of Surface Preparation Needed

If it’s time to freshen up your office building’s exterior with brand new coatings, you must first determine the type and severity of surface preparation required for the task at hand. The Painting & Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA) have a surface prep classification system that’s easy to digest, and many exterior painting services follow these or similar guidelines when assessing an exterior painting project. The PDCA's Defined Levels of Surface Preparation feature five levels of surface prep for previously-painted surfaces, each one more intensive than the last based on the surface’s current condition and your particular goals.

The first level in this methodology is “Basic,” wherein proper adhesion of new coatings requires simple cleaning methods such as the removal of dust, dirt, clearly loosening paint, and other contaminants via dusting, manual washing, light pressure washing, and mildew treatment (if necessary). Level two is deemed “Standard.” For standard surface prep, all of the basic requirements previously mentioned still apply, with the addition of methods such as caulking, patching, and sanding to enhance soundness and optimize adhesion. Certain isolated areas might need more intensive preparation as well.

Level three, “Superior” surface preparation, takes everything from the previous two levels and brings additional focus to aesthetics -- with superior preparation, final appearances matter. Contractors performing this level of surface prep will take extra care to ensure that there are no visible nail heads or brush marks, that textures and colors are perfectly matched, and that the surface is clear of any and all defects. The next level, which is dubbed “Supreme,” simply takes this attention to detail even further and employs a wider range of tools and technologies to get a surface up to snuff.

Finally, the fifth level of surface preparation as outlined by the PDCA is in a league of its own, known as “Restoration” or “Resurfacing.” This level of prep work is only necessary when surfaces and/or substrates are in a serious state of disrepair. If so, any current coatings may need to be entirely removed and substrates may need to be repaired or replaced.

It may go without saying, but higher levels of surface preparation are more time-consuming and costly than lower levels. As such, it’s important to thoroughly assess your needs and goals. Generally speaking, level two of surface preparation (also referred to as the “Default” level) is ideal for most surfaces. However, if you wish to revamp your office building’s exterior in a major way this year, levels three and four might be more in line with your goals. And if your surfaces are falling apart, your exterior might be in need of a full restoration/resurfacing.

Various Methods Used for Surface Preparation

Now that we’ve gone over the escalating degrees of surface preparation, let’s discuss the different methods used to prepare surfaces for new coatings.

Basic Cleaning

The lowest levels of surface preparation include basic cleaning methods such as dusting surfaces and scrubbing them with an optimal solution of soap/detergent and water. For the most part, these basic cleaning methods aren’t enough on their own to ensure thorough adhesion, but they’re often required for initial prep work and touch-ups.

Chemical Cleaning

Chemicals such as organic solvents or detergents must often be used to properly remove grease, oil, and other foreign contaminants from surfaces. This step should be performed before any other surface prep work.

Sanding and Scraping

Previous paint coatings, rust, mill scale, and other stubborn material should be removed via scraping and sanding techniques (also referred to as “tool cleaning”). This type of surface prep must occur in multiple stages, as some amount of residue will remain after an initial scrape or sand job. Incorporating power tools such as rotary wire brushes and sanding discs with different grit size aids in completing this task. In addition to removing contaminants, sanding surfaces also provides a more receptive surface for incoming coatings, enhancing adhesion.

Pressure Washing

Pressure washing is perhaps the most well-known and commonly-employed method of surface preparation, especially for exterior surfaces. As its name implies, pressure washing involves pressurizing water and detergent and targeting the blast at a given surface to thoroughly clear it off contaminants such as dirt, mold, and mildew. When enough power is applied, pressure washing can be used to remove previous coatings as well. Pressure washing services are well-versed in the use of different power levels, nozzle types, detergents, etc. so as to not damage any surfaces or put anyone in harm’s way during the process.

Abrasive Blasting

Abrasive blasting (also called sandblasting) is akin to a more intensive version of sanding. During this process, a stream of hard particles (various materials can be used for this) is forcefully sent towards a surface in order to shake loose stubborn material (i.e. old coatings, rust, etc.). Abrasive blasting also serves to clean and smooth out surfaces for aesthetic and adhesive purposes.

Non-Abrasive Blasting

Non-abrasive blasting operates on the same principle as abrasive blasting, but uses non-abrasive materials such as water (hydroblasting), dry-ice or sodium bicarbonate (soda blasting), which means the material dissipates on impact and leaves minimal to no residue after the fact. While this method isn’t as powerful as abrasive blasting, it is generally used for cleaning purposes, and quite effective.

Getting Back to Work Well-Prepared

There’s more than one way to prepare a surface. The best local exterior painters know this, and many even offer various surface prep services in addition to their exterior and interior painting programs. At Nash Painting, our team of professionals is prepared to handle a variety of surface prep needs, regardless of the surface material or its condition. We’ve served countless businesses and homeowners across Nashville, Brentwood, and Franklin, TN. Are you prepared to revamp your office building’s exterior? To learn more about us, our services, and our values, call us at 615-829-6858 today!