Spring Cleaning

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By Scott Burt

Hooray for another tax season out of the way. While it’s about as much fun for business owners to talk about as a root canal, it is a good feeling when it’s over. There’s just one business-related heads-up I want to pass along, and then we’re going to talk about what’s new in primer. Yup, that stuff is sticking around in 2014.

For those of our readers who are business owners with employees on the books, you probably are carrying workers’ compensation as part of your insurance package. If that is the case, your workers’ comp costs are based on your payroll expenses.

One thing my company realized during tax season is that we hadn’t seen an insurance audit in a couple of years. An insurance audit is not as creepy as a tax audit. It is mostly just the insurance carrier’s way of making sure that it is charging you enough for insurance that you hope you will never need to use. And it is your way of knowing that you are paying an accurate, updated rate.

Our carrier used to audit us every single year, around December. Since our last one, we reduced our payroll through more efficient systems. The fact of the matter is that getting more quality work done in less time helps reduce labor (payroll) expenses.

Contact your insurance agent to make sure that you are paying a comp rate that accurately reflects your current payroll realities. If you have been overpaying, request an adjustment and credit. So many contractors try to save a buck here and there by pricing materials around or reusing roller naps. Don’t forget to have a look at your larger business expenses as well. Insurance rates are just as important as production rates in painting. It is important to hold all our vendors as responsible as we do our manufacturers. Public service announcement over.

On a more fun note, as the debate rages on about whether or not primer is still a player in painting, it is worth noting that a couple of manufacturers are rolling into 2014 with new – and seemingly relevant – primer technologies. Yes, new primers in a world that is chockablock full of paint and primer combos.

For those just tuning into this debate, yes, many premium paints have always had the ability to self-prime on a small scale. For more than a decade, this has certainly been the case. In the past few years, the concept has been encouraged on much larger scales, with particular appeal to do-it-yourselfers.

Of course, homeowners and consumers in general (all our customers) have seen the marketing, and every single one of us wants to embrace the idea of reducing the number of steps required to get a project done.

KILZ has three new primers out – KILZ Max Clear, KILZ Klear and KILZ Adhesion.
KILZ Max Clear is an interior sealer that is formulated to resolve those indoor disasters that leave bad stains and odors.

It is a low-odor, low-VOC, water-based primer that is intended to be hard-core enough to be used in restoration work, where it is often necessary to block old pet and smoke odors in subfloors, wall surfaces, and wall stud bays as well as garden variety wall scuffs and stains. As most of us require from a stain blocker, this is a fast drier.

KILZ Klear is an interior/exterior fast dry multisurface clear primer that appears to be ideal for same-color repaint situations, which would allow you to spot prime with less “feathering” technique than is required when using standard pigmented primers. It is a transparent flat that can be used on almost any interior or exterior surface, with the exception of floors. KILZ Klear can also be used as a straight up clear flat finish.

KILZ Adhesion is an interior/exterior water-based, modified acrylic that is built to bond to almost anything, including glass, tile, PVC, vinyl, Formica and metal, for example. As a bonding specialist, it is intended to not only stick to almost anything but also for almost anything to stick to it, including epoxies, lacquers, xylene bases and hot solvents (given 24 hours of cure time).

In response to shellac raw material shortages, Sherwin-Williams has introduced a new white synthetic shellac primer. This one is an interior specialist, built to block those pesky knots, tannin bleeds, pet odors, smoke and water stains, with emphasis on both visual and odor resolution.

The standard for this line of shellac product has historically been BIN, so we would expect similar performance in a synthetic, hopefully with less odor and better pot life.

It is encouraging to see a paint manufacturer not only continuing to produce improved primers but also taking action to find synthetic and more sustainable raw material alternatives. The great titanium dioxide debacle in recent years has certainly raised the awareness of the entire paint industry supply chain.

Some manufacturers talk about the need to develop synthetic alternatives to raw materials that are in short supply, and we recognize Sherwin-Williams for actually doing it, particularly in a critical but low-volume product line.

My hat’s-off to KILZ and Sherwin-Williams for continuing to shove primer technologies forward. We will be continuing to try these new products in different project situations and sharing the results here in this column and also over at bloggingpainters.com.

I have visited lots of behind-the scenes places with paint and tool manufacturers in the past decade. Back in ’07, I was a guest applicator in an R&D facility with a major manufacturer. Like blind taste-testing good new paints. While I was able to share a lot of information with the engineer teams about painting and using products, I walked away from that visit learning much more about the science of what is happening in a can of paint.

This was back in the day when the whole paint-and-primer-in-one thing was starting to gain traction. The product marketing executive that I was working with explained to me that every can of paint is a can of trade-offs. If you change one thing in the formulation of a can of paint, you negatively impact in many cases two or three other favorable performance characteristics.

It’s not too hard to take a really good product and mess it up with just one tweak. We all have seen it happen, and we all have seen formerly good product lines hit the shelves worse than they were before. Then we, the painters, start messing with them, and we are not chemists.

This is why I have to chuckle when some of the Internet paint reviewers make easy claims about what paint manufacturers need to be doing to make paint work better. There is only so much that you can cram into a one-gallon can, and for now, I’ll continue to take my primers in their own cans. APC

About the Author

Scott Burt is president of Topcoat Finishes Inc., in Jericho, Vt. He enjoys communicating with contractors and manufacturers at www.topcoatreview.com.

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