Too Thick, Too Thin, or Just Right? The Importance of Using a Dry Film Thickness Gage 1

My friend Oscar spent years building a reputation as an excellent commercial painter.   Living in South Texas, he had developed a niche business painting equipment in the oilfield supply sector.   However, as competition increased, Oscar felt the need to lower prices to remain competitive.  Oscar’s reputation for doing a great job turned in to a reputation for being inexpensive, and being inexpensive meant he had to race from one job to the next to generate more revenue instead of taking his time.

On one job last year, a customer provided Oscar with 8 gallons of a custom protective coating for a piece of equipment that would be subject to high heat.  Oscar used a wet-film thickness gage during the application of the paint and  thought he had confirmed that the thickness was correct.   But rather than wait around for the paint to dry and measure again, Oscar packed up his tools and set out for the next job waiting.

Bad choice.

Painted oilfield equipment

Image Courtesy of

5 months later, the customer called to ask Oscar about the coating thickness.  It seemed the coating on the equipment was not properly protecting the steel from the outdoor elements and high-heat as was expected.  Rust and corrosion were already setting in and the customer was concerned that the integrity of the entire structure might be compromised.   Oscar replied that he had used all of the paint provided but had no answer when the customer asked if he had measured the coating AFTER it had dried. The solution had been formulated to provide more than enough protection if it were applied correctly and the customer would have been glad to provide more, had they only known it was needed.

Oscar had no answer for the customer and a subsequent test showed that the substrate was not properly coated.   Word got around that Oscar’s negligence had led to the equipment being ruined and his long term customers started awarding jobs to other vendors.  They told Oscar that being ‘cheap’ or ‘fast’ wasn’t a business strategy, and they needed to be sure their painters were confirming the job was done correctly once it was finished.

A competitive advantage found by doing things the right way…

The commercial paint industry is a highly competitive marketplace where price and quality often carry unequal weight with most customers.  Not surprisingly, the vast majority of clients are happy to pay more for a job well done.  Finding the cheapest or least expensive vendor often results in substandard results which cost extra time and money to fix at a later date.  Whereas there will always be a competitor willing to do the work at a lower price, there often will not be a competitor willing to offer the same high quality of service at a lower price.   And therein lies an opportunity for the true professional, as competitors that cut corners are less a threat to the profession than they are an opportunity for those committed to doing a great job. 

BYK Dry Film Thickness Gage

Image courtesy of

The Last Step is the Most Important

Not long ago we discussed the importance of carrying a wet film thickness gage.  By measuring thickness during the actual paint job, the painter can adjust for a coating being applied too thick (wasted paint) or too thin (poor coverage and protection).   However, even if the thickness of the paint is measured during the application process, it should always be measured again after it has dried completely.   Perhaps the most critical  and most often overlooked part of that entire process is making sure that the paint or coating applied is the desired thickness, color, sheen, clarity, and protection after it has dried and the job appears done.   The best way to measure these critical properties is by using a dry film thickness gage.

A non-destructive dry film thickness gage uses either magnetic induction on metallic (ferrous) substances or eddy-current on non-metallic (non-ferrous) substances.    Depending on the substrate, a magnetic or electrical current is used to penetrate the painting or coating via a short pulse.  When the pulse bounces off the substrate back to the dry film thickness gage, a reading is acquired that is analyzed and formulated into a measure of thickness.   Painters that do not use a dry film thickness gage often point not to the cost of the device, but to the time it takes to either wait at or revisit the job site to take a measurement.  Like many professional service providers, commercial painters are busy and rarely have time to stop and wait for anything.  That said, the importance of confirming the thickness of an applied coating can not be overstated.

Taking a reading

Image Courtesy of Delfesko

Part of delivering the highest quality paint job to a customer is confirming that the work performed is up to the exacting standards demanded throughout the entire process.   From using a drawdown card to make sure the paint used is correctly formulated to using a properly calibrated sprayer to make sure it is applied evenly, the entire paint process is full of opportunities to confirm that the job in process is exactly what the client wants.

If you aren’t using a dry film thickness gage to accurately measure thickness after a job is completed, then you are leaving yourself and your business open to expensive liabilities and lawsuits.  Click here to see a number of different tools offered by BYK that can help you accurately measure the thickness of an already dried coat of paint.  Confirming that you applied the coating with the correct thickness is a great way to keep customers happy and, more importantly, sleep well at night knowing that what happened to Oscar isn’t likely to happen to you. 

One comment

  1. Pingback: Shine Like a Diamond | BYK | The Importance of Gloss Meters for Paint Professionals

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