Putty and paint make it what it ain’t.

I‘ll be honest; that’s one of the first adages I learned as a young, impressionable, WG-3 Maintenance Worker in the NPS. But that’s not what we’re after here. Painting is a structure’s first line of defense against decay. Once the paint breaks down the UV and rain and temperature changes can start wreaking havoc on the places that make our Parks special.

MOISTURE is primary culprit for speeding the deterioration of a paint system, but that deterioration can also be a “tell”, like a poker player who always clears his throat when he’s got a good hand. Localized paint deterioration may be telling you that the gutters are over-flowing or that the moisture in the bathroom is migrating through the exterior wall, or that the chimney flashing has failed.  Learn more about the effects of moisture on a structure by taking this short online course developed by the NPS titled “All Wet and How to Prevent it” or check out Preservation Brief #10: Exterior Paint Problems on Historic Woodwork.

Paint isn’t just a protective surface; it can also be a CHARACTER-DEFINING FEATURE of a historic structure. Think about the Victorian Painted Ladies in San Francisco. How about the “orange-peel” texture left behind by a modern paint roller–would that be appropriate in a high-end restoration of a Colonial manor built before rollers were invented?

A good paint job that lasts relies on on excellent preparation and typically that involves scraping away the loose and deteriorated paint. If a structure was built before 1978 you have to assume that there is the presence of LEAD-BASED PAINT (LBP); making that old paint friable puts you, the building occupants and possibly your family at risk for lead poisoning.  (Lead dust has been known to cling to workers’ clothes and contaminate their homes.)  In the National Park Service, a structure may have had a HazMat Survey completed which will inform you if there is the LBP present along other hazardous materials.  If a survey hasn’t been completed, a local environmental consultant can perform these services.  Talk with you supervisor and/or safety professional.

Under OSHA guidelines, workers MUST be TRAINED in how to protect themselves and the environment from LBP exposure. You can locate an accredited trainer through the EPA’s website.  For more information on how to minimize your exposure you can download the Lead Based Paint guide developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Make sure you buy the right quantity of paint by using this handy-dandy Paint Calculator.  The Paint Quality Institute also provides information sheets you can download like how to paint a paneled door, or how to paint specific materials like fiber-cement siding.

When you’re all done painting,  rather than storing  partially-used gallons of paint, did you know there might be resources near you where you can RECYCLE your unused paintPaintCare is a non-profit (501(c)(3)) organization that was created by the American Coatings Association (ACA), that promotes an industry-lead end-of-life management program for post-consumer paint.

Learn More

Want to know more about the requirements for the job? Follow this link to view the standard Position Description Library, scroll down and click on the All Wage Grade PD’s.  Scroll down and you’ll find PD’s for Maintenance Mechanics, Painters and loads of other positions.  (Note: depending on a Park’s specific needs these PD’s may be modified for an actual job posting.)


Do you have a resource that would be valuable to this Program Area or is your team working on an interesting project? Leave a comment  below and tell us about it so we can feature it on our site.

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