Transitioning to VOC-Compliant Paints: What You Should Know

May 1, 2010

Making the transition to VOC-compliant paint is something that is (or will be) affecting any shop that does paint work. We talked to David Kidd of Planet Color and Antonio Leandres of BASF to find out more about the new laws and how they feel the industry will be affected by the changes.

HRR: Can you give us an overview on the VOC-compliancy laws and what waterborne paint is?

David Kidd: Basically the law states that you have to be compliant to certain VOC limits on each level of the paint job: primers, colors and clears. The law does not state that you have to use waterborne, but waterborne only applies to the color, so you’re still going to use a solvent primer and a solvent clear coat. It’s just the color portion that is waterborne, the actual base coat color. Some people are still using solvents to achieve VOC compliance; however it’s a little bit easier to become VOC-compliant using waterborne base coat color.

Antonio Leandres: [Waterborne paints] are safer for the applicator, have [fewer] solvents and you have less hazardous waste because you can clean them with water.

HRR: What areas of the United States are the laws already affecting?

DK: California has to go that direction and Canada has the same law as California. The rest of the country is heading in the same direction that California is, so basically this law is going to force everybody throughout the United States to have the same VOC limitations as California. Guys are going to be forced to go to a lower VOC and it’s easiest to get it through water.

HRR: What’s the difference between waterborne paints and the solvents as far as the application process and finished product?

DK: The overall appearance, when it was all done and completed, you would have no idea one was done with one or the other. The major difference between the two of them is actually how the base coat dries. Solvents basically use a catalyst to have them chemically cure and also use heat from the paint booth to actually bake and finish to a cure.

Waterborne paints dry through evaporation-they dehydrate-so guys will have to change their booths so instead of using only heat, now they have to use airflow. You can install ceiling fans or you can install what we call venturis, which blow air on the car and the air movement going across the car is what dehydrates the base coat color. Everybody is going to need to set up their booths [like this] eventually.

HRR: What VOC-compliant products are available?

DK: All of the Planet Color colors that we have in solvents are now available as waterborne. That also includes waterborne dye concentrates (also known as candies). We’ll be the first to come out with those. They will be available June 1, 2010.

AL: [BASF has] a new line of paints that are waterborne and low-VOC. They are currently being sold in California and Canada, but the whole country is going to go low-VOC, so we’re already complying with this type of paint. They’re already available in all areas, but they’re more prone to [sell in California and Canada] because they already have laws in place.