General Guidelines for Painting Exterior and Interior Surfaces

Procedure code:
Federal Building and USPO, Spokane, WA, GSA PBS, March 1991
Last Modified:

Technical Procedures Disclaimer
Prior to inclusion in GSA’s library of procedures, documents are reviewed by one or more qualified preservation specialists for general consistency with the Secretary of Interior Standards for rehabilitating historic buildings as understood at the time the procedure is added to the library. All specifications require project-specific editing and professional judgement regarding the applicability of a procedure to a particular building, project or location. References to products and suppliers are to serve as a general guideline and do not constitute a federal endorsement or determination that a product or method is the best or most current alternative, remains available, or is compliant with current environmental regulations and safety standards. The library of procedures is intended to serve as a resource, not a substitute, for specification development by a qualified preservation professional.

We’ve reviewed these procedures for general consistency with federal standards for rehabilitating historic buildings and provide them only as a reference. Specifications should only be applied under the guidance of a qualified preservation professional who can assess the applicability of a procedure to a particular building, project or location. References to products and suppliers serve as general guidelines and do not constitute a federal endorsement nor a determination that a product or method is the best alternative or compliant with current environmental regulations and safety standards.




A. This procedure includes general guidelines for painting and finishing interior and exterior surfaces. General descriptions pertaining to surface preparation, priming and application of finish coats are also provided herein, where called for, should be used along with shop priming and surface treatment specified in other procedures.

B. Paint exposed surfaces whether or not colors are designated in "schedules," except where a surface or material is specifically shown not to be painted or is to remain natural. Where an item or surface is not specifically mentioned, paint the same as similar adjacent materials or surfaces. If color or finish is not designated, the contracting officer will select from standard colors or finishes available.

C. Painting is not required on prefinished items, finished metal surfaces, concealed surfaces (except as may be specified in other repair procedures) and operating parts. Do not paint over Underwriter's Laboratories, Factory Mutual or other code-required labels or equipment name, identification, performance rating, or nomenclature plates.

D. For guidance on surface preparation, see the following (references are to GSA Technical Documents):

1. For wood, see 06300-02-R.

2. For iron and steel, see 05010-05-R.

E. For general information on primers and paints, see the following:

1. For wood, see 06300-01-S.

2. For iron and steel, see 05010-13-S.

F. For guidance on paint removal, see the following:

1. For wood, see 06400-07-R, 06400-02-S, 06400-09-R.

2. For iron and steel, see 05010-05-R, 05010-16-R and 05010-17-R.

3. For masonry, see 04211-14-R.


A. "Paint" includes coating systems materials, primers, emulsions, enamels, stains, sealers and fillers, and other applied materials whether used as prime, intermediate, or finish coats.


A. Product Data: (Submit to the appropriate Cultural Resources Manager (CRM) or designated representative for approval)

1. Provide manufacturers' technical information, label

analysis, and application instructions for each material proposed for use.

2. List each material and cross-reference the specific coating and finish system and application. Identify each material by the manufacturer's catalog number and general classification.

B. Samples: Provide samples of each color and material to be applied, with texture to simulate actual conditions, on representative samples of the actual substrate.

1. Define each separate coat, including block fillers and primers. Use representative colors when preparing samples for review. Resubmit until required sheen, color, and texture is achieved.

2. Provide a list of materials and application for each coat of each sample. Label each sample as to location and application.


A. Qualifications: Restoration Specialist: Work must be done by a firm having not less than 10 years' successful experience in comparable painting restoration/rehabilitation projects and employing personnel skilled in the processes and operations indicated.

B. Source of Materials: Provide primers and undercoat paint produced by the same manufacturer as the finish coats. Primers and undercoat paints shall be made to be used with the selected finish coat.

C. Regulatory Requirements:

1. Codes and Standards: Comply with all pertinent codes and regulations, including the minimum standards for materials and application as set forth in the Architectural Specifications Manual, latest edition as published by Specification Services, Washington State Council Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA), 23830 Pacific Hwy. S., Suite 102, Kent, WA 98032, 206-878-6630.

2. Comply with applicable recommendations of the Steel Structures Painting Council (SSPC) and PDCA's Architectural Specifications Manual.

3. Where choice of painting method is to be selected from several options in SSPC and PDCA recommendations, obtain contracting officer's representatives review and approval before start of work.

D. Field Samples: On wall surfaces and other exterior and interior components, duplicate finishes of prepared samples.

1. Provide full-coat finish samples on at least 200 sq. ft. minimum of surface until required sheen, color and texture are obtained.

2. Simulate finished lighting conditions for review of in place work.

3. Final acceptance of colors will be from job-applied samples.

4. The contracting officer's representatives will select one room or surface to represent surfaces and conditions for each type of coating and substrate to be painted.

a. Apply coatings in this room or surface according to the schedule or as specified.

b. After finishes are accepted, this room or surface will be used for evaluation of coating systems of a similar nature.

E. Coordination of Work:

1. Review other sections in which primers are provided to ensure compatibility of the total systems for various substrates.

2. On request, furnish information on characteristics of finish materials to ensure use of compatible primers.

3. Notify the contracting officer of problems anticipated using the materials specified.

F. Inspections and Tests: Work in this procedure is subject to inspection and testing according to the provisions of the Architectural Specifications Manual, latest edition. Payment for inspection and testing service is responsibility of the contractor. Notify Inspection Agency at least four full working days before starting work. Allow full access to the work and give full cooperation always with the Inspection Agency in the performance of their duties in inspection and testing of the work.

1. The Inspection Agency will make field control tests specified after this for surfaces requiring painting and finishing and shall notify the specifying authority, in writing, of any defects or problems before starting work in this specification, or after failure of, or defects in, the prime coat or substrate provided by other trades. Furnish approved or alternate materials for testing, from the source or job site, upon request of the Inspection Agency.

G. Inspection Agency: Paint testing and inspection shall be done by an independent Inspection Agency acceptable to the specifying authority and as endorsed by specification service.

H. Material Quality:

1. Provide the manufacturer's best quality trade sale paint material of the various coating types specified. Paint material containers not displaying manufacturers' product identification will not be acceptable.

2. Federal Specifications establish a minimum quality level for paint materials, except where other product identification is used. Provide written certification from the manufacturer that materials provided meet or exceed these criteria.

3. Products that comply with qualitative requirements of applicable Federal Specifications, yet differ in quantitative requirements, may be considered for use when acceptable to the contracting officer's representative. Furnish material data and manufacturer's certificate of performance to contracting officer's representative for proposed substitutions.


A. Packing and Shipping: Deliver materials to the job site in the manufacturer's original, unopened packages and containers bearing manufacturers' name and label and the following information:

1. Product name or title of material

2. Product description (generic classification or binder type)

3. Federal Specification number, if applicable

4. Manufacturers' stock number and date of manufacture

5. Contents by volume, for pigment and vehicle constituents

6. Thinning instructions

7. Application instructions

8. Color, name and number

B. Storage and Protection:

1. Store materials not in use in tightly covered containers in a well-ventilated area at a minimum ambient temperature of 45 degrees F. (7 degrees C.). Maintain containers used in storage in a clean condition, free of foreign materials and residue.

2. Protect from freezing. Keep storage area neat and orderly. Remove oily rags and waste daily. Take necessary measures to ensure that workers and work areas are protected from fire and health hazards resulting from handling, mixing, and application.

3. Do not open containers of coatings or components unless for immediate use. Keep containers closed when not in use.


A. Environmental Requirements:

1. Apply water-based paints only when the temperature of surfaces to be painted and surrounding air temperatures are between 500 F. (100 C.) and 900 F.(320 C.). Do not apply if, within 24 hours after application, temperature is expected to fall below 400 F. (40 C.).

2. Apply solvent-thinned paints only when the temperature of surfaces to be painted and surrounding air temperatures are between 450 F. (70 C.) and 950 F. (350 C.).

3. Do not apply paint in snow, rain, fog or mist when the relative humidity exceeds 85%, at temperatures less than 50 F. (30 C.) above the dew point, or to damp or wet surfaces.

4. Painting may continue during inclement weather if surfaces and areas to be painted are enclosed and heated within temperature limits specified by the manufacturer during applications and drying periods.

5. Do not apply paint when dust is present. Program surface preparation and painting so that dust and other contaminants from the surface preparation process and other work done will not fall or settle in wet, newly painted surfaces.

6. Do not apply paint to interior surfaces until the area is enclosed. Paint surfaces which will be inaccessible for painting.

7. Protect other work whether to be painted or not against defacement or damage by painting. Use masking materials to protect adjacent surfaces and materials.

8. Comply with manufacturers' instructions for paint curing period temperatures, humidity and time periods.

9. On wood, do not apply paint when the moisture content of the wood exceeds 12% as measured by an electronic moisture meter.

10. Lighting: Work under this section shall not proceed unless adequate lighting is available.

11. Ventilation: Assure that there is adequate ventilation for the type of coating and cleaning materials used. If necessary, consult paint manufacturer for recommendations.

12. Paint pots shall not be cleaned at sinks or other drainage facilities nor shall any debris be allowed to run into drainage lines of the building.

13. All fine arts, furniture and adjacent finishes shall be protected with drop cloths or other suitable methods from paint spatters, dirt or other damage during the progress of the work, and the contractor will be held responsible for any damage to fine arts incident to the work done under the contract.



A. Unless otherwise indicated, furnish scheduled products according to Chapters Five, Six and Seven of referenced Architectural Specifications Manual, including paint, varnish, stain, enamel, lacquer, fillers, and related products for prime, intermediate, and finish coats.

1. Materials not specifically suggested, but required, such as linseed oil, shellac, thinners and the like are to be of quality not less than required by applicable Federal or State Specification Standards.

B. Proprietary names used to designate colors or materials are not intended to imply that products of named manufacturers are required to exclusion of equivalent products of other manufacturer.

C. Color Pigments: Pure, nonfading, applicable types to suit substrates and service suggested.

1. Lead content in pigment, if any, is limited to contain no more than 0.06% lead, as lead metal based on the nonvolatile total (dry-film) of paint by weight.


D. Paint may be thinned only when recommended by the manufacturer's printed instructions. Type of thinner and quantity shall be as specified by the manufacturer.

E. Primers

F. Undercoat Materials

G. Interior and Exterior Finish Paint Material


A. For Brush Application:

1. Natural bristle brushes: Precondition by soaking in raw linseed oil for 24 hours.

B. For Roller Application:

1. Pipe rollers

C. For Mechanical Application:

1. Hot-air spray

2. Cold-air spray (automatic or hand)

3. Electrostatic air spray (powder or fluid)



A. Examine substrates and conditions under which painting will be done for compliance with requirements for application of paint.

B. Do not begin paint application until unsatisfactory conditions have been corrected.

C. Start of surface preparation/painting is the applicator's notice that the surfaces and conditions within a particular area are acceptable to begin work.


NOTE: See also surface preparation procedures for specific materials referenced in Part 1 of this procedure.

A. Protection:

1. Do all preparation and cleaning procedures in strict accordance with the paint manufacturer's instructions and as herein specified, for each particular substrate condition.

2. Remove hardware and hardware accessories, plates, machined surfaces, lighting fixtures, and similar items in place that are not to be painted, or provide surface-applied protection before surface preparation and painting.

a. Remove these items if necessary for complete painting of the items and adjacent surfaces.

b. Following completion of painting operations in each space or area, have items reinstalled by workers skilled in the trades involved.

3. Adjacent surfaces shall be protected against spatters, stains, or soiling. Each coat of primer or paint shall be evenly spread without skips, runs, sags, and clogging, and allowed to dry before next coat is applied.

4. Provide ample illumination in areas where painting work is in progress to fully light the work being done.

a. Examine areas and conditions where painting is to be done and correct any defects before beginning paint application.

b. Starting to paint is applicator's notice that surface preparation is acceptable.

B. Surface Preparation: Clean and prepare new surfaces to be painted according to the manufacturer's instructions for each particular substrate condition.

1. Clean surfaces before applying paint or surface treatments.

a. Remove oil and grease before cleaning.

b. Schedule cleaning and painting so that dust and other contaminants from the cleaning process will not fall on wet, newly painted surfaces.

2. Hand sand between each undercoat and finish coats on smooth surface materials where oil and synthetic resin base paint and varnish systems are scheduled.

a. Use extra-fine sandpaper on painted surfaces.

b. Remove dust from surfaces after sanding with tack cloths.

c. Note any additional requirement for rubbed finishes on architectural woodwork, scheduled with that finish.

C. Materials Preparation: Carefully mix and prepare paint materials according to manufacturers' directions.

1. Maintain containers used in mixing and application of paint in a clean condition, free of foreign materials and residue.

2. Stir material before application to produce a mixture of uniform density; stir as required during application. Do not stir surface film into material. Remove film and, if necessary, strain material before using.

3. Use only thinners approved by the paint manufacturer, and only within recommended limits.

4. Tinting: Tint each undercoat a lighter shade to ease identification of each coat where multiple coats of the same material are applied. Tint undercoats to match the color of the finish coat, but provide sufficient differences in shade of undercoats to distinguish each separate coat.


A. General:

1. Assume all responsibility for paint coats applied over surfaces and undercoats which have not been approved by CRM.

2. Remove paint and apply any additional coats of paint, as directed by CRM, where surface preparation and undercoats have not been approved before finish painting.

3. Provide finish coats that are compatible with primers used.

4. Where different colors meet, provide a clear line of natural juncture.

5. Apply additional coats when undercoats, stains, or other conditions show through the final coat of paint until paint film is of uniform finish, color, and appearance. Give special attention to ensure that surfaces, including edges, corners, crevices, welds, and exposed fasteners, receive a dry film thickness equivalent to that of flat surfaces.

6. Finish doors on tops, bottoms and side edges, the same as the exterior faces.

7. Paint the back sides of access panels, removable or hinged covers to match the exposed surfaces.

a. The term "exposed surfaces" includes areas visible when permanent or built-in fixtures, grilles, and similar components are in place.

b. Extend coatings in these areas as required to maintain the system integrity and provide desired protection.

8. Paint surfaces behind movable equipment and furniture the same as similar exposed surfaces.

9. Paint surfaces behind permanently fixed equipment or furniture with prime coat only before final installation of equipment.

10. Include field prime coats on metalwork in addition to any shop prime coats.

11. Sand lightly between each succeeding enamel and varnish coat.


B. Scheduling Painting:

1. Apply the first coat to surfaces cleaned, pretreated, or otherwise prepared for painting when practicable after preparation and before subsequent surface deterioration.

2. Allow sufficient time between successive coats to allow proper drying. Do not recoat until paint has dried to where it feels firm, and does not deform or feel sticky under moderate thumb pressure and where application of another coat of paint does not cause lifting or loss of adhesion of the undercoat.

C. Apply paint following manufacturers' directions. Use applicators and techniques best suited for substrate and type of material being applied.


1. Methods of Application:

a. Brush application:

1) Brush-out and work brush coats in both directions onto the surfaces in a uniform film.

2) Use brushes best suited for the type of material being applied.

3) Neatly draw all glass and color break lines.

b. Roller application:

1) Roll-out and work roller coats in both directions onto the surfaces in a uniform film.

2) Sleeves used on the rollers to be clean, full clipped pile, or as recommended by paint manufacturer for material and texture required.

3) Use brush at corners, fasteners, irregular surfaces or items, and other like conditions.

c. Mechanical application:


1) Spray painting, if permitted, should be accomplished using pressure settings, application technique, spray tip, mesh filter screens, and mesh tip strainer as recommended by the coating manufacturer.

2) Do not double back with spray equipment to build up film thickness of two coats in one pass.

2. Minimum Coating Thickness:

a. Apply materials at not less than the manufacturer's recommended spreading rate. Provide a total dry film thickness of the entire system as recommended by the manufacturer.

b. The number of coats and film thickness required is the same, despite the application method. Do not apply succeeding coats until the previous coat has cured as recommended by the manufacturer. Sand between applications where sanding is required to produce an even smooth surface according to the manufacturer's directions.



a. Before application of finish coats, apply a prime coat of material as recommended by the manufacturer to material required to be painted or finished and has not been prime coated by others.

b. Recoat primed and sealed surfaces where evidence of suction spots or unsealed areas in first coat appears, to assure a finish coat with no burn through or other defects due to insufficient sealing.

c. Omit primer on metal surfaces that have been shop-primed and touch up painted.


a. Mechanical and Electrical Work: Painting mechanical and electrical work is limited to items exposed in mechanical equipment rooms and in occupied spaces.

b. Block Fillers: Apply block fillers to concrete masonry block at a rate to ensure complete coverage with pores filled.

c. For Stipple Enamel Finish: Roll and redistribute paint to an even and fine texture. Leave no evidence of rolling such as laps, irregularity in texture, skid marks, or other surface imperfections.

d. For Pigmented (Opaque) Finishes: Completely cover to provide an opaque, smooth surface of uniform finish, color, appearance, and coverage. Cloudiness, spotting, holidays, laps, brush marks, runs, sags, ropiness, or other surface imperfections will not be acceptable.

e. For Transparent (Clear) Finishes: Use multiple coats to produce a glass-smooth surface film of even luster. Provide a finish free of laps, cloudiness, color irregularity, runs, brush marks, orange peel, nail holes, or other surface imperfections.

5. Completed Work:

a. Match approved samples for color, texture, and coverage. Remove, refinish, or repaint work not in compliance with specified requirements.

b. Finish painted surfaces shall be free of clouding due to no coverage of ground coats or surfaces to which applied. Finish coat shall match specified color.

1) Edges adjoining other materials or colors shall be true without overlapping.

2) Each coat shall be applied to ornamental work in a way that will not obscure ornament and texture.

3) Each coat shall be even.


A. GSA reserves the right to invoke the following test procedure any time and as often as it deems necessary during the period when paint is being applied.

1. GSA may engage the services of an independent testing laboratory to sample the paint material being used. Samples of material delivered to the project will be taken, identified, sealed, and certified in the presence of the contractor.

2. The testing laboratory will do appropriate tests for the following characteristics as required by GSA.

a. Quantitative materials

b. Abrasion resistance

c. Apparent reflectivity

d. Flexibility

e. Washability

f. Absorption

g. Accelerated weathering

h. Dry opacity

i. Accelerated yellowness

j. Recoating

k. Skinning

l. Color retention

m. Alkali and mildew resistance

B. If the test results show that the paint materials do not comply with the specified requirements, stop the painting work, and remove noncomplying paint; repaint surfaces coated with the rejected paint; remove rejected paint from previously painted surfaces if, upon repainting with the specified paint, the two coatings are non-compatible. Use corrective methods as directed.

Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13