The Property Manager's Guide to Paint Removal on Asphalt & Concrete
First and foremost it is important to always consult with a knowledgeable contractor on the exact nature of your paint removal project. With the countless variables that can arise on any given project, there is no one size fits all approach. With that in mind this article is written to let people know what most of their options are in regards to paint removal. By no means should anyone take this article as a "how to" guide, because it was not written for that purpose. We hope you enjoy the article and please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.
As the founder and a moderator of the "Parking Lot Maintenance Information Request group on the website LinkedIn, we see a lot of interesting questions that come up there from time to time. So we decided to post one of them here.
A few months back the question was asked:
Q.) What is the best alternative to blacking out paint on asphalt?
For those who may not know , the term "blacking out" refers to the process of painting out conflicting markings, reconfigured markings, errors and graffiti with black paint, typically on a asphalt or concrete surface. Typically this type of repair is needed when parking lot markings have either been done wrong, or have been reconfigured. A few examples of this would include things such as parking lines or road markings, or when one contractor's stencils does not match the next. In the industry we call this ghosting. This guide will attempt to cover all things paint removal on asphalt and concrete. The reason for this is because when the question is asked about alternatives to blacking out paint, it is safe to assume that removal is the only logical choice. For example when a 8 foot stop stencil is installed, it typically can come in one of two styles. The first style is called metric, and the second style is called standard. When one stencil is laid over the other there is always overlap or ghosting. One other example is the common parking lot arrow. Many painting contractors will have their own style of arrow and thus the cycle of ghosting begins. Sometimes a stencils placement changes, and the old stencil is blacked out, or is simply seal coated over. Ghosting can be reduced with black out paint, but not all together fixed. Eventually the paint will begin to show through again. This is where paint removal comes into play.
So here is the quick answer to the question…
A.) Sand and shot blasting or a chemical stripper with pressure washing are the two most common and effective forms of paint removal on both asphalt and concrete.
Heavier water base paints can be removed with many types of blasting, including water, sand, dry ice, as well as shot blasting. Always consult with a knowledgeable contractor on the exact nature of your paint removal project.
Once you get into the solvent based family of paints, it definitely can become more challenging to remove them. Epoxies and enamels are stronger paints and chemical can still be an option, although its rarely done on concrete curbs and concrete slabs, almost all contractors prefer sand blasting. It is important to consider that it can be very costly to sand blast curbs because the sand goes everywhere and the cleanup is time consuming. Also, sandblasting is not recommended in underground and in-doors situations where air filtration systems are in place.
Paint Removal Scenarios
When it comes to the different scenarios where paint removal from asphalt or concrete is needed, there can be a lot of them. Leave it to the professionals for the best solution to the problem. Here are just a few scenarios to consider. Let us know if you have one not mentioned below.
1.) Removing Painted Lines in a Parking Lot:
For us and our accounts, when approaching this type of removal, cost is almost always the number one consideration. Blacking out with paint is the least expensive solution, but it is unsightly and can add to a the general public's confusion on where to park, stop, turn etc. Although expensive, the correct way to address paint removal on asphalt in a parking lot situation is sand blasting. When done correctly it is by far the best long term solution. It leaves little to no paint to eventually bleed through also known as "ghosting". Furthermore, once asphalt goes through its sealcoating maintenance schedule, most of the remaining impression of where the old paint was will be mostly gone. After a few sealcoating applications there should be none at all.
2.) Removing Painted Lines on Concrete Surface:
Parking lot striping such as lines and stencils on concrete warehouses and concrete parking structures are now a very common occurrence. However, because of the huge contrast between concrete surfaces and "black out" or" grey out" paints, it is really frowned upon as an option.
When it comes to removing paints on these surface types, there a couple of things to consider.
First off how much paint are you removing? If it’s a small amount of paint, then the combination of chemical / pressure washing removal is going to be an economical approach that also has a pretty decent finished look. Be sure to use an environmentally friendly stripper. If you really need to use a strong paint stripper to get the job done, than consider using it with a good water reclamation system. Chemicals in the stripper as well as the removed paint are not good for the environment. Also, you can get hit with some pretty large fines for ignoring these rules. Consult with your local environmental agency if you are unsure.
When it comes to concrete, if the painted surface is smooth enough, then manual scraping can be a very affordable option. This option is not good typically for concrete curbs or outdoor slabs, but does work very well for warehouses and some parking structures. Invest in some good scrapers and you will be surprised how fast the paint will come off. This is a great option for lines painted on a warehouse floor, especially if the tenant does not own the building and wants to leave the concrete in decent shape when their lease is up.
3.) Removing Lines from Airports, Highways, & Roads
If it s a larger project then "fast and efficient" is the name of the game. Shot blasting and water blasting are great choices when working on large projects that are time sensitive, and the customer is not concerned with scaring the asphalt or concrete surface.
These options have come a long way in that it used to be blaster only came in pre set blast patterns and were very expensive to buy or rent. But these days it is not difficult to find modifiers that can reduce your pattern down to the exact desired size or find equipment of all sizes to get the job done quickly.
On freeways and airport runways, painted lines can be removed very quickly using very high psi water blasting units that are truck mounted. These blasters are extremely efficient, and in time critical applications such as airports highways, and freeways, these rigs really can't be beat. With water blasting you can remove pavement markings, including waterborne thermo plastics, epoxies, glue, tape curing compound, rubber and paint spills.
4.) Road Lines in an HOA:
On smaller housing projects where blacking out is not acceptable, we typically go with sandblasting. it's pretty fast, and leaves a clean finished look. We use this on HOA's and large malls where long lines are being removed. The main reason for choosing this type of removal is that it is the fastest way to remove the line with as little impact on the area its being done.
5.) Painted Curbs:
Now I know this really doesn’t belong here as you don’t ever black out paint on curbs, I thought I would throw it in for good measure. When it comes to removing paint from curbs sandblasting is still the king. I wish they made a shot blaster that could handle this task but they don’t. Some try chemical removal, and even others have tried removal mediums such as dry ice. However, in our 25 years of doing all forms of parking lot striping and markings, nothing can compete over all with sand blasting. Keep one thing in mind when sandblasting in a center. It needs to be done at times when people are not around. An incredible amount of dust and sand gets everywhere and clean up takes a long time.
A Word About Empire-PLS
Empire Parking Lot Services is a Southern California parking lot maintenance contractor with over 30 years of experience in parking lot paving, sealing, and markings. We specilize in helping decision makers improve the image of their shopping centers, business parks, and commercial center parking lots through careful planning and management. Our approach has proven to save our customers time and money while greatly improving their parking lots image. Call or contact Empire Parking Lot Services today if you have any questions in regards to this article or your parking lot project.