Painting a building is a process, Not a solution

16 November 2020
By Simon Austin

Whether it is human nature, or something else, whenever we see a freshly painted building, we think it must be well maintained. After all, if money is spent to refresh the building, then surely these are proud owners who have looked after everything.

But, therein lies a problem we see all too often. A lick of paint should never be seen as a solution to structural issues. Rather, it is just part of a process.
Masking spalling or rust stains, or hiding the fact a window or door frame no longer fits square anymore is to deny there is a bigger problem.
Sure, things look ‘good’, but underneath, there are potentially larger issues afoot .

But here is the other thing. Let’s assume that a building has been correctly repaired and well maintained. Why does painting have to be the go-to finishing choice? There are a few options which can be considered for the outside of a building inclusive of cladding, tinted render, and more.

In this article, we’ll tackle how painting for building is not always the solution to your every structural issue nor should it be the only finishing option you consider.

The Perfect Building Finish

Finishes are used in the final part of the construction and remediation process, forming the final surface of the structure. These finishes are designed to protect the building from mild impact, water, frost, corrosion, abrasion, and even heat, and/or they can be decorative, designed to make the building shine.

Whilst building painting seems to be the most popular choice, just like other materials, there are some drawbacks, which, it is good to know ahead of time. We are not for a second advocating it is not a great choice, but in some instances, other alternatives may be better:

So, what are other finishing options available out there? Let’s find out.


Cladding is the application of one material over another to provide an extra layer. In other words, it acts as a skin for your building. This skin has multiple potential benefits. First, it is an excellent layer of protection for the actual structure of your building, working to shield the concrete structure underneath. But more than that, because cladding sits off the wall, it creates an air pocket which works to insulate the building – both thermally and acoustically (though we should point out, different materials will achieve different results).

But because the cladding materials can be designed in architecturally unique ways, a building can be transformed from the mundane to highly impressive. Overall, cladding offers safety, protection, and aesthetic value that is highly beneficial especially when looking to upgrade a building façade.

Tinted Render

As you would expect, in our line of work, a rendered surface is nothing new. But there is something so very pleasing to the eye about rendered surfaces. Today, technology has evolved and rendered surfaces are no longer guaranteed to be 100% concrete.

In fact, there are a number of advances which have been made inclusive of

  • Textured renders
  • Tinted/coloured renders
  • Composite renders which have additives which make the render incredibly flexible and sturdy, making it more resistant to cracking

Stucco Walls

Stucco is a wall coating similar to plaster. In fact, “plaster siding” is another name for stucco. It is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. And, it has proven to be one of the most versatile and enduring wall finishes available. Through the 1990s and 2000s stucco was a little out of favour, however, as tastes change, this is one design style which may be making a comeback.

Whilst Stucco does have some drawbacks (it is not good for use on buildings where there is known foundation movement as it will crack) there are some advantages we should point out. Namely, tt is resistant to fire, rot, mold, impact and termite infestation. And similar to cladding, it is sound resistant which is a great advantage if your property is near a busy street.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is a durable form of plastic exterior wrapping making it similar to cladding. In the past it was most commonly used for single homes but there are growing numbers of strata plans – especially in town-house style arrangements – where this technology is being used more extensively for decoration and weatherproofing.

Vinyl Siding never needs painting or staining because it doesn’t chip, peel, dent or rot. It is a strong, durable, proven material that has earned a solid reputation. With some brands offering multiple styles, and technology which makes the board self-extinguish in the case of fire, the fact that
vinyl sidings come in hundreds of colours, textures, and profiles to give versatility in designing your dream exterior, it is an option which may work for some strata plans.

Maintaining your Building’s Exterior

At first glance, a building’s exterior appears firm and sturdy. However, as time progress and after exposure to weather change, even bricks are not immune to erosion.


Chances are as well, you will have seen multiple examples where a painted surface shows all the hallmarks of underlying damage. Think about the times you have seen rust stains coming through the paint, or seen large paint blisters on the side of a building holding in more water than you thought possible.

The truth is, painting and the application of membranes to the outside of a building is an essential part of overall building health. It is only when painting is used to cover up issues that there is the increased likelihood of larger issues to come.

Over the years we have applied tens of thousands of litres of paint and membranes to the outside façade of a building. But we know that at the end of the day, if we are not providing the right advice and structural repair expertise to fix up issues which go deeper than the surface, we are not doing our jobs properly.

Our advice

Commercial building painting is not always the solution to exterior problems you may have because underneath there are likely a number of problems you need to address. Wall maintenance such as tuckpointing, caulking, brick-ties and even replacement of bricks are one area to look at first, and then, beyond that, investigation into whether there is a need to replace any reinforcing which may have rusted. Failure to do this might mean that your building looks good for the short term, but is likely to show signs of major structural issues in the future.