7 Steps to Make Buying a Paint Booth Easier

GFS’ Ryan Looker guides you through the process of choosing the right booth for your application.


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Q: We want to begin the process of buying a new paint booth. Where should we start?

A: The primary purpose of a paint booth is to contain hazardous materials like overspray and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), preventing fumes, chemicals, gases and vapors from spreading into the shop or outdoor environment. In addition to protecting the environment, complying with local regulations and codes, and keeping the employees and facility safe, enclosing the painting process within a booth results in better-quality paint jobs that are free of contaminants.

So, where should you start when buying a paint booth? The following seven steps will help guide you through the process:

1. Research paint booth suppliers. Although you can do a lot of planning independently, it is helpful to begin looking into booth suppliers and their distribution options at the beginning of the purchasing process, as they will provide guidance to help you determine the size, airflow and features that will meet your needs and price point. When selecting a spray booth supplier, be sure to choose a company that is experienced in the industry, has engineers on staff, validates the performance of its products, and works with national safety and environmental organizations. You want to choose a company that is capable of providing local support through either its own staff or its distributors. That company also should offer installation, maintenance programs and startup training for your new paint booth.

2. Determine the best size for your booth. Identify the type and size of the products you will be painting to make sure there is adequate space and airflow through your future paint booth. For industrial and manufacturing applications, the best practice is to identify the largest object that you need to paint, then add a minimum of 2 feet to the height, 5 feet to the width and 5 feet to the depth. As you work out these measurements, be sure to also incorporate the dimensions of pallets, racks or carts. If you are painting multiple parts, allow for 3 feet of empty space between them.

For automotive refinish applications, paint booth sizes tend to be more standardized, with 9-foot heights, 14-foot widths, and 24-, 27- or 30-foot lengths. Higher ceilings to accommodate taller vehicles and size customizations also are available. However, you’ll want to make sure your spray booth stays within the range of ETL-listed sizes to prevent code compliance issues later on. For aviation applications, we recommend that you determine the dimensions of the largest aircraft you need to paint, then add a minimum of 10 feet to all sides of the aircraft for clearance. You will also need to take into account the additional space needed to accommodate scaffolding or personnel lifts. When possible, paint booth walls and ceiling are designed to conform to the shape of the individual aircraft, providing cost savings on capital equipment as well as operational savings by reducing the amount airflow required in the booth.

3. Understand your process. Different processes and applications will influence the type of paint booth you require. Liquid applications typically use a dry-filter paint booth in which an exhaust fan draws paint overspray to a filter bank (in the booth walls or floor pit) and captures it. Powder application processes typically require multiple layers of filtration, ending in either a bag filter or a powder collector, with no need to exhaust the air outside of the building.

4. Define your space. Not only should you consider the working dimensions inside the booth, but the space around the exterior of the booth is also important. Take the following factors into account when deciding on the layout and location of your booth: How will you be transporting products or parts (cart, conveyor, track, etc.) in and out of the booth? Is there a clear path into the booth? Does the layout of the paint booth (and any additional equipment) make sense for your desired shop flow? If an air make-up unit (also known as a heater) will be used, where will it be mounted? Are service ladders necessary? Where will exhaust ductwork go? Is there enough room between the top of the spray booth and the ceiling of your building for exhaust ductwork, or will it have to exhaust out a wall? Remember, any complementary products like paint mix rooms and hazardous material storage buildings will require additional space.

5. Decide on the type of spray booth you need. Paint booths range from enclosures small enough to paint a cell phone case to ones large enough to paint a C-17 military cargo plane. Start by identifying the primary industry in which you work. This will help to narrow down the options available to you and help you find spray booths with the features and options that matter most to you.

6. Pick an airflow. After you have selected the industry and type of booth that fits your application and budget, you can select an airflow style. This may include crossdraft, semi-downdraft, side downdraft or downdraft. You will also need to decide whether you need your booth pressurized or heated. To ensure that the product you are painting gets the best possible finish, look for spray booths that provide laminar airflow, meaning that the spraying chamber is fully engineered to keep all the air moving parallel, in the same direction, without turbulence that results in unpredictable spray patterns.

7. Consult local authorities. As you work through the installation process, be sure to consult local authorities with jurisdiction and expertise in the local codes. If you are building a new facility and also installing a paint booth, working with the building inspector up front will help with permitting and make you aware of any additional safety requirements beyond general booth requirements. In addition to ensuring that your facility complies with local codes, certain states and cities may offer grants, financing or rebate programs for paint booths that meet and exceed certain environmental guidelines.

Ryan Looker is with Global Finishing Solutions. Visit globalfinishing.com.

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