Watching Paint Dry

Bill Corbett

Standards Ingrained in Nearly Every Service for Over Six Decades

When Kenneth Tator founded Kenneth Tator Associates in 1949 - at that time a sole proprietorship operated from the Tator residence in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - the business was based on the KTA Test Panel, invented by Tator for the comparative evaluation of coating systems. The KTA Test Panel was designed and fabricated to have more than a dozen typical coating failure points including sharp edges, pits, weld spatter, crevices and impact damage, all on a small steel coupon. The panels were prepared and painted by KTA, and exposed on racks in industrial facilities across the United States and along the eastern seacoast to help clients select the best coating systems for their service environment.

Even 65 years ago the company was using ASTM International standard tests like D714 for blister evaluations (the standard was first approved in 1943) and D610 for rusting evaluations (originally approved in 1941), along with standards for assessing cracking, checking and other film defects.1 These standard methods were used to uniformly evaluate and communicate the type and frequency of coating defects on the test panels.

Tator's son Kenneth B. Tator took over the business in 1969 and continued using ASTM standards to assess coating performance as he expanded to other service offerings. In the 1970s he became involved in standards development of ASTM Committees D01 on Paint and Related Coatings, Materials and Applications and Subcommittee D01.43, the predecessor to current Committee D33 on Protective Coating and Lining Work for Power Generation Facilities.

At the same time, Tator engaged Kenneth A. Trimber, then a coatings consultant and now KTA president, in ASTM International. Trimber quickly saw the benefit of maintaining a presence among fellow industry stakeholders in ASTM. He continues to participate on several ASTM committees while other KTA Tator employees also carry the torch through their active participation on various ASTM committees, subcommittees and task groups.

Trimber says, "ASTM standards are ingrained in almost every facet of what we do. Nearly every KTA service offering relies on ASTM standard test methods, practices and guides to analyze, evaluate, test and inspect coatings, galvanizing, steel fabrication and building enclosures. The robust nature and widespread acceptability of the ASTM standards development process allows architects and engineers to remain focused on establishing acceptance criteria within technical specifications while leaving the testing procedures to ASTM standards writing bodies. ASTM standards are a mainstay in the industries we serve and remain a valuable resource, which is why we continue to actively participate in standards development and revisions and encourage our ‘up and comers' to be engaged with ASTM."

KTA's coatings consultants routinely apply ASTM International standard procedures when investigating premature coating failures (adhesion, thickness, etc.). KTA engineers perform similar tests (and use visual standards for rusting, cracking, checking, chalking, blistering, etc.) when assessing the condition of existing coating systems, to determine maintenance painting strategies. Additionally, the KTA commercial services professionals use ASTM test methods for moisture detection and building standards to verify the integrity of the building envelope for energy savings and breathability.

The KTA analytical testing, physical testing, accelerated corrosion and weathering laboratories perform more than 60 ASTM standardized test procedures on coatings and related materials, and they use ASTM standards to prepare the standard operating procedures that are required to maintain the scope of testing for laboratory testing accreditation by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation.

One of KTA's largest clients, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, was able to conveniently establish validity monitors for the repeatability of compositional properties testing of coatings and components based on the precision statements published in the ASTM standard test methods that they specify. This helps ensure the reliability of the data and provides for a more robust testing program.

Finally, KTA coatings and steel inspectors rely on a multitude of ASTM standards in the shop and field for verifying the quality of workmanship during steel fabrication, surface preparation and/or coating installation operations. References to ASTM standard test methods in the specifications provides a mechanism for the quality control and quality assurance inspectors to be on the same page when verifying quality.

ASTM's technical committees are always open to considering new test methods and standards development to better the industry. A recent example is the development of D7868, Practice for Determining the Dry Fall (Fog) Properties of Protective Coatings, developed in ASTM Subcommittee D01.46 on Industrial Protective Coatings and published in 2013.

Dry fall coatings have been available for decades and are produced and sold by a number of coating manufacturers worldwide. Dry fall coatings are formulated so that overspray particles dry as they move through the air, before they land on horizontal surfaces. The particles can then be brushed off, vacuumed up or washed from the surfaces with no damage.

The inherent dry fall characteristics of these coating materials are critical in avoiding damage to property adjacent to and below spraying operations. However, there was no known standardized testing procedure to substantiate manufacturers' claims regarding dry fall properties. The standard practice was developed to evaluate these properties before use for a painting project where overspray cannot be tolerated. The practice is also used to evaluate whether these coatings possess the same dry fall properties when the fallout collects on surfaces having an elevated temperature, such as automobiles parked in sunlight.

The coatings industry benefits from a standardized method of evaluating and substantiating these properties, which can help facility owners, coating manufacturers and contractors avoid potentially costly property damage.

  • KTA-Tator
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Coatings consulting/engineering company, founded 1949; employee-owned since 2010
  • Market: Global
  • Number of Staff: ~ 240
  • Number of staff who are ASTM members: 8
  • Number of ASTM Technical Committees with KTA representation: 12


1. The standards' titles are D714, Test Method for Evaluating Degree of Blistering of Paints, and D610, Practice for Evaluating Degree of Rusting on Painted Steel Surfaces.

William Corbett is a vice president and the professional services business unit manager for KTA-Tator Inc., where he has been employed for 35 years. He is an active member of ASTM Committee D01 on Paint and Related Coatings, Materials and Applications, and he also chairs committees in SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings, on education and dry film thickness measurement.

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