*Painting With Sand*
By: John1lt
14 November 2012

When I managed apartments, I had a couple of issues that required some paint and sand to fix.

The first issue was with some 40 year old concrete stairs that had been worn to an extremely smooth finish. A few people had slipped on the steps, especially when they were wet, including our maintenance contractor who broke his leg. I figured that the 2 sets of 5 or 6 stairs each would be too costly to replace, so I didn't bother with pricing new steps. Instead, I went to Home Depot to see what they might have in the way of some sort of textured floor paint. The only thing they had was smooth paint for the garage floor. While looking around the paint section, I did find some small packages of fine sand. The package said it was for making painted floors slip resistant. It looked like what I needed but, at $3 for a few ounces of sand, I didn't like the price because it would take several packages to get sufficient coverage on the stairs. This gave me an idea though, so I took a gallon of the floor paint and went to the aisle with the cement mixes; this is where they keep play sand and other bags of aggregate. There I found a 50 lb sack of builder's sand for less than the price of the stuff in the paint section. I also liked the fact that the builder's sand was much coarser than the sand in the paint section.

When I got the materials back to the apartments, I decided to do only one step first and see how it worked before doing all the stairs and possibly having to redo the work. The instructions on the sand packets in the paint section said to paint the floor and then sprinkle the sand on while the paint was still wet. I wanted a long lasting slip resistant surface and didn't know how well this method would work. I didn't want to have to repaint the stuff every few weeks or months; after all, this was a high traffic area. I painted the one stair step and sprinkled the course builder's sand on the wet paint and let it dry for several hours. When it was dry, I swept the loose sand off. I was not happy with the results. The larger grains of sand were easily dislodged when walked on and would quickly wear off with foot traffic.

Time for a new approach. I poured more paint into my tray and then poured a healthy dose of builder's sand into the tray. After that, I stirred the paint and sand until the sand was thoroughly coated in paint (more paint than sand though). The sand sunk to the bottom of the tray but stuck to the roller nicely when loading the paint roller. After rolling out the first stair step and letting it dry for several hours, I came back to a stair step that was slip resistant and looked like it would last several months. So I finished all the steps quickly using this method. The coating lasted over a year before it had to be redone and, for the price, I was happy.

The second painting solution that required sand happened when a tenant let the tub overflow for so long it looked like a broken pipe over the car ports under that apartment. To find the broken pipe, the plumber put an 18x24 inch hole in the wall only to tell me it wasn't a broken pipe in the floor/ceiling but in the apartment above. That's when we discovered the overflowing tub. Tenant forgot she left the tub running! The father of the household asked if he could repair the hole since he was going to be charged to fix the hole anyway and he wanted to save some money. I agreed he could fix the hole and I would paint it when he was done. Big mistake! Not only was the patch smooth faced, but the wall was textured; it bulged a good 3 inches out in the middle. It would be really noticeable, even after it was painted. Since I wasn't there when the patch was done, I had to get out a skill saw with a masonry blade and cut down the now dry and set hump of stucco, level to the rest of the wall face and refinish the wall patch with the tenant's bag of left over stucco mix. I knew some of the texture in stucco comes from being shot on with a large pump and hose and I also knew I couldn't duplicate that texture by hand. So now what to do? I figured that the stucco must contain builder's sand, so I had an idea. If I mixed some of the left over builder's sand from the stair project, I might get a close enough texture on the patch that it wouldn't be that noticeable from the ground. Since I had paint that was an exact match for the building, I went to work mixing the paint and sand mixture, heavier on the sand this time than it was with the steps. It rolled on as a perfect match for both color and texture. When the owner came out for a visit, she asked who had patched the patch and how much it had cost her. She said she couldn't tell where it was now (she had seen the tenants patch and was not happy with it). She was looking in the wrong place but, even after I pointed out the correct place, she said she still couldn't tell and congratulated me on a job well done. A few years later I was talking to a guy who had been a painter in Idaho. He told me how he couldn't match a stucco texture on a church no matter what he tried and decided to try and mix sand into the paint to get the patch to match, which worked perfectly. I then told him about my patch.

In both projects the paint rollers were ruined and had to be thrown out. If you use sand in your paint don't waste your time trying to rinse the sand out for the price of a cheap roller you're better off just trashing the roller. Save the handle it will be fine, I've seen people who didn't know better, toss the roller and the handle in the trash. If you want to save the paint tray use a plastic liner, I use 2 grocery sacks pulled over the tray, or rinse it out quickly and use a wire brush if it has dried in the paint tray.


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