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Home Garage Paint Booth - Paint Your Car in the Garage

How to turn your garage into a paint booth

By Eric English, Photography by Eric English

Preparing the Space
Again, we were surprised at the simplicity that goes into Knutson's preparation of the garage prior to painting. "First I sweep it out, then blow it out with air, followed by hosing down the floor and squeegeeing the water out the main door. I generally mask the car the same day, and then I close everything up and let it sit overnight to let everything in the air settle down. The next morning I go over the car with a tack rag and I'm ready to paint." For some semblance of ventilation, Knutson generally sprays with the roll-up door open a couple of inches, and the main door cracked a similar amount. He finds that the airflow this creates is primarily at floor level and doesn't introduce debris into the air. We asked about some kind of forced ventilation (a fan that might vent through the wall or ceiling), but Knutson doesn't employ any such measure due to his concern that this would draw dust throughout the workspace.

When painting out of a space like this, you have to consider safety. It's nothing to take lightly, and understand that what we're describing here isn't the end-all for safety precautions. We're simply relating how one garage painter does it, bringing up some food for thought, and laying the responsibility for your personal safety on you. Determine a best course of safe action for your given situation, and resist cutting any corners here.

At least two major safety concerns come to mind when painting: health effects that can occur from exposure to volatile chemicals (VOCs and the like); and the danger of fire/explosion. On the respiratory end of things, Knutson uses a simple half-mask respirator with disposable filter cartridges known as an air purifying respirator (APR). Supplied air respirators also exist in the industry. Is the simple respirator adequate? We encourage you to look into the subject thoroughly, including reviewing manufacturers' specs and discussing your selections with your safety supply house.

As for the fire/explosion danger, remember that the majority of automotive finishes are flammable during storage and application and are clearly at their most dangerous state when in aerosol form. We've mentioned the need to heat the workspace in a cold climate, but the potential for a flammable atmosphere and ignition source is obviously of major concern. Knutson has a long-established system of precautions he's comfortable with. First and foremost, the furnace is always turned off prior to spraying, not just with the thermostat, but also with a switch on the actual furnace unit. "When it's cool out, I get the environment warmed up to temperature (roughly 70 degrees) for some time before I'm ready to spray. Then I switch off the furnace, apply my first coat, and leave the garage until the finish is dry. When dry, the fumes have largely dissipated and I can warm the place up again in preparation for further coats, followed by the same switch-off procedure." Remember that many gas furnaces will have a pilot light running at all times, so carefully evaluate your given scenario and take appropriate precautions. Those of you who live in warm climates, be thankful.

In the end, we think many of our readers will be surprised at the kind of paintjob possible in the simple confines of a garage. This doesn't mean a paint booth isn't preferable—it most certainly is both in terms of personal safety and ease of application—but it obviously involves considerable cost. Done right, you wouldn't know a garage-painted car from a booth job if the two were displayed side by side. Could you do the same in a similar space? Given the right skills, the answer is, yes, you can.

By Eric English
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