[Best Practices] - An Equal, Not a Substitution - Paint Talk - Professional Painting Contractors Forum
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Old 10-09-2020, 03:28 PM   #1
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Default [Best Practices] - An Equal, Not a Substitution

One of the Practices that we employ on commercial projects is submitting products as “Equals” to what is specified. Many times we will go through specifications to find only one manufacturer listed for approved products. Typically this is followed somewhere by a statement to the effect of: “or equal.”

The specifications list instructions on how to submit a substitution, but one thing that isn’t clear is the liability involved in using a substitution. If I substitute a product (Use what I want instead of what the architect wants.) Then I am responsible for anything that happens after the fact. An Example: I substitute a different material to paint Exposed Steel in a theater and perform the work before the rest of the finishes go in. As the building is close to turnover, the paint starts to fail. For whatever reason, Bad batch of paint, incompatible with the shop primer, incorrect environment, ect. Now the cost to fix the Paint job rests on my shoulders. If Sandblasting is required, it gets expensive to mask off the seating, the carpet, the ceiling, and protect all the other installed finishes.

Now if I submitted my material as an “Equal or Greater” and it’s accepted by the Architect as an equal or greater, then even if it fails after the fact, I’m not on the hook. I didn’t specify the original paint system, the architect did. If my paint is chemically equal to what was original, then it would have failed too. Now the cost is not my problem, but the architect’s.

What constitutes an equal: Materials that will perform equally. Interior Flat ceiling paint is not the same as a Surface Tolerant Epoxy. However, submitting BM Aura as an “Equal or Greater” for SW Promar 400 is acceptable. If we want to use Amerlock instead of Caboline or Tnemec, then it needs to be an equal (or better) material.

How to submit an Equal: Ask your Rep what materials they have that are equal or greater than what is specified. They will need to provide a letter (usually from the company’s technical representative) that states that their material will perform as an equal or better. Then submit the letter, the new Product Data and a letter stating your request for the material to be considered as an equal. Usually you will get a response that they will accept it as a substitution, at this point you need to submit and explain that it’s not a substitution, it is an EQUAL. Most of the time, it will work. I can think of 2 jobs in the past 10 years that denied the request.

What if the specified material is wrong? If the architect specifies cheap interior paint for an exterior structural steel, you need to inform them of the issue. Yes you can submit a different cheap paint for the materials that are specified but if it fails, the Designer is going to ask why you (The Expert) didn’t recognise the issue before you painted it.

A real world example is where we the painting contractor were on a job where we ran over on hours dramatically. We investigated but couldn’t figure out why. Eventually we found where the Fence Subcontractor had substituted the perimeter gates for louvered gates. (Which GREATLY increased the time to paint them.) Now all of the additional hours for painting the gates, were the responsibility of the Fence Subcontractor.

Does anyone else use Equals? Have you been burned by substitutions? Interested to know what others experience is.
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Old 10-09-2020, 03:50 PM   #2
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A painting contractor that bids industrial, or commercial jobs will almost always be presented with the option of a recommended product, or equal under Division 9 Finishes in most bid packages.

It would probably be a good idea to keep up with the products that are typically cross referenced as an equal alternative to a recommended product. I would imagine a best practice would be to first adhere to the architect's recommendation unless it's so off base it will certainly cause problems.
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Old 10-09-2020, 04:05 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CApainter View Post
A painting contractor that bids industrial, or commercial jobs will almost always be presented with the option of a recommended product, or equal under Division 9 Finishes in most bid packages.
Right. Usually you will see this a "Basis of Design" or a schedule which will list one or multiple products from one or multiple suppliers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CApainter View Post
It would probably be a good idea to keep up with the products that are typically cross referenced as an equal alternative to a recommended product. I would imagine a best practice would be to first adhere to the architect's recommendation unless it's so off base it will certainly cause problems.
Right again. Typically this will come down to a scenario where we get a better price for an equal material so we try to get it accepted as a equal if we are awarded the project.

Key point: We RARELY price the estimate assuming we can use the cheaper materials, but we attempt the approval during submittals to try and increase our margin slightly.
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