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|Yes, we are open for business|
ramé-hart instrument company is an
essential business. We supply instruments and spare parts to
organizations working on medical research including solutions for
COVID-19. We also supply spinnerets used in medical devices and
applications. Currently, we have an electrical engineer and
programmer who are working from home. Another employee is out for a
season. And the rest of us are practicing social distancing in order
to keep one another safe during this unprecedented time. We are here
to serve you and look forward to hearing from you.
|My quest for a superhydrophobic shed|
It all began eight years ago when Hurricane Sandy hit our Garden State with an intensity that is not easy to forget. At the time, I kept the yard equipment and my motorcycle in a small budget shed which consisted basically of a tarp wrapped over a tent frame. Yea, not exactly hurricane-proof. Knowing the storm was coming I wisely relocated the motorcycle to the dining room. My wife wasn't so happy about that but perilous times require decisive actions. And besides, we had already had dinner. And most importantly, the motorcycle survived unscathed.
That night when the storm came, the winds decimated my little tarp shed and drug it along with the snow blower and lawnmower across the yard like they were plastic toys. One of them even crashed into my beloved superhydrophobic Mustang - another reason to have a garage. When the morning came and the winds were calm, I went outside to assess the damage and found dozens of my neighbor's roof shingles scattered across the yard. I was just beginning to feel compassion toward my neighbor when I realized they were off my roof.
Right then and there I decided it was time for a real man's shed - framed, sturdy, and one that won't blow away when the next storm comes. It took me seven years but I finally finished it. I was hoping it would be a opportunity to teach my three sons how to build and work. Unfortunately, I think the only thing they learned was what comes out of dad's mouth when he hammers his finger. For the record, all those words are in the Bible.
One of the final tasks on the punch list was painting my new shed. As someone who is fascinated with wetting behavior, I decided that it needed to be non-wetting. Just think, I could be the first guy in the neighborhood with a superhydrophobic shed. How cool would that be?
So, the first stop on my quest was Lowe's (a home improvement superstore for those of you who live outside of the US). This was before pandemic. I was met in the paint department by a lovely saleslady in her mid 60s. I first asked her if they had any hydrophobic paint. Her blank stared told me she had no idea what hydrophobic meant. I went on to explain that I was looking for a paint that was super water repellent. She was still puzzled when she asked me back, "Aren't all paints water repellent?". Then I saw the light go on in her head. Excitedly, she signaled me to follow her. I did. Then she introduced me to a 5-gallon drum of Thompson's WaterSeal Waterproofer. I thanked her profusely and then began to study the back of container. I decided to take some notes and do some homework before taking the plunge on Thompson's.
When I got home and after watching a dozen YouTube videos, I learned that this product is really geared toward decks and wooden lawn furniture. I came to learn that it's really a sealer, not a paint, and cannot be applied to a painted or primed surface. It's a water-based product, easy to apply, and easy to clean up but it only real works when applied to untreated wood. According to the MSDS1, it contains a paraffin wax and trace of coconut oil. Due to the fact that my shed was already primed and that I did not want a natural wood look anyway, I decided this was probably not the best solution.
My next stop was Home Depot (another home improvement superstore). I was met in the paint department by a young millennial wearing round glasses that made him look a lot smarter than he turned out to be. I started with the same question, "Do you sell any hydrophobic paint?". "Yes, we do," he replied confidently. He then introduced me to a multi-surface liquid repelling treatment kit called NeverWet. The kit consists of two aerosol cans in a box. The product now carries the Rust-oleum label.
I'm already quite familiar with NeverWet as we reviewed it the summer of 2013 when I made my Puma Clyde sneakers superhydrophobic.2 By way of follow-up, my sneakers retained water-repellent properties but after about six months it wore off. My umbrella is no longer superhydrophobic either.
Back to Home Depot. I pretended to have never heard of it. I asked if I could paint over it without affecting it's water-repellency. "Yes, of course," replied the young salesman. That's not actually true. NeverWet really just adds a thin layer on top of the treated surface using a two-step process. If you then paint over it, it's all lost. Showing some enthusiasm, I asked how much I should buy to cover my shed. "Two kits should do it," replied the salesman without even asking how big my shed was. It turns out that one kit will cover 10-15 square feet. My 14 x 8 foot shed has about 350 square feet of exterior paintable surfaces. That translates to 24 to 35 kits, depending on how liberally you apply it. At $15 per kit, that works to between $360 and $525. It made the $65 5-gallon can of Thompson's WaterSeal at Lowe's look like a bargain. If I went with the NeverWet solution, I'd still have to paint first and since NeverWet wears off, I'd have to reapply annually. I'm now looking at $5k over 10 years. Yowzer. That's just too much to pay to have a superhydrophobic shed. In fact, that's a lot more than it cost to build the shed in the first place.
My last effort was to secure two gallons of Sto Lotusan.3 I contacted my local distributor and was curtly told that they don't sell to "consumers". I was tempted to explain that I worked for a company that made the instruments that measured the contact angle on surfaces like those coated with Lotusan - but alas I didn't want to sound presumptuous or leverage my position to buy something the average consumer could not buy.
In the end, I didn't give up on my quest. I just temporarily painted it with two coats of Berh Premium Plus. That should hold it over until I can come up with a more workable solution for making my shed superhydrophobic.
To be continued...