The unique qualities of Sandtex Trade 365 worked against the clock to tackle a tall order, enabling an entire lighthouse to be painted from top to bottom in less than a week – whilst delivering a protective finish for the long term.

Standing on the seafront between Roker and Seaburn, the fast-track paint project enabled Cliffe Park lighthouse to appear in peak condition as the backdrop to the Sunderland International Air Show – one of the largest free air shows in Europe.

More than a million visitors looked out to sea as the Red Arrows and other breathtaking aerial display teams flew past the lighthouse for the action-packed three day event.

Section scheme manager at Sunderland City Council, Peter McQuillan, and his maintenance team oversaw the painting works.

The UK’s only surviving metal lighthouse, the Grade II Listed Building is one of the more unusual civic buildings for which Peter is responsible and he had to specify the most appropriate decorative coating system to preserve and protect the landmark structure.

His maintenance team had been successfully trialling a Sandtex Trade 365 all weather gloss and undercoat primer system on smaller jobs in the seafront area and Peter decided to use the same combination of products on the lighthouse.

Sandtex Trade 365 is recognised for its ability to work at low temperatures and in humid conditions – making it the ideal choice for ambient weather conditions. These qualities came to the fore for the Cliffe Park project. Although the works were undertaken in July, the Sunderland coastline is at risk from North Sea mists, which can roll in at about 4pm each day, causing humidity to rise and the temperature to drop dramatically.

This climate – and the demands on time – combined to set a tough challenge. Although a week had been allowed to get the work done, the scaffolding for such a big structure took three days to erect. “This meant my team had just four days in total to complete the painting,” said Peter. “With the air liable to turn cold and damp each afternoon, we really needed a coating system that would go on quickly and easily and would dry very rapidly. I also needed to be sure that the final coat of gloss on this important public building wouldn’t lose its sheen as it was being applied in less than perfect conditions.”

Giving the lighthouse a high sheen top coat was not Peter’s only concern. He was also keen to give the metal substrate the best possible level of protection against the elements, particularly since the lighthouse had not been painted for more than eight years and previous coatings were showing signs of failure.

The maintenance team applied a preparatory coat of Sandtex trade rust inhibiting primer to protect against corrosion and provide a sound base. This was followed by a coat of Sandtex Trade 365 Primer Undercoat and the system was completed with a single coat of Sandtex 365 all weather gloss.

As well as allowing application at lower temperatures, Sandtex Trade 365 – which features a high performance alkyd resin to deliver a hard, resilient gloss finish – extends maintenance cycles and offers excellent opacity, providing excellent coverage and hiding power.

Peter added: “The products went on really well, gave great coverage, and cured properly despite the conditions. “By the time visitors were arriving to see the Air Show, the whole building was positively gleaming.”

Peter had initially tried the same three coat Sandtex Trade system on a stretch of metal railings along the seafront which takes a battering from the elements, including a double hit of salt from the sea spray and the winter gritting of the roads. When the railings needed repainting Peter had taken Crown’s advice and switched his coating specification. “This didn’t just result in a great finish,” said Peter, “Using the Sandtex Trade rust inhibiting primer followed by the 365 all weather gloss system, my team got the job done so quickly that we were able to cut the road closure times by a third, which was very good news for local residents. We’ll be using this system for all railings from now on – on the seafront and elsewhere.”

Whilst reduced road closures are certainly a bonus, at the moment it is the lighthouse that is drawing reactions from the locals. “Lots of people have commented on how great it looks now that it has been painted,” said Peter. “It really seems like part of the seafront has been brought back to life – and we managed to get it done in time for the Air Show, despite all the odds. It’s amazing what you can achieve in a week.”