When the time came to repaint the exterior woodwork and metalwork of Brook Mill, a 19th century spinning mill converted into upmarket apartments, the residents and their managing agents insisted that the Sandtex Trade Flexigloss X-tra system was to be used.

Brook Mill, located in the unique award-winning Eagley Mills conservation area on the outskirts of Bolton, is one of an impressive complex of textile mill buildings to have been given a new lease of life as privately owned residential and commercial premises.

Complete Property Management Solutions, working on behalf of Brook Mill’s residents’ committee, put out tenders for external redecoration works. Fast-track refurbishment specialists Classic Decorative Finishes of Preesall in Lancashire were awarded the contract and sent in a team of operatives, all fully trained in the use of mobile elevating work platforms and scaffolding, to carry out the work.

It was eight years since Brook Mill’s exteriors had been redecorated. The five-storey building, comprising over forty individual luxury apartments, had plenty of wood and metal surfaces to paint and protect, including 193 individual windows and 58 balconies and patio areas with additional doors, architraves and steel railings.

The previous contractors had used Sandtex Trade Flexigloss, which had stood the test of time exceptionally well. Having seen its performance and durability, the residents’ committee and their agents insisted that the same paint system be used once again. To maintain the appearance of the building, they specified exactly the same understated deep grey colour scheme.

Whilst the operatives had no problems working with the Flexigloss X-tra system, they had a number of logistical challenges to overcome relating to the weather, the tenure of the building and access to upper floors as James Dickinson of CDF explains: “Weather conditions made it incredibly difficult to stick to our decorating schedule. Work had to be aborted on numerous days due to exceptionally high levels of rainfall. This meant that the original timeframe for the project soon became unrealistic.”

“It wasn’t just the operatives who were inconvenienced by changes to the planned programme of work. Although were painting the exteriors of a mill building, we were actually dealing with around forty individual private homes, occupied by professional people who were out at work all day. To paint their properties properly we obviously had to make sure they left windows and doors ajar on the right days. We’d planned a very thorough painting schedule for the building and despite communicating with each resident individually and dropping reminder letters through their doors it was difficult getting 100% compliance. Making frequent changes to the schedule because of the weather only exacerbated the problem.”

However, the most difficult hurdle concerned the final rear elevation of the building, as James explains: “We knew we could use cherry pickers to gain access to the upper storeys on three of the elevations but the fourth presented a problem because it directly overlooked a brook. We were hoping to bring in a team of abseilers to help us, but the residents committee didn’t like the idea of the work being subcontracted out and wanted all the painting to be done by the same CDF team of time served decorators.”

“Option 2 was to fully scaffold the elevation in order to give our own operatives access to all the upper storeys. Unfortunately this proposal was also rejected, on cost grounds.”

“We then explored the possibility of taking an amphibious access vehicle into the brook. We entrusted a specialist company to help us and after numerous site meetings and telephone discussions they quoted for a Unimog vehicle mounted platform. However, when the time came to bring in the vehicle, they advised us that it couldn’t be used as the brook was swollen. They recommended a tracked vehicle instead, but after consultation with the Environment Agency, we were advised that the riverbed was not sufficiently stable. By this time it was winter and the final section of the project had to be put on hold.”

James Dickinson admits that the painting of Brook Mill has been ‘challenging’, but he has nothing but praise for the coatings specified for the project: “First of all we were pretty impressed by the state of the existing paint film. We expected that after eight years there would be a lot more cracks and flaky peeling patches to sand down especially on the south facing elevation, but it was in very good condition.

“When it came to applying new Flexigloss X-tra, we tackled each elevation in turn, painting two or three apartments at a time, gradually working our way down from the top storey. With each set of apartments we would sand down all the wood and metalwork on the first day and apply the Flexigloss Primer Undercoat, leaving it to dry for 24 hours. On the second day the Flexigloss topcoat would be applied. The coatings went on beautifully and the gloss coat gave a really high sheen finish.”

James concluded: “This was a tricky job because of the weather, the positioning of the building and having to secure the co-operation of so many people. Thankfully when it came to the coatings we could not have wished for a better spec. We’ve not been big users of Sandtex Trade Flexigloss X-tra in the past but having seen for myself how long it lasts, the finish that is achieved, and knowing how well my men got on with the paint system, I have no hesitation recommending it to other clients in the future.”