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Up to Your Boots in Booth Regulations

Where can you go to learn about spraybooth regulations? Is there anyone out there who can answer a question with something other than “I don’t know”? How the heck can you keep your booth legal if you can’t find anyone who knows what the heck “legal” means?


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My name is Andrew Schemmer. I work in Duluth, Minn., as the painter for a busy body shop. Just recently I’ve had the opportunity to start a business with a former co-worker from a dealer body shop. We found an [affordable] place to lease. It’s a three-stall garage with a frame rack. The problem is that we need a paint booth. This is what will make or break the idea. Since it’s a new building, we can’t grandfather a paint booth in, as so many other shops in the area have done.

My questions are:

– Is there a right way to go about finding the codes and regulations?

– If we go with an inside air-makeup booth, do we still need to meet all those fire codes?

– Can we benefit from contacting the city planning commission and telling them our plans?

The thing I hate most about installing a spraybooth is all the bureaucracy you have to go through before even buying it. … I call the building inspector for Duluth, and he tells me he doesn’t know much about it and to call a local architect.


So then I call the architect, and he tells me I don’t need him at all, that all I’m doing is putting a box inside of a box, so to call the manufacturer to find out about the codes. I call the manufacturer, and they tell me the booth meets all national codes but they wouldn’t know about local codes. So I talk to a local autobody supply store that offers a few different manufacturers’ spraybooths and he tells me the last thing I want to do is ask a fire marshall.

Your help and advice would be very much appreciated.

Thank you,

Andrew Schemmer

Answer No. 1:

Tony Passwater, BSB contributing editor and president of AEII

Dear Andrew,

I both admire your desire to start a new business and pity you for what you’re about to find out. Getting into this business today is much more complex than ever before (as you’re learning).


I’m not sure if you can afford a spraybooth with only three stalls to produce the volume, but here are some ideas: OSHA publishes codes for spraybooths, and so do state and local enforcement agencies. These agencies are usually the State OSHA board and the local fire inspectors. Now that EPA has gotten involved, it’s probable they’ll want their chance too. (All are listed in the Yellow Pages).

Here’s what I would do:

Contact a national booth distributor, and tell them you’re interested in getting a bid for a new booth. During the discussion, make sure they’ll research the requirements for your area to ensure it passes codes.


Keep in mind that normally the installation doesn’t include many items you must do, such as running gas lines, ducts, electric, etc. And, unless specified, it doesn’t include sprinklers, which are normally always required today. They all can be added, but the fine print usually makes them your responsibility (look over the deal very, very carefully).

You’ll also find out the paint-mixing room has very strict guidelines – explosion-proof lights, outlets, mixing scales, etc., plus a retaining wall requirement for spillage. A special wall may even be required to allow for an explosion.

As to whether you have an air-makeup or not … it doesn’t matter … same rules apply.

Also, often the heated cure burners can be upgraded with minimal charge to a 20-minute bake instead of the normal 40 minutes. This is well worth it, since it’ll cut cycle time in half (more volume = more money).


If you decide not to buy a booth from this manufacturer, that’s OK. The manufacturer will give you a specification sheet that can be used to bid other non-national booths.

And remember that service is critical and quality is important, so read the fine print!

Answer No. 2:

Ron Kuehn, director of business development, Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes

This isn’t necessarily my area of expertise, but by reading between the lines, a few issues jump out.

In a three-stall shop with a frame rack, the booth of choice will probably be an inexpensive one since you can’t generate enough volume in a facility that small to justify anything else.


With economy booths, the seller (probably a local jobber) can’t afford to get too involved in the installation because there isn’t enough profit. The normal practice is to have a freight company drop off the booth and let the customer deal with installation. The customer usually provides most of the installation labor for these type of booths (the actual metal room), other than wiring, fire-suppressant systems, cutting holes in the ceiling for exhaust, etc.

If the painter approaches the wrong (meaning inexperienced) person in local government concerning permits, the bureaucracy could become fatal to the business. Two people with three stalls is going to make it difficult enough for the business to survive, so you don’t need added issues.


My recommendation would be to investigate the install crew of downdraft booths in the Duluth market area. Some booth companies sub-contract the booth installation. It would be hard to believe that someone hasn’t already worked through the regulation issues and already made contacts in the marketplace.

Two choices are apparent: Get permission (go through the proper channels) or ask forgiveness later (circumvent the process). The latter presents great liability risk not only for the two partners, but also for the landlord.

As cold as it gets in that part of the country, there are most likely many heated downdraft booths in the area. Finding someone in the area with the experience and hiring that person – or buying an inexpensive booth through that person – is the most apparent solution with the limited information provided. They may even know of a used booth that was replaced by the new one they installed.


The other solution would be to pass on [this location] and find one with an existing booth.

Hope that helps!

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