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South Coast Air Quality Management District to Begin Major Amendment to Coatings VOC Rules

Contact: David Darling Tuesday, April 01, 2014

California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is preparing to begin a significant rulemaking in June 2014 to amend its Rule 1113 architectural coatings volatile organic compound (VOC) regulations. SCAQMD is authorized to regulate air pollution from stationary sources in the South Coast Air Basin, which includes all of Orange County; and the non-desert regions of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County. SCAQMD has a long history of regulating architectural coatings, and has amended these rules 27 times since 1977, the date of the first architectural coatings regulation.

The air district’s amendments have included additional restrictions and lower VOC limits and, most recently in 2011, SCAQMD expanded Rule 1113 to limit the VOC in colorants added at the point of sale.

SCAQMD’s June 2014 rulemaking process is significant since the SCAQMD is seeking to make a number of drastic changes to Rule 1113, including reducing the VOC limits for flats, nonflats, and primers; limiting the sale/use of architectural coatings sold in one-liter containers or smaller; and imposing control efficiency requirements on spray equipment. In addition, this amendment may limit the types of faux finishes or glazes that are currently available on the market. This rulemaking will likely be very burdensome for both coating manufacturers and contractors.

Lower Limits for Flats, Nonflats, and Primers
SCAQMD’s proposed control measure seeks to reduce VOC emissions from large volume coating categories including flat, nonflat, and primers. SCAQMD will likely attempt to lower the current flat, nonflat, and primer VOC limits to 25 g/l from 50g/l, 50 g/l and 100 g/l respectively. While many interior flat and nonflat coatings would likely meet the 25 g/l limit, exterior flat and nonflat coatings may not. Further, while drywall primers may be able to meet the 25 g/l, other primers for metal and wood may not be able to meet this limit. Primers are specifically designed for a wide range of substrates and exposure conditions and serve a critical functional purpose; it is extremely important that primers perform well in adhering to substrates because they are often applied as a last resort to solve difficult application challenges.

Small Container Exemption
The air district also seeks to address the Small Container Exemption in Rule 1113 that allows manufacturers to sell certain types of coatings in liter containers or smaller without meeting the VOC limits (note: this exemption does not include select coatings categories such as Clear Wood Finishes and Lacquers). In June, SCAQMD will evaluate various options for limiting or eliminating the small container exemption, including phasing out of the exemption entirely, creating certain new categories with higher VOC limits, creating a maximum allowable VOC limit, or phasing out the small container exemption for certain coating categories. The small container exemption is critical given the fact that the SCAQMD Rule 1113 limits are the most stringent in the United States. This exemption provides the only “safety valve” or last resort option that allows for the use of traditional products for challenging applications when the VOC limits in certain categories are ratcheted down or a category is eliminated.

Spray Gun Efficiency Standards
SCAQMD also intends to regulate the spray-gun equipment used by contractors to apply AIM coatings. SCAQMD will evaluate the feasibility of a two-phase approach to achieve greater transfer efficiency from the application of architectural coatings. The first phase will be to incorporate laser paint targeting or other available technology into spray guns to increase transfer efficiency. This phase would require a retrofit by a certain date and incorporation into the design by a certain date. The second phase would include transfer efficiency provisions requiring that architectural coatings be applied by hand applications such as brush, roller, sponge, or trowel; or by high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) spray or other technology capable of achieving a transfer efficiency equivalent (65%) or better to HVLP spray.

Faux Finish Glazes
Finally, SCAQMD is also likely to address the definition of Faux Finish Glazes in Rule 1113. Rule 1113 currently states that glazes are “coatings designed for wet-in-wet techniques used to create artistic effects, including… dirt, old age, smoke damage, simulated marble and wood grain finishes….” Many glaze products on the market are labeled for application involving a glaze mixture over a dry, properly prepared, painted surface. Faux techniques are then used to create the desired appearance. Even though the term “wet-in-wet” has never been defined, SCAQMD now believes that the application instructions on most faux finish products do not meet the intent of the “wet-in-wet” rule language. SCAQMD intends to address this issue in the Rule 1113 amendment; however, until the SCAQMD adopts the amendments, it is likely that the sale of many glaze products in the region may be limited.

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