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Hak's goes green in all colours

Amanda Vaughan
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Hak's Autobody is the first autobody shop in Canada being supplied by Sikkens Paints with a new water-based car paint, 18 months before federal legislation will require it.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Mirsad Mujcin demonstrates the drying facility for the newly introduced water-based paints at Hak's Autobody. - Amanda Vaughan/NNSL photo

Hak's painter Senad Mujcin said Sikkens ran three pilot stores in the country, but that Hak's was the first to volunteer for the full switch from solvent-based paints.

"When we heard they were developing (water-based paint), we said we wanted to be the first," he said.

Hak's two main painters, Senad and his brother Mirsad, are the sons of Hak Mujcin, the owner and namesake of the business, which has been in Yellowknife for more than 30 years.

Environment Canada is putting the finishing touches on legislation tightening the regulation of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions.

A solvent-based paint dries when the solvents evaporate out into the atmosphere, and solvents contain VOCs, which are the precursors for particulate matter and ozone, which are the base ingredients for smog.

The new VOC emission limits will be impossible to meet by any products other than water-based ones, hence the switch.

Senad said that when Hak's supplier contacted their head office about debuting the product in Yellowknife, the executives were skeptical.

"We sent them pictures of our shop and the facilities we have, and showed them our website," he said, adding that Sikkens just wanted to make sure they had the volume for it to be worth the resources required for the switch. But Sikkens was happy with what they saw, and sent up a representative to analyze the shop and equipment, and train the staff in the application.

Both Senad and Mirsad are excited about the switch.

"You can tell the difference just in our working environment," said Mirsad, noting that water-based paints were much more pleasant to work with, not having the strong smell of solvents.

According to Senad, the water-based paints also create a cleaner finish by not having a static charge, which can attract foreign particles to the curing paint.

"It's not a trade off, the quality is as good or better than solvent-based paints," he said. The biggest difference in the procedure is the drying.

"Solvents evaporate lighter than air," said Mirsad. "They can dry anywhere.

"You have to sort of blow the water out of water-based paints," he added.

Hak's had recently upgraded its painting booths anyway, and the new drying process just required forced-air drying towers and heating lights to "bake" the finished paint job.

Hak admits this was an expensive upgrade, but it was necessary in the market.

"You have to do it, otherwise you don't exist," he said. "I like to get on the case before the big rush ... by the time everyone else is learning, I will be well experienced."

Of course, that is a relative statement when you look at the global picture.

"Sikkens has been using water-based paints in Europe for eight years already," said Senad. Sikkens is based in Holland, meaning it wasn't new to the technology.

"It was a well developed product," said Senad. "We can get all the colors we got before."