Important to note: these details and problems are specific to painted surfaces like murals or painted sculpture. Removal of graffiti from untreated stone, concrete and other building materials is a different discussion.
This information was requested as follow up to the discussion on protecting murals located at https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/murals/varnishing-a-mural-antigraffiti-measures-protecting-public-art/
These details are highlighted because their use results in problems that create variable speeds of removal, safety for mural = costs). In other words, These variables complicate giving a standardized per sq. ft price for removal of graffiti.
Types of paint used for graffiti
A quick visit to a seller of canned spray paint will immediately make evident that the paints are of varying types: enamel (and other high heat qualities), epoxy, acrylic, vinyl, latex, oil based, alkyd, lacquer, rust preventative paints, other plastics, urethanes… and more. Qualities of spray paint for vandals are voted on for popularity and published: http://leakestreetarches.london/ten-topgraffiti-spray-brands/ Graffiti writers are fiercely loyal to Rustoleum. “Rusto” is legendary as the thickest and most durable of all spray paints. According to the taggers, there’s nothing that’ll last like it.
Other types of paint and ways of applying it
Any kind of paint is also often applied with portable spray devices like “supersoakers” or “extinguishers” which enable covering vast square footage at the entire height of a 3 story industrial building. CalTrans in Los Angeles dealt with a vandal who got access to the yellow paint used for lines on roadways (extremely hard and resistant) and hit buildings and murals with paint that was extremely damaging and expensive to remove. With the right equipment and close proximity access, a vandal can shoot any kind of paint onto public art at a height reaching 30 ft. One of the problems with this type of chaos is that the paint is applied in very thick layers. So, difficulty of removal and access for clean up compound the problems. This complicates giving a standardized per sq. ft price for removal.
The “mathematical equation” or recipe for removal of graffiti from murals takes the following into consideration:
- It is important to realize that the various qualities of paint redissolve (can be cleaned off) at different rates or with varying degrees of difficulty. So a square foot price for removal may not be possible.
- The thicker the paint is applied, the more effort (more solvent, more force) is required to remove it. This also complicates giving a standardized per sq. ft price for removal.
- Does removal of graffiti require special equipment, special access, special permits, protecting the public from toxic materials… or? These factors complicate giving a standardized per sq. ft price for removal.
Other factors that determine the speed and success of removal without damage to a mural
- More thickly painted murals are more resistant to damage. Thinly painted murals are damaged more easily.
- Multiple layers of graffiti compound the problems of removal (speed and avoidance of damage to the mural… or leaving behind residual spray paint on the mural) and increases the price.
- Is the mural protected by varnish (protective clear coat). Is it applied thickly or thinly?
- Is the protective varnish’s strategy supposed to be “sacrificial” or an impenetrable barrier? These two types of varnish are different qualities or materials.
Maintenance is the key. The key to a maintenance program working is to be organized having good coordination of interested parties. Given the best of conditions and favorable circumstances here are some guidelines: Small graffiti initials/name can usually be removed for a couple of hundred dollars. A tag that is more thickly applied and bigger, maybe a few hundred dollars. An enormous, repainting-type of graffiti can still be removed for maybe $3,500- $4,000. But multiple layers of graffiti compound the problems of removal and increases the price (speed and avoidance of damage to the mural… or leaving behind residual spray paint on the mural).
Is it worth having public art if its just going to be damaged?
Consider other nice things (personal, at home, at work, in community) you appreciate. They often require maintenance/upkeep over a continued basis.
Other questions and opinions public art administrators
have requested from Scott M. Haskins
Varnishing a Mural – Antigraffiti Measures- Protecting Public Art Testimonial https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/murals/varnishing-a-mural-antigraffiti-measures-protecting-public-art/
Other blog posts by Scott M. Haskins regarding graffiti: https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/?s=graffiti
Example of proposal for mural maintenance services by FACL, Inc. for communities https://www.FineArtConservationLab.com/graffiti_removal_from_mural_proposal