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cboy 04-09-2009 06:53 AM

Ever seen a painting explosion?
I asked this question as a part of the "paint/lighting" thread and no one responded. But the question got my curiosity going. So I figured I'd start a separate thread to explore it further.


There are a lot of potential "igniters" in a garage/shop situation. Fans, open flame heaters, electrical outlets, broken bulbs and maybe even static electricity from your unruly hair to a grounded object.

I would never suggest that anyone not take the greatest of precautions against creating an explosion. But I'm just curious as to documented, real life incidents of a hobby painter blowing themselves up with paint fumes and the conditions which caused any such accidents.

heyjude076 04-09-2009 07:18 AM

This isn't paint related but the same theory. Back in the 60s I worked installing flooring and formica counter tops. The contact cement used back then was extremely flammable much the same as paint solvents. I have seen the results of an installer not extiguishing the pilot lights on a gas stove. The fumes were ignited by the pilot light and according to the installer before he could react the whole counter top was aflame. Luckily he was not harmed. The only damage was to the kitchen and his pride.

web01_99 04-09-2009 07:21 AM

I am not saying it cant happen but I dont worry about it too much. For over 20 years I painted in my dad's 24'x30' shop with an open pilot flame on a gas furnace with reg florecent lights and only had one minor possible reason to be worried. Also my paint exhaust fan was a 3 speed electric fan in the wall with the motor right in the path of the paint mist going out.

The minor reason I had to be worried one nite was when I was painting stock car tube chassis and really had a fog going on in the air and couldnt see the other side of the shop. I was almost done with the one frame when I heard a small woompf sound and saw a small blueish flash near the furnace. I hurried up and finished and left everything thing on till the fog cleared.

Because I had a very heavy fog in there I had a great risk for explosion but if one has good ventilation and good exhaust flow explosion risks are minimal in my opinion.

speede5 04-09-2009 07:23 AM

Having seen some of the members home paint booths I would expect some incidents, but then again, if you blow yourself up how do you tell the story. Personally I think a home built spray booths need to be well built and all your electrical fixtures and appliances should be explosion proof, or remotely located (fan) but that is not within the reach of most hobbyists.

jetnow1 04-09-2009 07:32 AM

possible explosions
As a carpenter I often hear they do not build them like they use to- I reply
the junk/poorly built houses burned down 100 years ago- the ones you see
were the best built for the era. The average 200 year old house would never
pass code today even if we ignore the requirments for elec, plumbing and
The risk of an explosion is real- use common sense and listen to that
little voice that says don't do that and most of the time you will be ok.
If you are not sure it is safe get a 2nd opinion from someone who has been there-This is a great site for that. Jim

cboy 04-09-2009 10:27 PM


Originally Posted by jetnow1
...The risk of an explosion is real...

It would seem so jetnow1. But with all the home hobbyist shooting these materials (car guys, wood workers etc.) in some rather unprofessional conditions (open flame heaters, fans, electrical outlets, static sparks, etc.) you would think we would all know of a neighbor or a friend or even a local newspaper story where there was such a fire or explosion. I can't recall every hearing of even a single such event. That's why I'm looking here for specific documented cases where this has happened.

speede5 04-09-2009 11:57 PM


Originally Posted by cboy
I can't recall every hearing of even a single such event. That's why I'm looking here for specific documented cases where this has happened.

I hear you, I have never either, but who wants to be the first? One of the most basic things that make a Hotrod work is an atomised combustible with a elecrtrically generated spark creating an explosion. :eek:

jetnow1 04-10-2009 06:35 AM

I have seen explosions from wood dust, and grain dust explosions are in
the news fairly often. I must wonder if of the many garage fires I see
in the news are some of them from someone spray painting but not telling
anyone due to insurance reasons......At any case better to be safe than
sorry and follow the suggestions of the many experienced painters here. I
have and continue to learn from the experiences of others here and would
hate to loose a potential teacher! Jim

CustomConspiracy 04-10-2009 06:36 AM

Big Bang?
It's kinda weird....a guy will park his car WAY out in the parking lot because of the risk of a door ding. ten risk the car, the house , AND himself painting with an open flame.
I have taken most of the risks already mentioned but it does not mean it makes any sense. I did it because I was poor and needed to get the job done.
Ever seen a Grain Elevator explosion? That is just DUST.
I am an old Geezer so most of my life we used lacquer based stuff. I think it was a LOT more dangerous.
There were times when I was doing something special or experimental and would be shooting nearly strait thinner....that is pretty near the gas/air mixture in your motor.
Today I play it as safe as I can, based on money to spend n the set up.
I still do paint and airbrush work in the garage,,,that is my business shop but I have a decent set up will a downdraft set up I built myself.
I STILL don't paint with an open flame!

cboy 04-10-2009 07:04 AM

Perhaps "Mythbusters" can do an episode on this...or maybe they have already. Fill a sealed garage with a nice spray paint cloud and then set off a few sparks...or even light an open flame. They love to see things go BOOM, so it would be right up their alley to try it.

Another experiment I'd like to see is somebody willing to light the spray as it is coming out the gun nozzle. Sort of like we used to light cans of hair spray on fire. It would just be interesting to see if you can torch it off. Obviously I'm not willing to set my OWN hair on fire conducting this experiment but I'm really getting more curious now since none of our members thus far have reported a single documented case of such a fire or explosion resulting from paint fumes.

OneMoreTime 04-10-2009 08:23 AM

One needs to get to a severely high concentration of fumes in the air to get an explosive situation..For example we now use an air/fuel explosive in military air dropped ordnance..Getting those to work on a reliable basis was a real pain..Getting a concentration of fuel/air mix in some guys garage will be difficult and if a guy has any bit of sense he would realize the concentration required makes it hard to breath in there..

Knowing that I still go for lots of ventilation and put out any sources of ignition when I am painting..And use a mask..

As far as igniting the spray from a gun if a fellow was to shoot reducer or thinner at a flame he can get a big flare up as the fuel air mixture is locally concentrated to a ratio that supports combustion..Like throwing gasoline on a fire..

Hope this makes some sense...


speede5 04-10-2009 10:25 AM

I doubt it's near the risk it used to be as paints are less and less solvent based these days.

Lighting off the paint as it leaves the gun probably won't happen. might be fun to try. :D I think there is more danger as the solvent gas out of the paint as it dries.

I have heard of a few grain dust explosions, that is very real. If you want to expirament with that just sprinkle some flour over a candle. (in a very controlled area!)

rdupree 04-10-2009 11:05 AM

I guess it is time I started contributing to this forum. I know of two experiences.

First, in the late '60's a good friend of mine ran a body shop, with a typical poorly ventilated room he used for his paint booth. His habit was to complete a paint job, grab a cigarette, and go into the room to inspect his work. Never had a problem.

Second, in the late '80's a former co-worker was going to get into the fiberglass body business. He bought a nice chopper gun setup, had his molds made, etc. His story was that it was a cold day, so he was using some extra hardener to help the glass set up quicker. As he was cleaning the equipment with acetone, the hot resin started a fire, and he was luck to excape with his life.

Ron Dupree

cboy 04-10-2009 11:40 AM


Originally Posted by rdupree
I guess it is time I started contributing to this forum. I know of two experiences.

Wow, was that fiberglassing incident due to spontaneous combustion from the heat of the reaction, or was there a spark/flame involved?

And if you don't mind my asking, how severe was the smoking incident?

And as sorry as I am to hear these things happened to friends of yours, Ron, thanks for posting them up.

rdupree 04-10-2009 11:48 AM

The smoker never had a problem. And this was in a room full of lacquer fumes.

I haven't seen the fiberglass guy since the incident. My belief is that the fire was due to spontaneous combustion. Knowing the person involved, he probably had the fiberglass mixed so 'hot' that it was smoking. (Yes, fiberglass setting up is an exothermic reaction. The more catalyst you use, the quicker it can set up, but the hotter it will get). Liquid acetone and acetone fumes near heat, led to spontaneous combustion.

Another one I know of was a fellow that was restoring a Corvette. He was heating his garage with a wood stove. He put some thinner soaked rags into the stove to burn them. As he was putting them in the stove, they immediately caught fire, in a near explosion. No damage to car or shop, but his face and arms were tender for a while from the burns.

Ron Dupree

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