Are you building or remodeling your home with the environment in mind? Going green isn’t just a hot trend that will die out in a few years. Using sustainable and safe products also isn’t just good for Mother Nature – it is also, in some cases, safer for you and your family. One such way to introduce green products into even the smallest home renovation project is to use environmentally friendly paint. Some paints are extremely unsafe because of the fumes they give off, and even when they’re dry, they could affect your health. Here’s some information about green paint – and I don’t mean the color!
What are VOCs?
VOCs are one of the main reasons you should use green paint in your home. VOC stands for volatile organic compound, and these compounds are chemicals that cause some kinds of paints to have that bad smell. VOCs are in paints, but they like to convert to gasses whenever possible, and will continue doing so even after you don’t detect a smell any longer. Some of the most common VOCs are benzene, toluene, and formaldehyde.
What low-VOC options are available?
The safest paints are rated as low- or no-VOC paints. Some, however, still use natural alternatives, like lime, chalk, pine-derived turpenes, soy oils, and linseed. Keep in mind that “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “better” – many people experience eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation with these paints as well. VOCs, after all, are found naturally.
One option that is becoming more readily available is the milk-based paint. Milk paints don’t emit VOCs at all, natural or man-made. This is one of the few true no-VOC options. Most paints that are labeled as no-VOC paint do emit VOCs at small levels. They’re still better than conventional paint, but they aren’t perfect.
Another choice you have is clay paint. These colors are natural tones, and the paints are sometimes more expensive, but they have a rich, opaque color without the fumes you’ll get with typical paints. Clay is natural, so it is better for the environment and for your health.
What are the benefits of environmentally friendly paints?
Milk paints and other low- or no-VOC paints are, first and foremost, safer for you when you paint your home. Some are even mild enough that they can be used by pregnant women, who are usually advised to refrain from painting. VOCs actually can be found in the air long after the paint dries, so you’re putting your health at risk on a long-term basis.
That’s not the only advantage, though. VOCs also pollute the environment, and the paints that are made with VOCs are not manufactured with the earth in mind. Natural paints, even those that still emit VOCs, are usually manufactured in a more environmentally friendly way.
What are the disadvantages to green paints?
Although they are better for your health and the environment, green paints do have some disadvantages. VOCs prevent mold and mildew, and some, especially milk paints, are especially prone to such problems. So, you may not be able to use some of these paints in areas of your home that get damp, like kitchens and bathrooms. Paints that don’t have VOCs are also more prone to fading and chipping in some cases, and you may need many coats to get the look you want, so using them is more labor-intensive than using typical house paints. In most cases, the benefits greatly outweigh the disadvantages.
Are there exterior options available?
Yes, many companies make exterior paints that are eco-friendly. Keep in mind, though, that because the air outside dilutes the effects of VOCs, exterior paints aren’t regulated as harshly. Therefore, some of the “green” exterior paints you come across might not actually as green as you think. Find out a little about the manufacturer and the paint before you make a purchase.
How should homeowners paint with green products?
Low- or no-VOC paints are usually water-based, so that means that you need to store the paints are stored properly. Freezing temperatures may have an effect on them, and your paintbrush should be as dry as possible so you don’t accidentally water down the paint.
Before you ever start painting, however, make sure that you strip off the old paint. That job in and of itself can be difficult to do without using products that hurt the environment. Look for products that are made without methylene, and if possible, remove as much paint as possible the old fashioned way – elbow grease! Environmentally friend painting may take a little extra work, but the safe, green result is well worth the effort.
Key Hiring Tips
From large to small projects, before you select any contractor be sure to take the time to properly screen them. The time it takes now to screen a contractor will help ensure success for your home improvement project and avoid problems down the road.