Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Painting and VOCs

The new house is keeping me busy! We are very fortunate to be able to get this work done before we move into the house. Like I said previously, as some of the wallpaper has come down, we found that sections of the 100+ year walls appear to be 100 years old and required replastering. Nothing too terrible, but it is an added stress.

I have also been a bit overwhelmed picking out paint colors. I can easily pick a color for a single room, but choosing for almost the entire house and wanting everything to flow well is another matter. I bet I spent at least 8 hours early this week looking at colors. Then I spent even more time picking out a new green shade when the original "thyme" color sample looked like moldy pea soup on the walls. Yuck. All of the colors are a bit out of my comfort zone. (Actually, anything other than white is sorta out of my comfort zone.) Most of the rooms are a color called "Kansas Corn" which is very similar to the middle sample yellow/gold in the photo. The dining room will be two colors. Above the chair rail will be "Butterfield" which is more intense, darker shade of Kansas Corn. Below the chair rail will be a chocolate brown. The kitchen will be a dark sage green color similar to the sample in this photo. My office is a blue also similar to the blue in the photo. I'll take photos once they are finished with all the painting.

Our painters prefer to use Devoe Paint, and I was pretty pleased to find that ICI Paints (which is the manufacturer of several brands of paint including Devoe) has a vision "to develop, produce,distribute and market its products and services in a way that does not cause damage to the environment." They were also the first North American paint manufacturer to develop and market VOC free latex paint back in the early 90s.

I've learned a bit more about VOCs in this process (actually I knew very little about VOCs other than a vague understanding that they aren't healthy). VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds and emitted as gases from some liquids and solids. VOCs are found in thousands of products ranging from paint to adhesives to plastics and even The organic solvents found in paint fall into this category, and our painters explained that VOCs tend to be more concentrated in coloring added to paint than the paint itself. So paint might be labeled as low or no VOC (which is an unregulated marketing term), but the coloring isn't low or no VOC. As the paint dries, organic solvents evaporate (you often hear it referred to as "off-gassing" - I have enough info for another post on off-gassing) and combine with nitrogen oxides and sunlight to create ground level ozone or smog. The EPA has found that indoor VOC concentrations can be 2-5 times higher indoors than out and can be up to 1000 times higher after certain activities such as paint stripping. Yikes!

There is some information on the EPA website about some of the health effects related to VOC exposure as well as information on other sources of VOCs. The site also lists ways to reduce your VOC exposure. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Increase ventilation (open those windows!)
  • Use household products according to manufacturer's directions
  • Buy limited quantities of products containing VOCs
  • Keep exposure to newly dry-cleaned materials to a minimum (yet another post that I've been meaning to write...)

I thought I had published this post last week, but I mut have made a correction and saved it as a draft accidentally! The painters finished up Monday morning so I'll have to take some new photos. I'm not sure I love the color in the kitchen nor in the office, but I'll live with them for awhile before I switch.


Gray Matters said...

You're absolutely right, picking out paint colors is overwhelming that's why I love YOLO's line - there aren't too many colors to choose from which helps an ADD decorator like me.

steve said...

Have you tried visiting Paint Colors website? they offer some low VOC paints.. :)