So you’re building a green home. You’ve used the right wood, gone through all the proper practices, now you are working your way inside. Determining what materials you use on the inside is just as important as what you build the house with. Considering how important indoor air quality is in a green home, you can’t afford to overlook every detail.
Once your house is built and your family is living in the home, what is the one thing that you are probably going to change several times throughout your life? Your décor, right? People change paint colors in their homes as often as the seasons change. Paints have a significant impact on indoor air quality. The VOC level is represented in grams per liter. This level is important when choosing your paint, and making sure that the ones you use are low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds) are a must. There are lots of choices out there, some better than others. Levels can vary depending on product. Many stains and clear finishes still contain higher VOC levels. LEED provides a great resource for reasonable VOC targets for paints and stains.
Important considerations when choosing paints:
- Durability – many water-based paints last just as long as oil-based. Durable products will last longer, meaning you won’t have to paint as often.
- VOC Levels – The VOC level on every paint is right on the label. Simply look for the lowest number. Avoid products containing formaldehyde, petroleum, and mineral spirits. Look for paints certified by a third party (Green Seal, GreenGuard and SCS are the most prominent)
You also want to consider the resources used in the paint’s production. Green paint choices fall into the following categories:
- Conventional Low VOC Synthetic Paints – These are made from products from the petrochemical industry such as vinyl and acrylic. Colors are synthetically manufactured or may use pigments derived from heavy metals, such as cadmium and chromium. They are often created from nonrenewable resources and use energy-intensive processes
- Natural Paints – These paints are made from renewable and biodegradable ingredients and usually contain low VOC and contain no ozone-depleting chemicals. They use less intensive manufacturing processes and manufacturers tend to disclose ingredients. If you are chemically-sensitive, be sure to research the substances in the paint. Many chemically-sensitive people are allergic to some of the natural substances used in these paints.
- Milk Paint – This product typically comes in a powder form and is mixed with water on site. It is permanent but not waterproof (my front door was painted in milk paint over 80 years ago. The paint is still there, but it has crackled over time, giving it a weathered, but beautiful look). Milk paints are odorless, nontoxic, durable, zero VOC and biodegradable.
- Silicate Paints – These paints can be applied directly on paper-faced drywall. The potassium or sodium silicate binder acts chemically with drywall material to create a coating that is breathable and water resistant to weathering. As with other mineral based paint, it is odorless, nontoxic, durable, zero VOC and biodegradable. The paint, however, is manufactured by an energy-intensive process.
- Recycled & Remanufactured Paint – Recycled paints can be either remixed or obtained through swap programs. Do your research if you have decided to go with recycled or remanufactured paints. Remixes aren’t tested for VOCs, and you will never know what materials it contains. Recycled paints clearly list the ingredients on the label. Remanufactured paints are leftover paints mixed with compatible products and tested for VOCs, but the chemical components are unknown and paint colors are limiting.
If you are using green paint in your home, also take into consideration how you are going to dispose of it. If you’re left with more than needed for touch-ups, consider donating leftovers or check with the manufacturer to see if they have a recycling program available. If all else fails, and you can’t donate, recycle or reuse your paint, check with your local landfill on proper disposal of paint.
As with regular paint, make sure that your work area is properly ventilated.
Posted by: Lauren