Monday, September 13, 2010

Choose zero-VOC paints for your fall reno projects

Fall has always seemed like a good time to paint. I suspect it’s because we’re suddenly indoors more so can’t ignore scuffed walls, or are in need of a change before settling into winter.

I love the look of a freshly painted room. Slapping on a coat of new paint is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to renovate, a quick and easy way to lift your spirits. But while fresh paint may look wonderful a freshly painted room can be toxic. As long as you can smell fresh paint it is off-gassing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are toxic chemicals that can cause everything from headaches and dizziness to respiratory tract irritation, memory loss and visual impairment. Many VOCs have been shown to cause cancer in animals and are suspected of being as dangerous to humans.

The toxicity of these fumes can depend on a few things. Dark coloured paint emits more VOCs, some people are more sensitive to these chemicals, and the ventilation in the area where you’re painting will impact toxicity.

Before you get paranoid about repainting the kitchen there are a number of low or zero-VOC paints available locally that can have you breathing easier in your home.

Last fall we repainted two-thirds of our home’s interior. After doing a little research we chose Home Depot’s Natural line (CIL brand) of water-based latex zero VOC paint for our trim and walls. It’s the base that has no VOCs. Tinting the base will add VOCs so sticking with pale colours is your safest bet. This line of paint is EcoLogo certified.

Another option is Benjamin Moore’s Natura line of zero-VOC paints. These are more expensive (almost twice the price of the Home Depot paint) but according to Benjamin Moore the base and the tints are both zero VOC. If you’re looking for deeper tints this might be your best option.

Although these paints are zero VOC, they can still pollute waterways when washed down the drain. To minimize the impact to the environment when cleaning up after a painting project consider the following:

• Wipe the brushes with newspaper before washing in water.

• If you’re mid-job (or just taking a break) wrap your paint-laden brush in plastic.

• If you’re taking a break for more than a day, wrap your wet brush in plastic and place it in the freezer.

If you have used paint to get rid of, Recycle NB offers a recycling program that sees old paint recycled into new and even the paint cans recycled. This recycled paint (Boomerang is the brand) comes in 16 colours and is available at Kent Building Supplies. To participate in the program just drop off your unwanted paint to one of the Recycle NB depots (visit for a list of drop-off locations). Old paint cannot go in the garbage.

With little or no paint smell to deal with, zero VOC paints make living through home renos easier than ever.

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