Low VOC Paints

Until very recently, latex paints were used almost exclusively for walls and ceilings, and oil paints were used for doors, trims, and woodwork. Latex paints– which are water based– have been less durable. Oil paints, while more durable, emit unpleasant odors and require the use of mineral spirits for clean up.

However, because of government regulations and consumer concerns, paint manufacturers have begun developing more durable interior latex paints. A new generation of latex paints are now being produced, and these paints are nearly are durable as oil paints.

The result is a quick drying paint which levels well, cleans up with water, and can stand up to wear and tear. Perhaps more importantly, these new products are lower in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and therefore emit fewer harmful and irritating fumes.

In addition, latex paints do not yellow. Because of the nature of their composition, oil base paints (particularly whites and off-whites) begin yellowing almost the moment they are applied. Not only does this result in a gradual discoloration of the paint film, it makes touch-up increasingly difficult as time passes.

One benefit of these new latex paints is that the painter can work in an area until the end of the working day, and that area will still be accessible and usable to the homeowner within a few hours of cleanup. For homeowners with young children (who may be tempted to see if the paint really is wet) this eliminates one potential problem. The greatly reduced odors means that our painters need not totally disrupt a family’s lifestyle while a project is being completed.

Philpaint has been offering low VOC products for years on our interior painting projects.

Paint Sheens

When selecting a paint, color is not the only factor that must be considered. The sheen, or luster, of the paint will have a large impact on the final appearance, durability, and washability. The most common sheens available are flat (or matte), satin, eggshell, semigloss, and gloss. Each level has pros and cons.

Unfortunately there are no specific industry standards regarding sheen levels. One product’s semigloss may have a sheen level comparable to another product’s satin.

Flat paints are the most porous, and therefore hold dirt and stains more readily. These products should not be used in areas that may require frequent cleaning or will be exposed to higher levels of contaminants, such as exterior surfaces. The benefit of flat paints is the ease of touching up.

Satins and eggshells are comparable in sheen level. Less porous than flats, these products provide good washability and are more resistance to stains and dirt accumulation.

Semigloss and gloss paints provide the greatest washability. Because of the hardness and slickness of the finish, dirt and stains are easily removed. In general, higher gloss paints are also more scratch resistant.

While higher sheen paints generally provide greater durability, they do have drawbacks. Defects, such as “dings”, scratches, and repairs, are amplified as the sheen level increases. Consequently, using a higher sheen paint may result in greater durability, but can also result in a less attractive surface (unless extensive repairs and preparation is performed).

The final sheen level of a product is determined by the air temperature and humidity during drying, and the application method. Touching up a paint with sheen often results in a sheen level different from the surrounding area. This is most apparent when viewing the surface from an angle.

Unfortunately, the pros and cons of each sheen level often requires a trade off. The benefits of washability must be weighed against the difficulty of touching up. Ultimately, the exposure and use of each surface must be considered when selecting the sheen level that will provide the best long-term benefits.

Color Selection Tools

Sherwin Williams’ web site provides tools and ideas for selecting colors.

Pittsburgh Paints’ Voice of Color provides many tools to help you select the right color for your home.

Coral Nafie, of About.comwrites: “When it comes to decorating, choosing paint color can really be a challenge. While you may feel that there are so many choices you’re bound to find the right one, you may end up feeling that there are so many choices you don’t know where to start!”

From Bob Vila.com: The most personal decision involved in any interior or exterior project is color choice. If green is your favorite color, you will be drawn to that color family when you go to your local paint store. If you like blue, you will probably find a place for it somewhere in your home. It’s important to follow your instincts when selecting paint color. Decorating with your favorite hues is what gives your home its unique personality.

From House Painting Info.com: “Well chosen collection of paint colors can revitalize every surface of your home, from the walls and ceilings to the exterior siding and trim. An entirely new look is possible, but with thousands of house paint colors dozens of manufactures and many sheens to choose from the possible combinations of house painting colors can be mind numbing.”