Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Paint the Town Green

It might seem unusual to be painting the walls of a project that is only half way done, but Cemil feels that having a coat of paint on them would protect the "prone to dings" sheet rock as we head into the installation of cabinets and finishes. I didn't argue because I was so curious about the colors and various paint brands that I had been researching.

So Lester was called in to put up the first coats of paint. I had carefully provided him and Cemil with a spreadsheet of all the colors and paints. All totaled, I ended up using 5 different brands and 10 colors. I'm sure Lester was curious about my hanging out with him all day and "interviewing" him on his opinion about the various paints. He provided some valuable feedback and I got to experience the painting part with him. While I'm not sure I converted Lester (he's a loyal Kelly Moore guy), he did agree that the quality was good, the colors nice, and the lack of smell was new for him. He didn't even have to add vanilla to the paint to kill the odor and I reminded him about the advantages of no lingering off-gassing. He's more informed after our 3 days together, and time will tell if he begins recommending these paints.
Lester and team

Let me first confess that I didn't try AFM Safecoat, the "primogeniture" of green paint companies, because Cemil had not been pleased with its coverage and I found the colors to be less than inspired. Though the president of the company did tell me that they were launching some new "decorator colors." Besides SFM Safecoat (, by virtue of longevity, is on every one's green paint check list.

I wanted to try some new brands. After having gotten my paint education at two bay area "contractor" paint stores, Gray's Paints in Palo Alto area and Tamalpais Paints in Marin as well as "green" paint resource, Ecohome Improvement in Berkeley, I was armed with gallons and quarts from 5 different brands.

Yolo Colorhouse.

American Pride.

Aura from Benjamin Moore.

Sydney Harbour.


And the review:

Yolo. My favorite. The colors are wonderful. I've met the two founders of this company and their creative backgrounds in the ad agency world comes through when you look at the color palette choices, the packaging and the attention to final product. While there isn't an extensive choice of colors with Yolo, the ones the do have are "tried and true" winners. And they coordinate in a way that makes you feel as if a professional designer chose your colors. The product goes on well and even the deepest of colors covers in two coats. There was absolutely no odor with the paint and Lester agreed that it was an impressive product. My only complaint is that it doesn't come in quart sizes. Price: $40 a gallon.

American Pride. More colors makes them a good addition to Yolo. The paint is equally "green" with no smell and also coats well in dark colors. They, like Yolo, have large swatches that you can buy and tape to the wall to see how the color looks without having to paint a sample. As was the case with Yolo, the eggshell finish wasn't chalky in the least.... as some have complained. And it comes in quarts. Price: $36 a gallon.

Aura from Benjamin Moore. The advantage is the access to this through their many outlets. Clearly Benjamin Moore has spent time, money and effort to establish this paint with the professionals. No complaints on the selection of colors. The coverage was as expected with any of their paints. They have yet to launch the semigloss line, but matte, eggshell and satin are all available and perform well to scrubbing. It is fast drying which makes it a favored for paint contractors. The price is competitive. They haven't created an eco friendly PVA yet, so you'll have to use from their old Eco Spec line (seems to be phasing out). There is some odor, so it doesn't feel as green as the other two I've mentioned. Price: $52 a gallon.

Sydney Harbour. An Australian product, this is a beautiful paint line that feels very specialized and high end. The price is $90 per gallon which makes it too expensive for most to use. They do have quarts so I used it on an accent wall. And it was beautiful coverage with virtually no odor either. I can't speak for how it holds up to scrubbing, but it too lacked the chalkiness of the clay and lime paints that are considered the "greenest" of paints. If not for the price, I would have rated this one higher. Price: $90 per gallon.

C2 Paints. I was talked into this as a "low VOC" newcomer. I have to say that the display in the paint store, next to Pratt & Lambert, was impressive. Again, one can buy large sheets to avoid painting splotches on your walls. I've also read that you can return any unused portion and they will "recycle" it for another homeowner who wants the same color. I haven't tried that yet and I do have an extra unused quart. The colors are certainly lovely and coverage is good. But this paint had the odor of any other brand that doesn't claim to be low VOC. So that moves this brand to the bottom of the list for me. Price: $48 a gallon

I won't go into the details on the challenges in VOC ratings with paints. In any emerging industry, the lack of standards makes it hard to compare products accurately. Go here for a good explanation on the paint issues Suffice it to say, that paint is the area that will need to be monitored for the new entrants and measurement standards. As I was told by the owner of Gray's Paints..... it's all about the fact that glycol is the offender and that's the pigment. So, except for milk paint, it seems that there is no real "chemical-free" paint.

My attitude is that voting with your dollars on better choices for things like paint and wood is helping to build demand. That will, in turn, drive innovation and standards. So my advice: don't be afraid of investing in any of these paints I've recommended. Pay a little extra (not much) and enjoy an environmentally-responsible, odor-free, beautiful end-result.

Other useful information:

A handy paint usage calculator:


Anonymous said...

Devine (Miller Paint) makes low-VOC paint, and is coming out with a no-VOC paint. I hope you update this nwhen you have a chance to try Devine. I have a whole 1400 SqFt condo with high vaulted ceilings painted in Devine colors and I love the stuff. I'm interested in how it compares with the others.

Celia Canfield said...

I haven't tried Miller Paint's product and will do so at your suggestion for a project that I am doing in SC in June. As well, I'll be trying the Sherwin Williams green offerings.... the Duration & Harmony line.

Anonymous said...

We have used the Sherwin Williams paint in almost all our rooms, from white to purple for the girls room and a deep orange for the kitchen and loved them all. I pretty sure it was all the harmony line. Great coverage, fast drying and very, very light smell. With four kids it has held up to lots of spot washing, in the same spots. My son wanted a color by ralph lauren, his room stunk for weeks and the one half of the wall that gets wiped down often (hand prints) is starting to show it. I can not say enough great things about it.


Anonymous said...

The statement "So, except for milk paint, it seems that there is no real "chemical-free" paint" is quite a hoax. One only has to look at Auro Natural Paints, 100% plant based with no petrochemical inputs to realize that true green paints do exist.
Auro, the worlds first carbon neutral paint company is one of the leading ecological and sustainably minded companies in the business.

Benjamin Moore's new Aura paint, for example, still contains crystalline silica that can cause cancer when sprayed or sanded. Thanks alot, thats real green.

Do some research and you will realize other clean and healthy paints and stains are available.

You might not be able to buy them at the neighborhood paint store, but o well. Do some investigating and recommend you supplier carry products you are committed to and will buy if they carry it. Why wouldn't they look into it?

Read the ingredients and compare! All paints are not created equal.

If a company is committed to green building practices and environmental responsibility, they would only produce paints that are green. Not just offer a green line of paint amongst the rest of their toxic formulations that do nothing great for our health or the planet.

Seriously. This is just my opinion, but check out the alternatives to acrylic latex formulas and you might be surprised what you find.

"BigBrother" said...

Have any of you tried the Anna Sova organic no-voc paints? The colors are so amazing. i know a woman that used them in her shop.... stunning BUT it seems you must wax them to protect them (which gives a lush look actually) and they are not good in any area where they risk moisture.

Anonymous said...

Your favorite, Yolo, is made by Rodda. It is the Rodda Horizon paint. It sells under their own label for $10 a gallon less. And like ALL major paint companys, they will match any color you want from any company's samples so you can get the same Yolo paint in any color you can think of. One of your responders likes Devine. Again, same exact paint available for less from Miller, and any paint store can match the Devine colors.