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 (www.safecoat.com), 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. www.yolocolorhouse.com
American Pride. www.americanpridepaint.com
Aura from Benjamin Moore. www.myaurapaint.com
Sydney Harbour. www.sydneyharbourpaints.com
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 http://www.greenhomeguide.com/index.php/knowhow/entry/920/C224. 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: