However, VOCs can genuinely serve an important pur-
pose, Osterried notes: “Low-VOC paints tend to have less
freeze-thaw resistance than high-VOC or high-solvent
paints and may not form films as well in environments
below 50 degrees F.,” he adds. “They also tend to have less
block and dirt pickup resistance due to the use of softer,
lower-Tg (glass transition temperature) polymers, which
are required for adequate film formation without the pres-
ence of VOCs.”
To determine whether you should use a low-VOC paint,
Osterried recommends reviewing the VOC level require-
ments of your region or state as well as any green certifica-
tion programs you might be pursuing for your facility. A
low-VOC paint would also be a good choice for a closed
space where occupants will be present during painting or
soon afterward. However, even low-VOC paints may still
emit odors, Zimmer warns.
“A lot of people equate low odor with low VOCs, but
that’s not necessarily always the case. You can reduce VOCs
and still have some odor in the can,” explains Zimmer. “It
just might be a different kind of odor than you’re used to.”
A relatively new category of paints can actually reduce
odors and formaldehyde from other sources, Watson
explains. Look for laboratory results and certification by an
organization like GREENGUARD or SCS Global Services to
confirm airborne VOC reduction and low emissions.
HOW PAINT INGREDIENTS
Afinished dry paint film is formed by the microscopic solids suspended in the carrier – in other words, the materials left after all of the liquid has evaporated.
The more solids the paint contains, the thicker your film will
be. That means a more uniform appearance, better hiding of
the previous paint layer and a longer life than thinner paints
with a lower percentage of solids.
“A top quality paint will typically have 30 to 45% solids
content, whereas ordinary paint will have less than 30%
solids,” explains Debbie Zimmer, Paint Quality Institute
Director of Communications and Alliances for Dow
Coating Materials, North America.
of sale. The pigment is typically titanium dioxide, which
provides whiteness, hiding and bulk.”
Additives: This category covers “miscellaneous ingredients that can provide a myriad of different characteristics, including mildew resistance, aid in application,
improved adhesion and more,” Osterried says. Other common additives include stiffeners, which ensure a proper
application consistency and help control spatter, and
defoamers, which break up bubbles during mixing and
application, adds Zimmer.
Pick the Right Product
Make sure you choose the correct paint for your project
by first assessing how you need the paint to perform.
“Paint should certainly be tough enough to withstand
scrubbing or washing the surface, but there are other
questions you should ask yourself,” says Zimmer. “Is it in
a waiting room where people are just sitting on chairs so
it doesn’t have to be as tough as a bathroom application?
Is it a hallway where there are a lot of people going back
and forth and briefcases or computers are knocking into
the wall? Describe the use of the space that’s going to be
painted to your paint representative so they can help you
Reach out to at least two or three vendors with your
requirements to compare product specifications, Zimmer
recommends. This will ensure that you’re getting the per-
formance you need in addition to a good price. Review
Technical Data Sheets (TDS), Material Safety Data Sheets
(MSDS) and labels to shed more light on performance
properties, usage and application recommendations, safety
precautions, and product conformance standards. If what
you find doesn’t quite fit what you had in mind, some
vendors can recommend paints that address your specific
needs, adds Watson.
“If our customers are saying ‘I have issues with a corri-
dor’ or ‘I have problems with corrosion,’ we can specify the
right products that are tailored for those projects,” Watson
says. “Paint isn’t just one size fits all.”
Once you’ve chosen a vendor and product line, it’s time
to look at color. There’s more to choosing a good hue than
coordinating with nearby spaces or encouraging a certain
mood – color also affects maintainability.
“In high traffic areas like hallways, select more neutral
colors that are easier to maintain over time,” explains
Osterried. “While bright colors can serve as a nice accent
for entryways, lobbies or conference rooms, they may need
to be touched up or repainted more often when subject to
Consider VOC Content
As you weigh your paint options, you’ll likely confront
the question of whether to opt for a paint with a low
volatile organic chemical (VOC) content. Common VOCs
like texanol, butyl cellosolve, butyl carbitol, ethylene and
propylene glycol are commonly used to help with film
formation and drying, but also have the potential to create holes in the ozone layer and can cause headaches and
other complaints for occupants, Zimmer notes. Green certification programs and other sustainability initiatives have
responded by emphasizing the use of low- or zero-VOC
paints to combat these problems.
REGULAR HIGH QUALITY