Paints and Finishes

primerlowvoc02072009I can’t believe that anyone reading this wouldn’t have heard of low VOC paints and varnishes.  VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds are what makes paint have that “freshly painted” smell.  The EPA broadly describes them as “any organic compound that participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions.”  VOCs commonly used in the home are found in carpets, paints, varnishes, dry cleaner solvents, and household cleaners.

You can learn more about VOCs and how they can contribute to “sick building syndrome” by clicking here.   These are pages on a website from the EPA that do a great job of outlining the many contributors to sick building syndrome, including a listing of 12 common indoor polutants.

We have avoided VOCs in several ways:

  • No carpet (we actually get a LEED for Homes point for having no carpet!)
  • No VOC Paints.  We’re using Sherwin Williams’ Harmony series for our paint and you can see from the photo above, our primer has no VOCs either)
  • We do dry-clean some of our clothes, but we get our clothes without plastic bags.  The plastic bags concentrate the VOCs and don’t allow them to dissipate (and we avoid throwing away dry cleaning bags every week).
  • We have specified formaldehyde-free plywood and formaldehyde-free binders on our plywood finishes and furniture.
  • Our cleaners are natural.  We like the Seventh Generation brand.