There's eco paint, Green paint, organic paint...confused? Me too!
A few months ago a client commissioned us to project manage a house refurbishment and an extension for a period house. A late Victorian 3 storey house. The clients wanted an ‘Eco’ refurbishment not so much by choice but by necessity. They have 3 children and one of them is a child with special needs and who suffers from severe respiratory difficulties as well as having several other health related illnesses. This is a live project and after much research into paint these are our findings.
The important thing in this project, the client highlighted, was not so much about where things came from and if they were fair trade but more about being as ‘neutral’ as possible. The critical things to concentrate on are that the dust and rubble is hoovered from under all floorboards, walls, windows etc, that the paint be totally VOC free, that the floorboards and carpets upstairs be replaced with cork, lino, or ceramic.
The men on site were under strict instruction and as they had met the family and the sick child, they took it to heart to be as thorough as possible with dust collecting duties! We began our research into paints.
I had never used eco paint on a large scale before, although I have tried to discuss this with clients, the price was prohibitive- it is still high by the way, having tried a few, the coverage was not good, the pigmentation was uphazard and the colour range was rather limited. Having tested a few 2 years ago, I hoped that things had changed.
The first thing is that many paint companies have ‘Eco’ paints, ‘Green’ paints, ‘Natural’ paints, ‘Organic’ paints on their marketing brochures and websites , the terms are endless but they can be misleading. Some paint companies are merely adhering to European legislation for the volume of solvents allowed in paint (January 2010).
Next is the amount of VOC (volatile organic compounds). VOC free, low VOC, minimal or limited VOC....again the terms are endless. We needed a VOC free paint and it took us 2 days of active research between my intern and me to actually make sense of it all.
All well and good finding the paint, choice is not restricted. But we needed to find out what the coverage was like, the price and we needed emulsion – the client still wanted their home to look nice (and so did I!).
It took us another week to get samples, test and evaluate.
We found some were grainy, textured, some were too thick and when you need to dilute to apply onto bare wall (for the mist coat) many say it should not be diluted and that primer should be applied. Some were too thin, did not cover up and needed too many coats which is not cost effective of course.
We have now actually started a chart in the company marking all eco credentials, texture feel, coverage, price, order lead time, colour matching properties of all these eco paints and we will publish this later in the year.
A purely subjective fact finding mission of course but we hope it will be useful for professionals and residential owners alike.
The expensive bits to think about
We spoke to the manufacturers and representatives to get more info on how much we could dilute, colour charts, application etc...many are not set up to service the trade and we found it expensive on shipping (small batches by courier and not packed effectively), colour matching (£20.—upwards), and quantities (smaller pots of 1 litre are great but perhaps for mist coats they might want to do 10 litres?) as well as lead times. It seems they do smaller batches for the home owner who might do one room but perhaps not a whole house. Trade discounts were pretty much non-existent- and I think that perhaps they are going to miss out on a market that might grow substantially. Certainly my builder was keen to use this but not in every job – as the client was paying extra this was fine.
We choose ECOS paints
We finally made our decision and we decided to go with ECOS Paints based in Lancashire. VOC free, organic and the texture was good, customer service second to none, colour matching available – they fulfilled all our criterias. Not next door to us as we are always keen to source locally, but they are English.
The Manager Ian and his Assistant Pat were incredibly patient with us: we had so many questions. We asked that the colours we chose for the interiors walls were matched to the Dulux range and was informed that in his spare time, Ian had collated the whole list last summer and was able to match any colour we wanted!
We did choose a few ECOS proprietary colours too.
I was worried about our decorators using the paint. And true to form I received a call from the head chap to say the tin said don’t dilute....we needed to put a mist coat on the bare plaster. But Ian at ECOS said that we could go to 15-20% dilution on this. Not obviously as much as normal paint which you can dilute 50/50 so we needed more paint than normal.
The paint was applied and the head decorator on the project was really impressed, he said he was amazed at the coverage, the texture is good and very smooth, just as an emulsion should. The paint is thicker than normal and so we have had to order several batches – I am sure Pat at ECOS thinks we are eating the stuff! Case in point the builder actually tasted it - apparently it tastes like yogurt!
There is absolutely no smell to the paint, and everyone is really pleased with it. ECOS do 1 litre and 5 litre pots, 2.5 litres pots would be handy and we will probably end up with some excess. But we can recycle this and use it somewhere else. The price is not cheap, but none of the eco paints are. You can expect to pay 10-15% extra for masonry paint, and up to 30% for gloss. Colour matching was the most expensive at £35.-/colour plus shipping for ECOS paints.
How it performs over time is hard to say as obviously this is a recent application but so far so good. We will publish our findings in using eco paints near the end of the year when we have had time to review more and issue an info sheet.
So if ordering ‘Eco’ paint, look at the make-up of the paint, the application, what type, ask for samples to test as the paint can contain silica which gives a rough texture, ask about shipping costs and colour matching, don’t assume because it says ‘Green’ it is green!
Meanwhile you can check out these companies, the ones we liked and where we found their eco credentials to be honest and performant.