One of the easiest ways to change the look of your home is with a fresh coat of paint. The possibilities and choice of colors boggles the imagination (30 shades of white? Yikes!). Yes, a professional can do a great job but this is also one of the easiest do-it-yourself projects. Get drop cloths, masking tape, a roller and cut-in brush and all you need is some paint. Paint can vary wildly in cost and quality and in this article we’ll try to explain what paint is and how you can choose the best one for your project.
All paint is a liquid composition which, after application in a thin layer, is converted to a solid film. Lots of different liquids and particles can make up paint so for our purposes we’ll talk about latex paint, which is what you’re likely to be using on your interior walls. Latex, in this context, doesn’t have anything to do with rubber trees (so even if you have a latex allergy, it doesn’t mean you can’t use the paint), rather it means that water is the stuff used to hold the sub-micrometer particles. In other words, water is the solvent for the emulsion and usually makes up about 30% of the paint.
The particles themselves are usually some sort of pigment mixed with clay, diatomaceous earth or lime, silica, calcium carbonate, or talc. These fillers increase sheen, scrub retention and color retention. The prime pigment provides the color. Titanium dioxide is a common white pigment.
Then there are binders that improve consistency and make it possible to apply the paint. The tricky part is that these can be acrylic or vinyl styrene (and a few other things). Acrylics are more expensive than vinyl, so most paint manufacturers use both to balance quality and price. A 20% acrylic/80% vinyl is common. Acrylics have better:
- Stain protection
- Water resistance
- Better adhesion
- Resistance to alkali cleaners
Additionally, paints with high levels of vinyls will tend to lighten in color if they’re watered down. How can you tell? The label won’t help (companies don’t want to give away their trade secrets) so price is your only real guide. OK, finally to answer the question… the best paint will have the highest amount of solids in it.
Advantages of latex paint include less potential fire hazard than using petroleum based thinners, etc. but cleanup is just a matter of soap and water. Disadvantages are that if you’re painting over wallpaper, the water can cause the paper to peel. It is also hard to get the paint to adhere to a high gloss surface (although you can always use a primer first). Another disadvantage is that using latex on metal can cause it to rust, because of the water in the paint.
As for disposal, because of the acrylics, etc., you don’t want to pour any leftover paint down your drain. If you can’t use the excess up, leave the top off the can so it can dry thoroughly. Once that’s done, you can dispose of paint cans in your trash.
Many folks have concerns about breathing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). How dangerous they are may be in dispute, but if you can smell something, you’re breathing it. Not surprisingly, low VOC paints are increasing in popularity. To be classified low VOC, a paint must meet EPA requirements (50 grams per liter of industrial paint) and will have 20-30% of the VOCs of regular paint. Additionally, many low VOC paints incorporate anti-microbial products to resist mildew, mold and bacteria.
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