House & Home

11 Tips to Green your House Painting Project

Posted September 17, 2014

1. Paint for results that will last for years. This has the green effect of reducing the amount of material you use over time. Buy quality paint and never apply it to a dirty, damaged, rough, or wet surface. Prepare for indoor painting by using a broom to sweep away dust and hard to-reach cobwebs; then wipe the walls with a damp cloth. Outdoors, a hose is the best tool for cleaning walls and trim; do not use a pressure washer, which can damage the wall surface. Repair moisture problems, roughness, cracks, or holes.

2. Don't waste paint. Calculate carefully how much you will need so there will be no waste. Normally 1 gallon will cover 350-400 square feet. For a small project, you might be able to use up leftover paint that you or your neighbors already have on hand.

3. Consider the weather. Follow the shade when you paint your home's exterior for a more durable coating. Schedule painting for a time when no rain is predicted to fall until at least 8-10 hours after completion of the job. A dry day is best for indoor painting as well, so that you can open windows and ventilate the rooms to minimize the chemical vapors you'll be breathing.

4. Buy low-VOC paint. Read labels to look for low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) , not just in the paint itself but also in any colorant that is to be added to its basic formula; choose a lighter color to minimize VOCs added via tinting. Latex paint usually has a much lower level of VOCs than alkyd, as does flat compared to glossy.

5. Try recycled paint, which is reprocessed surplus paint collected from businesses, government offices, and residences. Though its quality is comparable to that of new paint, it's priced considerably lower. Recycled paint does contain a certain level of VOCs, so use it for exteriors or for interior areas that are well ventilated and not used by asthma or allergy sufferers. Since it contains over 80 percent post-consumer material, using recycled paint makes you eligible for LEED credits.

6. Choose paint with other green advantages. Insulating paint or eco-friendly paint additives are great for saving energy in the cold winters of Illinois and similar Midwestern states. They create a vacuum, causing heat to reflect off your Chicago paint job and back into your room. Another interesting type of paint is anti-microbial, which helps to repel mold. This offers health benefits to your family and also makes the paint job longer wearing.

7. Don't forget the rest of your materials. Look for a low VOC level in any stripper, solvent, or primer you may use to prepare for the job. Here's a pleasant surprise: turpentine, that old painter's standby, is biodegradable, because it is made from pine resin. Use a biodegradable or reusable drop cloth. (Be careful about repurposing old sheets for this task, though, because paint can soak through them.)

8. Tools such as brushes and rollers should not be cleaned at the end of a painting session, but instead wrapped well in a recycled plastic bag, if you plan to continue the next day. When your painting project is completely finished, clean tools thoroughly so that they can be reused in the future.

9. Store leftover paint carefully, out of children's reach and away from flame, excessive heat, or freezing temperatures. Cover the closed can with plastic wrap, hammer its lid solidly in place, and turn the can upside down to prevent air from entering. Use up your stored paint when revamping just a small area.

10. Take paint, thinner, and solvent remains, carefully packed, to a center for the disposal of hazardous waste if using them up is not feasible for you. Never pour any of these liquids onto the ground or down a sink or toilet.

11. Recycle your empty paint cans.

Laura Firszt writes for

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