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What are VOCs? ..Why are they harmful?

VOCs stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. These photo-chemical compounds react in the air we breathe creating ground level ozone (smog). VOCs may continue to react in the air we breathe for days, months and even years. These harmful gases are emitted by conventional paints, stains, solvents, and many more toxic substances. VOC related air pollution causes eye, nose, throat and skin irritations, leading to respiratory problems, headaches and/or nausea. Prolonged contact with VOCs can lead to liver and kidney cancers, as well as damage to the central nervous system (brain).


How is Green Painting Eco-Friendly?

What makes the Eco-Friendly painting materials you use a better choice?

We began working with Eco-Friendly “alternative” painting and staining materials in 2003. In this time we have come to know what materials are truly “green” (safe & durable). We have grown to know each individual material’s limitations & “personality” through years of vigorous sampling, testing and use.  By using our time-tested products, you bypass having to learn the hard way by “experimenting” with new products and hoping for the best results. With the plethora of new products hitting the market weekly, we continue to perform experiments at our testing site as new products become available. At our testing site we take a scientific approach to examining side by side many Eco-Friendly “alternative” products vs. premium conventional products to assure for equivalent durability. Additionally, we research the companies we buy from, assuring safe manufacturing, ingredient selection, and No animal testing.  As new products hit the market, greenwashing is becoming more prevalent.  By choosing T-Paul Sek Painting, you know that you are getting the very best available.

All of the products we use are Non-Toxic and either Zero-VOC or Ultra Low VOC. The Ultra Low VOC stains or finishes we use contain the lowest VOCs available on the market. Many of the products we use are child and pet safe, some are so safe they are considered by the FDA as food grade!


What makes the Eco-Friendly materials you use better for our health?

The Eco-Friendly paints, stains, finishes and solvents we use eliminate the harmful VOC emissions into the atmosphere surrounding our homes’, offices’ and children’s schools. All products we use are safe & durable, non-toxic alternatives to conventional products. Conventional materials (including most name brand “Green” paints on the market today) contain numerous amounts of toxic chemicals, many known to cause cancer in humans. These conventional painting materials release chemicals into the air that can make people very sick. The Eco-Friendly, non-toxic materials of which we solely use, DO NOT contain these harmful chemicals and DO NOT emit hazardous VOCs, allowing us to all breathe safer and cleaner air.


What makes the Eco-Friendly materials you use better for the environment?

Non-toxic Eco-Friendly paints, stains, finishes and solvents eliminate the risk of improper disposal and keep toxic chemicals out of the waste stream. They decrease our reliance on oil since, where most “oil-based” products utilize petroleum by-products, ours use natural plant oils such as tung, hemp, and flaxseed. The majority of the products we use are made from recycled sources; like industrial waste material (byproduct of Vitamin E manufacturing) or easily renewable materials such as soy, therefore decreasing the waste found in landfills.  VOCs and toxic emissions are no longer a worry when using truly Eco-Friendly paints, stains, finishes & solvents as we do. If California were to only use Zero-VOC paints it would eliminate 50 million pounds of smog-producing chemicals from entering the atmosphere per year.


I am seeing “Green” paints sold at every paint store, are they for real?

Unfortunately, many of the major name brand “Environmentally preferred” paints and stains’ still fall under the conventional painting materials category because of their toxicity levels and VOC content. Many paints are being sold under false pretenses as “Zero-VOC”. If you stop to read the fine print on the can, it is spelled out that this claim is for the paint only. No one buys paint off of the shelf and goes without adding tint (colorant).  At most conventional paint stores, the same tint machine will be used for the convetnional paint and the zero /  low VOC Paint.  These tints contain a fair proportion of the VOCS themselves, so more tint is added the VOC content goes up.  These claims are ultimately false advertising, a prime example of greenwashing. The sale of conventional stains, sealants & finishes are also slippery, seen sold as “Lower VOC” due to the reduced quart sized can (versus gallon) as per newly enforced EPA restrictions.

Please do not forget the importance of being Non-Toxic. Non-toxic is a keyword not freely discussed in the conventional painting industry because conventional paints, stains and solvents all involve the use of known toxins, many cancer causing, along with heavily polluting manufacturing processes.


What makes your company ‘Green’ and differentiates you from other painting companies?

We are dedicated to applying environmentally friendly practices to every aspect of our company. We utilize products and techniques that exceed the most stringent environmental and performance testing standards of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Green Building Rating System. We have researched, found and are dedicated to using only the most Eco-Friendly alternatives on the market. We keep a constant pulse on the Eco-finishes industry as it is ever growing and improving. Our entire crew is kept up to date with current training and certifications.

Beginning at the estimating process, we precisely plan how much materials are necessary to minimize client costs and project waste. We continue implementing environmental consciousness by isolating the painting site so as to not expose others to possible harmful emissions. Our job sites are diligently ventilated allowing in fresh air whenever possible and cleaning the air that is being re-circulated by using routinely changed HEPA filtration fans. Throughout the project we use the most durable, Eco-Friendly materials on the market. At a each projects’ end, nearly all waste materials are recycled (average <97%) and zero-water waste techniques are implemented on every job.


What does it mean to be a Certified Green Building Professional (CGBP)?

Certified Green Building Professionals are a group of design and construction professionals that are qualified to provide green building services. They are trained with the latest tools and technical expertise to create quality green buildings. We are the 1st painting contractor company to achieve CGBP certification in the Monterey Bay area, and 4th in California. Our entire crew is certified. We also do our individual best to keep current with new green building techniques by attending the USGBC NorCal Chapter’s monthly meetings in Moss Landing.


Conventional Painting Materials

What are conventional painting materials?

Conventional painting materials are mass-produced paints, stains, finishes, adhesives, and solvents offered by major paint manufacturers and still used in the traditional painting industry. They are made from petroleum based chemicals. Unfortunately, most of the “green” major name brand paint and stain manufacturers’ still fall under the conventional painting materials category because of their toxicity levels and VOC content.


Why are conventional painting products bad for me?

Conventional paints contribute to poor Indoor Air Quality. Indoor Air Quality is 2 to 5 times worse than outside air. We spend over 90% of our time indoors. Indoor Air Quality is one of the top 5 causes of health problems in the United States. This is caused by the VOCs found inside buildings. They are initially introduced when the building is painted and are absorbed by porous materials such as carpets, furniture, drapery, etc. These chemicals continue to be emitted throughout the next couple of months to years, to be inhaled by you. Choosing to use non-conventional, non-toxic, 0 VOC paints you are protecting yourself from these toxic chemicals.


Why are conventional painting products bad for the Environment?

Their manufacturing process can cause 10 times its own weight in toxic waste. They can emit several pounds of toxic chemicals into the air, such as VOCs and carcinogens. Improper disposal is unfortunately common, sending toxic chemicals into our waste streams at alarming rates.


Aren’t conventional painting products been regulated by the government?

Governmentally accepted standards for conventional painting products are determined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). The ASTM standards for acceptable levels of VOC have been lowered in recently. However, a skirting of issues is still very much alive in the conventional “toxic” painting industry. For example, highly toxic oil-based primers, paints and stains are being produced in smaller sized quart containers, thus the decrease in volume enabling them to abide to a theoretical lower VOC level.

“Zero or Low VOC” conventional paint usually means a low-odor paint, but does not mean that it is non-toxic. “Low VOC” paints are required to just meet the federal standards, which are not low enough to begin with. These regulations are similar to “Building To Code”, which is equivalent to a passing grade of D-. Even California’s regulations which are some of the nations most stringent are outdated and should be brought up to current standards of excellence.

“Zero VOC” products offered by major paint manufacturers may meet Federal regulations for VOC levels, but their toxicity level is not being openly disclosed. This is because they most likely contain some highly toxic ingredients not classified as VOCS, such as; formaldehyde, crystalline silica, ammonia, propylene glycol and/or fungicides which are potentially harmful to both pets and humans.


What about the other painting related supplies you use, such as caulking?

Caulking is one of those things that you can’t live without but doesn’t invoke much excitement!  In fact it’s pretty exciting stuff!  You can increase your comfort as well as save a tidy sum on your heating and electrical bills each year if all those gaps and cracks in and amongst your home are filled.  Traditional caulking contain two known carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds VOC’s called Toluene and Hexane.  With prolonged exposure the side effects range from a mild headache to permanent brain damage.  Thankfully their are healthier alternatives available on the market today which we have tested for their durability.  Upon request, we can use a completely non-toxic, ultra-low VOC caulking compound specific to your project’s needs.



Does it cost more to use premium quality, Eco-Friendly painting materials?

It does not necessarily cost more to use Eco-Friendly painting materials. The premium quality, Eco-Friendly painting materials we use are of equivalent (or sometimes even better) durability compared to higher quality conventional products. We know they are as durable because we have done the testing ourselves. Eco-Friendly painting materials are within the same price range as other premium quality, painting materials. We know they are similarly priced because we routinely perform comparative studies.

Eco-Friendly alternatives to the VERY toxic and harmful transitional (oil-based) primers, lacquers and polyurethanes average approximately $10 more per gallon. These highly toxic conventional products are potentially so harmful that we believe any short term increase of monetary costs significantly outweigh any potential long term health costs.  The nature of oil-based products generally means that they have a higher VOC content, so whenever possible we use water based products.

Of course, there are some exceptions to the cost rule. For instance, the Clay or Milk-based paints and Earthen Plasters are all made of highly prized ingredients (Ultra-Fine clays or Ancient Mayan pigments, etc.) and are therefore at a higher price point.


Chemical Sensitivity

I am chemically sensitive. What can you offer me?

We understand, and we want to help you by catering the project to your specific needs and sensitivities. We began our familiarity with chemically sensitive clients in 1998, and have constantly updated our practices and material choices to keep current with the utmost technology available. We will work hard to provide you with a healthier and clean job site so that you may feel comfortable. Rest assured that we know how to properly protect your health by utilizing the most state of the art preparatory & painting techniques along with the use of durable, non-toxic products. The products we use are so state-of-the-art that there no longer is compromise of architectural beauty when choosing healthier finishes.



How durable are the paints, stains or finishes that you use?

The paints, stains and finishes we use are made with natural materials that are more easily absorbed into substrate surfaces. The deeper penetration can result in a longer lasting duration. In addition, the paints stains and finishes we use are made with natural materials that make cleaning the surfaces easier.

The Bio-Based wood stains not only stain the wood but they preserve it, delivering true penetration and natural wood enhancement. This reduces premature discoloration, maintaining a longer lasting stain.


Color & Sheen Options

What colors are available?

Bottom line, your color choices are not compromised because you are choosing to use healthier finishes. The varying color options available to you depend on what product you are looking to use. The durable, non-toxic paints we use offer natural color palettes, most with the ability to match any color. Wood stains come in a variety of traditional wood colors as well as brightly colored & playful choices. Concrete, plaster or masonry stains are also offered in a variety of colors ranging from classic, contemporary or modern. Some stains can be customized to order. Please do not hesitate to ask us for more information about this or if you want to know more about the Earthen Plasters, Clay or Milk-based paints, etc.


What sheens are available?

Hip, Hip, Hooray! Your sheen options are also not compromised because you are choosing to use healthier finishes. The varying sheen options available to you depend on what product you are looking to use. Many of the durable, non-toxic paints are available in nearly all sheens; Flat, Eggshell, Satin, Semi-Gloss or Gloss. Wood and Concrete, Plaster or Masonry Stains and finishes usually offer choices of Matte, Satin or Gloss.


Wood Staining (Doors, Trim, Decks, Fences, Siding…you name it!)

What can you offer me if I want to stain my wood?

You can chose from a variety of durable, quality Bio-Based stains. These particular stains penetrate deep into the woods’ cellulose tissues, staining and enhancing the natural wood. We always recommend following a stain with a durable sealant or water repellent to protect your wood from water damage.


Mold and Mildew

What is Mold and how do I know if I have it?

Molds are microscopic fungi that produce spores and in some cases toxic chemicals as they live and grow. There are numerous species of mold and it comes in many shapes, colors and sizes. Spores are airborne almost everywhere, but they will not colonize and grow into visible mold unless they have moisture. In most cases, mold is visible to the naked eye. You can’t always see the mold, but you may be able to smell it. It emits an earthy smell characteristic of ‘musty’ basements. It might mean that the mold is growing behind your walls or ceilings. When checking for mold, look for signs of water damage: wet spots, staining, dampness, and other evidence of water leaks or damages.


What can you offer me if I want to prevent or treat a mold or mildew problem?

In the past, many would opt to use chlorine bleach to remove mold and mildew. Although temporarily effective, the dried salts in the bleach will soon after attract moisture to the area which in turn will bring back the mold and mildew. Bleach will also damage the substrate it is applied to, as well being fairly toxic to surrounding plant life, pets and humans.

To safely and effectively remove mold, mildew and their impregnable stains we use two-system approach. The first to kill the mold & mildew, the second as a preventative measure to inhibit future re-growth. None of the products we use contain the usual load of toxins found in conventional fungicides like; formaldehyde, ammonia and harmful phosphates. Both products can be safely applied indoors and outdoors. The 100% biodegradable Bio-Based products we use, derived from renewable resources, provide a natural resistance to mold and mildew growth. We recommend routine pressure-washing of exterior surfaces, using the combined treatments of mold killer and inhibitor (as needed) as preventative measure to eliminate future growth of both mold and mildew.