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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).

  • 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. Both preparatory and finish products we use are known to be the most durable & safe available. We have grown to know each individual material’s limitations & “personality” through years of vigorous sampling, testing, and use. By using our services and 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 EcoPainting, you know that you are getting the very best available.

    What makes the eco-friendly materials you use better for our health?

    The eco-friendly paints, stains, finishes, and solvents we use do not emit harmful VOC emissions into the atmosphere surrounding our homes, offices, and schools. The non-toxic alternative products we often use are proven to be more durable & safe than premium conventional products. Conventional materials (including over half of the 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 that we most often use DO NOT contain these harmful chemicals and DO NOT emit hazardous VOCs, allowing us all to breathe more safe 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. Some 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 alone were to enforce the use of only 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 conventional paints and the zero-to-low VOC Paint.  These tints contain a fair proportion of the VOCS themselves, so the more tint is added the higher the VOC content increases.  These claims are ultimately false advertising, a prime example of greenwashing. The sale of conventional stains, sealants & finishes is 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 a product 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 the most durable & safe products 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 with 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. We also utilize HEPA filtration with attachments to our power tool equipment; sanders, grinders, and vacuums. At each project’s 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. We are trained with the latest tools and technical expertise to create quality green buildings. We were the first painting contractor company to achieve CGBP certification in the greater Bay area, and 4th in California. We also do our individual best to keep current with new green building techniques by attending the USGBC NorCal Chapter’s monthly meetings.

  • 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 two to five times worse than outside air. We spend on average 90% of our time indoors. Indoor Air Quality is one of the top five 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 built and/or 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. By choosing to use non-conventional, non-toxic, zero-VOC products you are best 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 recently. However, a skirting of issues is still very much alive in the conventional 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 by a theoretically 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 only required to 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 a 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 contains 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 today there is healthier zero-VOC caulking available which we utilize daily, standing by its excellence & durability.  Upon request, we can use a completely non-toxic, zero-VOC caulking compound specific to your project’s needs or health concerns.

  • Does it cost more to use premium quality, eco-friendly painting materials?

    Today, it does not 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 premium quality conventional products. We know they are as durable because we have done the testing ourselves. Eco-friendly painting materials are now within the same price range as premium quality, conventional painting materials. We know they are similarly priced because we routinely perform comparative studies.

    Eco-friendly alternatives to the most toxic and harmful transitional primers (oil-based), lacquers and polyurethanes average approximately $10-$30 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.

  • 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 is no 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.

  • 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.

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

    You can choose from a variety of durable, quality Bio-Based stains. These particular stains penetrate deep into the wood’s cellulose tissues, staining and enhancing the natural wood. Some stains go well with a durable sealant or water-repellent, but many are self-sufficient. We have a long list of happy customers who have used these stains on their exterior wood fences and decking surfaces.

  • 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 as being fairly toxic to surrounding plant life, pets, and humans.

    To safely and effectively remove mold, mildew, and their impregnable stains we use a two-system approach. First, kill the mold & mildew, the second 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 measures to eliminate future growth of both mold and mildew.

T. Paul Sek Certified Green Building Professionals

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