Green considerations for House Painting

Living a sustainable and eco-friendly life today usually involves focusing on issues like energy usage and recycling. The types of house paint you use, the materials, and who performs the work probably don’t make anyone’s top ten list of environmental concerns.

While interior and exterior house painting aren’t everyday occurrences, they can still have an impact on your efforts to live with minimal impact on the environment. With that in mind, let’s take a look at house painting with an eye on its environmental impact.

Lead Paint

Lead as an additive to paint has been banned since 1978. In the 40-plus years since then, all house paint has been manufactured free of lead. This doesn’t mean it has gone away, however, so for houses built before 1978, you should always have your interior walls and trim or exterior tested for the presence of lead before any painting prep work is started. If lead is found and needs to be removed then a whole series of steps are involved to properly seal it in place as well as collect any debris or paint chips that are removed. The disposal of this material is governed by hazardous waste handling rules and requires that all of the material be sealed up and disposed of at a hazardous waste facility. For small children and pets that might ingest any lead paint chips, a serious health risk is posed by its presence.

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are solvents found to varying degrees in many paints. These chemicals may be familiar to you and include things like acetone and formaldehyde.

They are included in the paint formulation because they aid in the paint’s ability to bind to a surface. Over the last 20 years most paint companies have been working to lower the level of VOCs in their paint and some now even make zero VOC paint. If you are concerned about the possible health risks associated with VOCs, if you have small children, or are pregnant, then it might make sense to consider low-VOC paints. With VOCs, the harm comes from prolonged exposure although it’s minimal and can be dealt with by airing out the work area or avoiding sleeping in a freshly painted room for a night or two. A typical sign of heavy exposure is generally not much more than a headache but if you have breathing problems, you should avoid exposure when possible. While the EPA doesn’t define what qualifies as “low VOCs” they do set a limit on the amount of VOCs per liter depending on the type of finish the paint offers with 100 grams per liter for flat paint and 250 grams per liter for glossy finishes.

Paint Disposal

The odds of anyone using the last brush full of paint just as they complete the last bit of painting are pretty slim. Most people make sure to buy enough paint so that they don’t have to make a second trip to get more. This results in a partial can of paint being left over after the job is completed. You might be glad to keep a bit around and make sure to seal the can tightly to preserve it in case they need it for touch-ups. Over time though the paint is unlikely to be of much use after a couple of years as the paint that’s already on the wall or exterior is likely to have faded just a bit making a mismatch out of your touch-ups. The paint itself may have begun to separate and break down as well. When this happens it’s important that you dispose of the paint in a responsible way. The first step should be to open the can outdoors to let it dry out until it hardens and then dispose of it following your local or state hazardous waste rules. Some paint stores will even accept your leftover or unused paint and add it together with other paint for proper disposal. What you should not do is pour large quantities of it down the drain or on the ground anywhere.


If you are considering painting your interior or exterior yourself you have to factor in your equipment needs in order to complete the job. CertaPro uses professional quality brushes and rollers that can be used over and over, the same is true with drop clothes, rags, ladders, etc.

When you decide to paint on your own a lot of the equipment you buy might end up being “single-use” where a brush or roller gets used to paint one room and then ends up not thoroughly cleaned, dried out, hardened, and taking up space in your garage only to be thrown into a landfill. While you can reuse an empty paint can that you clean out for the storage of other things, most of what you buy beyond the paint itself may be money and materials that get wasted and that’s not sustainable in any sense.

A final consideration…

The color you paint your home can affect your energy usage. Bright interiors and white or light-colored exteriors can lower your need for added lighting or cooling. Painting the exterior of your house a deep navy blue may be on trend in some places but it may also be adding a few dollars a month to your AC bill in the summer. In your home’s interior, going with a light color makes a room feel larger and more open, and with some natural sunlight, may have you reaching for the light switch later in the day than you might otherwise.

When you are ready to get your interior or exterior house painting project completed and you would rather leave it to the pros contact CertaPro of San Mateo by simply requesting a free estimate online or calling us at 650-312-9196 and leave the work and cleanup to us!