Tuesday, October 25, 2005

a big welcome to this small blog...

who knows what flotsam and jetsam lurks in the hearts of men? ...the Kerfuffler knows! (Or at least the Kerfuffler is willing to take a stab at illustrating said flotsam, now and again.) it's my new blog - bringing you the infintesimal writ large, and the random obsessed upon in minute detail. Stay tuned! Some small hullabaloo to follow... K.

Environmentally friendly paint roundup

I thought I'd kick off the blog by sharing my adventures in finding low-VOC interior paint that won't kill off the cats or poke holes in the ozone! As much as that doesn't seem like too tall of an order, you'd be surprised. The verdict? Low- or no-VOC paints are out there - and they're even nice products. But don't ask for it at a big box... even if they do have it, either they don't know they've got it, or they'd actively rather have you fuck up the environment. (Those bastards.) In case you haven't heard of it, VOCs or "volatile organic compounds" are potentially dangerous chemicals found mostly in paints and stains, but also in building materials like plywoods bound with formaldehyde based glues. VOCs leach into the atmosphere when they dry, or, in some cases, for years after application - meaning that your newly painted room could be ever so slightly poisonous for the entire time you live in your house. This nasty little tendency makes for serious indoor and outdoor air pollution and degrade the ozone layer. VOCs in paints and varnishes also seriously mess with people who have asthma or other respiratory issues. Many of the long-term effects of exposure aren't even fully researched yet. (Yes, it's horrible, you may be saying, but you can get cancer from colored toilet paper, so why worry about every little exposure to God knows what? Well, my theory is that if you get enough of this stuff that you can't control, you might as well get rid of what you can.) Here's a brief roundup of my trips to various Chicago retailers in search of low-VOC paint: 1) Sherwin Williams. The paint: Duration (low-VOC, fancy-pants luxury paint - the replacement for S/W's "Cashmere" top-o'-the-line stuff. The shopping experience: The good news? Sherwin Williams was the only retailer who, upon hearing my request for "Low VOC" paints, did not behave as if I'd asked them to sew on a second head, or provide me with a brew of ground gophers and beer. The employees (who were all about fourteen) all knew what VOCs were, and indeed seemed to even have a clue about why I might not want a lot of them. They knew their stuff. The bad news? At thirty bucks a gallon, baby, you'd best be getting good service from the counter monkeys. Upon leaving the store, my sense of eco-righteousness was engulfed almost immediately by a pervasive sense of financial doom. The low-down on the paint: I used Duration, so I can't comment on the performance of Harmony. Duration performed beautifully. On opening the can, I barely needed to gasp for air! The coverage was great - a single gallon got through my small room despite some serious nasty popcorning to go over - and the color is beautiful, with no chalkiness at all even despite a flat/eggshell finish. If your pockets are stuffed with unmarked bills, or if you have a nephew who's flipping paint cans at S/W, I recommend them first. 2) Olympic Paint. The paint: Olympic Low-VOC, Low-Odor formula, available at Lowes and probably elsewhere too (I'm a bad fake journalist. I have no idea where!) The shopping experience: On phoning the paint department at Lowe's, I was told, "Ooh, we don't have ANY paint like that" and then finally "I don't think they make that any more." Yet there it was in the aisles... another case of Big Box Brain Damage, clearly, which seems to be rampant among underpaid employees everywhere. The price was right, though, making it almost worthwhile to wreck the small business economy while saving the environment! At just $18 a gallon, it had the S/W paint beat. The low-down on the paint: Okay, so it was a little thin. In fact, I would say that while the per-gallon cost was lower than anything else, the per-job price would actually end up being higher as the entire room needed a second coat (not just a spot-check.) What a PITA! The color also seemed a little raw - very bright, without a lot of the depth I expected after using the other paints. It's very much a spec-grade finish - recommended if you're doing it up in Navajo White, but not necessarily all that fabulous for fancypants colors or showplace rooms. 3. Benjamin Moore Accolade paint. The paint: Good stuff, Maynard, and the price shows it. At $25 a gallon, it had better be good. The shopping experience: The paint was bought at a local contractors' paint store (Sappano's Hi-Grade on Addison & Elston, for those of you in Chicago), and by far it was the best store experience (at least for someone used to being the only girl surrounded by contractors.) Asking nicely got the contractor discount. Asking for low-VOC produced a raised eyebrow- it is not, after all, yet MANLY to not pollute - but as soon as I said the word "LEED" all was well and the paint was swiftly produced. The low-down on the paint: Performed beautifully, with great coverage and with a lovely sheen. A little better even than the Sherwin Williams paint. The "cons"? Money money money money, baby. You'd better be willing to shell out the big bucks for this stuff. Inexplicably give a flying crap about paint? Let us know and we'll publish your results!