Paint Selection for IAQ Nerds

Indoor Air Nerd's wife displaying selection

When the Indoor Air Nerd was faced with selecting a new paint for his family room, he did the only sensible thing… had his wife pick it out!

Fortunately, my wife is an interior designer who is also passionate about indoor air quality (right honey?). We also have two small children that will spending a considerable amount of time in the room. As a frame of reference, our coffee table was replaced with a Thomas the Tank Engine train table!

I gave my wife just a few basic requirements…. (cue wife cringing)

  1. Zero VOC (volatile organic compound) in base
  2. Zero VOC in colorant
  3. Low odor
  4. Compliant with SCAQMD
  5. Meets LEED specifications
  6. Greenguard or Green Seal certification

And you thought picking out the color was the hardest thing!

We settled on Benjamin Moore Eco Spec WB paint.  It met most of my onerous qualifications, only lacking a Greenguard or Green Seal Certification.  As an interior designer, my wife liked the fact that she could have the paint tinted any color.  The painter (me) will like that it has similar properties and texture to more traditional latex paint.

The cost was slightly over $30 a gallon.  The premium is a small price to pay when you have two young children at home (and you happen to be the Indoor Air Nerd).

Do you have any experience with specific paints that you can share with our readers?  Please add a comment below.

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4 thoughts on “Paint Selection for IAQ Nerds

  1. Ian,

    I took your course so maybe I should know this answer. About how long can you expect new carpet to “off gas”? I know that this question has tons of variables (i.e., low VOC carpet?, air exchanges in room?, etc.). My quest is for a more “rule of thumb” answer. I will state the question in another manner for clarity. Would you expect carpet installed 6-7 months ago still stink under normal environmental conditions?

    1. Check out the article “Decreasing concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOC) emitted following home renovations” from the Indoor Air Journal, April 2010: Here’s a quote from that paper:
      “The average time range which has to elapse following renovation activities before a guideline value or reference load is reached showed a time range between 2 and 8 weeks.”

  2. Ian,

    To make a long story short, I have elevated VOCs coming from the paint on my walls. While the paint is at least a year old, I suspect some visible touch-ups used bad paint after finding (and discarding) the cans stored in the unconditioned attic.

    My question is how can I eliminate VOCs from existing wall paint? Is it sufficient to paint over it with a zero VOC blend, such as your Benjamin Moore recommendation? Or should I do some sort of primer or treatment first?

    Thanks a lot,


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