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Ooo…That Smell

I had to visit a modest sized office building recently; It is just three stories with five 0r six suites per floor. Walking into the ground floor lobby I smelled the aroma of fresh latex paint.  Isn’t that a great smell? To me it smells of newness, success, renovation and gives me positive energy.  I pushed the button for the second floor.

Stepping out of the elevator and into the hallway that same smell became immediately overpowering and offensive. It was really strong and irritating. After walking the length of the hall back and forth I realized I was on the wrong floor,  my destination was up on the third level, thank goodness.  Retreating into the elevator the odor seemed to come in for the ride.  During the meeting I was in I wondered about the painter downstairs.

Afterwards, I stopped on the second floor again this time on purpose. I didn’t recognize the painter as one of our regulars. He looked like a handyman or brother-in-law type in jean shorts and nondescript t-shirt. He was working out of a tray and whatever paint he was rolling out wasn’t obvious.  The stairwell doors on either end of the hall were shut. Although he had spent time to mask the baseboards with blue tape there wasn’t a drop-cloth apparent. At any rate, I walked up to him and said “Now I understand why they make low VOC paints”. His response was classic, “That’s why I have the fan on”.  Stirring the stink I thought to myself as I left.

This event is fairly typical, I suppose. Here’s a guy in a closed environment with three gallons of chemicals stirring around and he is breathing it for several hours. He doesn’t have the sense to vent the air out  the stairwells or, giving the benefit of doubt, maybe the doors trigger alarms when opened. It can’t be good for him or comfortable for the tenants on the floor. Tales of office workers running for the exits came to mind behind my reddening eyes.

Why aren’t painters insisting on low/no VOC paint?  Every paint company has at least one low VOC paint line, some more than others. Ben Moore has half a dozen full lines of low/no VOC coatings and they are introducing more every other month. The paints have been around a long time now, folks should know by now they have a choice.

Is it the price? With all the choices available, prices can range middle to high. Moore’s Advance line of interior waterborne alkyd costs less than their solvent based paints.

Maybe it is the working properties. The low/no VOC paints work differently. They typically dry faster and that makes for differences in painting techniques. This can be overcome with experience which is going to happen sooner than later. The future is rolling ahead right now, where will you be when it arrives?

Just because a painters may be inured to the fumes it doesn’t mean they’re immune.  And, even if they’re not bothered or discomforted, shouldn’t the customer’s experience factor in to the product choice?

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