Cover of Cottage Magazine special "Greener Living" edition

A Cottage Greenovation: Paint it Green – Cottage Life

Leslie Garrett

Perhaps nowhere in your cottage is it simpler – and more affordable – to have a huge positive impact than with your choice of paints and varnishes.

Low or zero VOC paint: Many companies, including just about every latex paint manufacturer, have launched finishes that boast low or zero voc formulations. They’re an easily substituted, environmentally preferable option” says Ben Polley, founder of Evolve Builders Group in Guelph – a family of eco-minded companies providing services such as general contracting, straw-bale construction, water-system installation, and alternative flooring. What’s more, “They offer good coverage and durability,” Polley says, so cottagers who choose low-voc paints don’t sacrifice quality. “Where you may have to compromise is in colour,” says Polley, because such paints generally are available in more earthy tones than the Crayola palette of conventional paints.

Clay-based paint: If the coating will be in a dry environment, consider clay-based paint, an option that can be applied over any existing latex. It’s made almost entirely of naturally occurring materials, is very long lasting and voc-free, and won’t lose its luster over time. The downside? “It’s usually an imported product.” Polley says, which means that transporting it, most often from the US and overseas, leads to the emission of more greenhouse gases. Also, clay-based paint is not ideal for “wet” locations, because it is less resistant to milder and can’t withstand the tougher elbow grease we reserve for cleaning bathrooms and kitchens.

Silicate dispersion paint:

Another option is silicate dispersion paint, which relies on potassium silicate as its binder. The binder bonds to the surface of materials such as drywall, brick, concrete, stucco or natural stone. (It won’t work, however, on plastic, metal, or wood, nor can it be applied over existing latex). “When it dries” explains Polley,” it petrifies to the surface.” acting something like Gore-Tex by repelling liquid water but allowing vapour to pass through. The result – lazy cottagers unite!- is a virtually permanent finish that the laws of chemistry guarantee will never blister or peel, tho you can paint over it if you ever tire of the colour.

Milk paint: Lets not forget that old cottage standby, which always has been and still is truly green: milk paint. Made from purified milk protein (otherwise known as curdled milk) and other natural materials such as lime and clay, milk paint can be used on just about any wood, as well as plaster or stucco.

Recycled paint:

Finally, a number of companies have come on board with recycled (and often low-voc) paint products: unused portions of high-end pains and stains blended together to form a palette of “colours inspired by nature,” as Quebec-based paint manufacturer Boomerang describes its line.