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Tips for Picking the Right Paint

By Karen Kroll - November 2011 - Paints & Coatings


Dollar for dollar, paint can provide more of an impact within a space than almost any other element.

"Paint provides so much opportunity to take color to more places; to liven a space," says Steve McCollom, workplace space design manager with Intuit Inc.

Of course, paint is more than merely decorative.

"Paint serves two purposes: protection and decoration," says Deborah Zimmer, spokesperson with the Paint Quality Institute. By intelligently choosing the type and color of paint, and properly preparing the surface and applying the paint, facility managers can increase the likelihood that the paint used meets both objectives.

As a starting point, it helps to know the differences between the types of paints available.

Several decades ago, oil-based paints were more common. Today, they largely have been phased out due to the ease of disposal and reduced application time that most latex paints can offer. In the paint world, latex refers to most water-based paints that use synthetic polymers, such as acrylic or vinyl acrylic, as binders.

Pure acrylic resins cost more than vinyl, but offer several benefits, including better washability and adhesion, along with resistance to water, cracking and blistering.

"An all-acrylic paint provides easier stain removal," Zimmer says. It's more flexible, and less prone to brittleness. For exterior surfaces, acrylic paint does a better job of resisting UV-rays, and so won't fade as quickly as vinyl, she adds.

That means that higher quality paints, which contain more acrylic, tend to cost more. "There's a direct correlation," between price and quality, says Richard Robison, architect and principal with Lord Aeck & Sargent.

Along with its cost, facility managers who want to gauge the quality of a specific brand or type of paint can review the lists of products approved by the Master Painters Institute. These are available at the MPI's website, www.paintinfo.com, and are categorized by product type, such as latex interior flat finishes.

Another resource is ASTM International (www.astm.org), which develops international voluntary consensus standards.

Paint Color

Perhaps the most noticeable quality about any paint is its color. "Paint and color is a great way to freshen up a space and change the vibe," says Aimee Taylor, designer with Gensler, an architecture and design firm. "It transforms a space."

What's more, color goes beyond aesthetics; it "has a definite psychological effect on people," Robison says.

Softer colors can be calming and allow a health care facility to feel less institutional, says Felice Silverman, president and principal with Silverman Trykowski Associates. Deeper colors, particularly when used as accents, can "direct a person's focus and direction," she says. For example, when painting a long corridor, Silverman says she will look for areas in which to bring in an accent color through paint. These can guide people through the corridor and make the distance seem shorter than it really is.

Moreover, the use of color in a facility can help highlight the organization's brand. An organization's culture and image can be an inspiration when choosing the color palette for the facility. "We can incorporate the image by re-interpreting the colors into an interior environment," Silverman says.

Of course, practicalities also come into play when choosing paint color. Darker colors tend to hide fingerprints and smudges better than lighter colors, says Susanne Molina, director with the interior design firm of Klawiter & Associates, Inc. On the other hand, scratches that are deep enough to go through to the drywall are even more noticeable with deeper colors.

At the same time, the paint should reflect the occupants' needs, McCollom says. For instance, the paint used in a building with many elderly occupants should account for the fact that one's depth perception can weaken with age. While painting a door and the doorjamb the same color may present a clean, crisp look, it also could make it difficult to distinguish one from the other, he says.





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