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Green is more than just a colour, and darker tones are in vogue.

This year is proving to be a significant one for paint. Enhancements in product quality and a notable reduction in environmental impact address a multitude of consumer concerns.

With the Canadian government's new regulations on harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in paint, and, in turn, the phasing out of oil based paints, a new and improved latex is all you really need, says Benjamin Moore's retail marketing and public relations specialist, Joseé-Ann Cloutier. New regulations require paint manufacturers to reduce the level of VOCs in most paints by September this year.

"Benjamin Moore has already done the research and development required to make the transition as we've already conformed to the 2006 California guidelines as an international company."

Thanks to new technology, latex exterior paint is now very adherent. There's no smell, and you can clean your tools with soap and water, making this by far the easiest product to use. Cloutier says there won't be much oil-based paint on the market. There will, however be a few exceptions-metal paint, for instance.


Benjamin Moore's Aura Exterior latex paint, launched last year, is the result of more than four years of research and includes the new technology, Color Lock. The difference between the Color Lock technology and standard paint, says Cloutier, is in the mix.

"When you mix colour into your standard paint, the resin and colorant stick together side by side, whereas with Color Lock, the colorant gets right inside the resin, penetrating it. With regard to hiding power and adherence, the improvement is just astonishing," she says.

In addition, you never need to apply more than one coat and the thickness is the same as if you were applying two coats, simplifying the whole process. The product also dries faster than other paints, resulting in a very smooth and durable finish.

Cloutier recommends using the highest quality paint and administering careful, thorough preparation of the house's surface before you paint, for maximum performance.

 

Colour

Colour spokesperson for PPG Industries Inc., colour designer, (and author of the book, All About Colour), Janice Lindsay says trends are not as much of an issue with exterior paint as exteriors are not as personal as interiors, where you can follow your heart and inclinations.

"When it comes to an exterior, it is really good to be respectful of the larger landscape. You already have colours in that tableau that are beyond your control, what your neighbours on either side have on their house, for example. I really think that your colours will look best on the exterior if they do fit in beautifully to what exists."

Lindsay says that observing this rule doesn't mean that your house's appearance will be boring and although there are no clear trends for exterior paint colour, people are using more dark colours, which is a good thing.

"We often obsess with colour in terms of the spectrum (red, yellow, blue, green) but we don't deal with colour in terms of the value-from light to dark-as much as we should. We tend to focus on the light end of value and we forget about the deeper end, and there are beautiful ways of enhancing the home by going into the deep colours. There are colours like sharkskin, which is a beautiful neutral colour but it is deeper and richer. I don't think people should be fearful of going into the charcoals or even blacks," says Lindsay who adds that although black can be a bit scary, it is great on front doors and shutters or places where you want some drama, but where you don't want to be colourful.

What you do at the front of the house does not have to be the same as what you do at the back of the house, says Lindsay. She sees the front of the house as the public face of the home and the back of the house as being more personal, and in some cases functioning as a kind of private universe unto itself. Darker colours contrasted with plants, furniture and other colourful items can look stunning, Lindsay says, or if you're looking for a more summery effect, she recommends using a lighter colour palette.

"The eye goes to the brightest thing so you have to think about what you want to look at and what you don't want to look at. Often, we don't necessarily want to look at walls or garages or sheds, so I would say paint those darker like the colour of tree trunks. Then put boxes of colourful flowers like fuchsia geraniums in front so your eye will just float over what you don't want to see," says Lindsay.

Stains

There are four types of stain-clear, toner, semi-transparent and solid. Clear has no colour and solid is fully opaque. Toner provides just a slight hint of colour to enhance the natural beauty of the wood. When deciding between a clear toner and a semi-transparent, says Alison Martin, marketing project manager of Olympic Stain, keep in mind that the more colour you add, the more protection you're getting against UV rays, moisture and the elements. They all provide a level of moisture resistance, but clear, toner and the semi-transparent varieties are all penetrating oil stains.

Solid stain is film forming and won't actually penetrate the wood, says Martin, and is, in fact, more durable.

"As you're getting a full pigment, solid stains will typically last longest as the wood isn't exposed to elements, offering protection which acts more like paint. Usually, solid colour stains are latex, water based, which are the greenest choice, although we do offer a water-based semi-transparent in our Maximum line," says Martin-who recommends using a low VOC, water- based stain around wells for safety.

When choosing a stain, Martin advises homeowners to consider the desired level of protection as well as the architectural details of the home. Roof colour, details on sidewalks, driveways, trees, shrubs, and other plants should also be considered.

Options are many. Olympic Stain, for instance, offers more than 30 colours in the semi-transparent line, ranging from greens, reds and browns. In solid colour, that brand alone includes more than 120 choices.

"Don't be afraid of colour, especially on the exterior of your home. Solid colour is great for railings and semi-transparent for the base of the deck. To add interest, you can choose a different, complementing colour in solid for railings and trims that will add a nice element of colour and contrast," says Martin.

When using a clear stain on shingles, make sure to use only one coat as they are penetrating stains and can get tacky and won't dry as well when over applied. Flashing may occur in areas where the stain hasn't penetrated.

Typically, coloured stain lasts the longest, says Martin-roughly eight years on decks and about 20 on the house.

Remember to always clean decks before you stain with deck cleaner, which comes in a bio-degradable formula. With some stains, you can apply to damp wood but it should not be soaking wet, says Martin, nor should there be an expectation of rainfall within 24 hours of applying to give it adequate time to dry. If you already have solid colour, Martin recommends staying with a solid stain or you'll have the added headache of having to remove all the old stain before you start.

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