Blog : Spring an Opportunity To Refresh and Brighten With Sustainable Paints

By Craig | May 19, 2014 | in

By Heikki (Herb) Perry
Green Alliance Correspondent

Spring is in full swing and a homeowner’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of spring cleaning.

“Spring is a great time to empty the closets, de-clutter, move the furniture and get your walls and ceilings painted,” says Sean Sturk, owner of Minute Men Painters. “And since there will be new colors of nature outside, why not put new colors on your home, a change that can significantly impact your psyche and make you feel better?”

Established in 1998, Minute Men Painters is a Portsmouth-based painting company committed to providing reliable, professional and sustainable services to every improvement project in the paint arena. Minute Men typically works on jobs within a 30- to 40-mile radius from Portsmouth, an area that includes Southern Maine down to Newburyport.

Known for being far ahead of the curve when it comes to offering low-VOC (volatile organic compound) and no-VOC paints, Minute Men has seen the rest of the industry follow in its footsteps as a lot of older paints — traditional high-to-medium-VOC paints — have been discontinued. “They are pretty much being phased out,” Sturk said, noting that most established interior paint lines are now low- and non-VOC paints.

Numerous regulations have forced paint manufacturers to become greener, says Dan Jackson, owner of Ace Hardware in Exeter. Paints are better today than in the past without the VOCs, “which is remarkable,” he said. “And I give Sean credit for getting on board when they first came out. He jumped into that direction a lot earlier than most other painters did. He saw the benefit of it and the customer service that using those paints provides and perhaps most importantly the health and safety benefits.”

Sturk would love to see more “green” improvements made to exterior paint products. Currently, there are no real green options available for exterior projects. The weather conditions and harsh exposure issues require chemicals to sustain the life of the exterior paint coating. So, while exterior paints have lower VOCs now, they still have all the mildewcides, insecticides and UV protectors. That’s why exterior paints can’t be called “no-VOC.”

But the good news is that while exterior paints do contain more toxins than interior paints humans receive far lower exposure to those toxins. “There’s a big difference between interior and exterior paint,” Sturk said. “You don’t want a mildewcide leaching out of the paint, trapped inside your house where you can breathe them in.”

Sturk advises homeowners venturing outside with thoughts of doing some exterior painting to look for mildew and mold on outside their homes. “You need to paint on a clean surface, and you don’t want to contaminate nearby water sources or kill trees and plants,” he cautions. “So until we get some movement with invention in the exterior paint realm it’s important that painting companies and homeowners alike handle them properly and know what they contain”.

Homeowners need to walk around and inspect key areas such as door frames, eaves and window frames, places where snow and ice may have been sitting for several months. Homeowners should kill all mold and mildew on decks. The focus on a home’s exterior is to maintain or recoat at-risk areas and come up with a plan to avoid later costly carpentry repairs.

“If that’s something homeowners can’t handle themselves, we can give them a free estimate,” Sturk said.

Ace Hardware owner Jackson sells paint to Minute Men, which in turn has painted multiple home interiors and exteriors for Jackson. “He has done it with the utmost quality and he is a very legitimate painter,” Jackson said of Sturk. “There are very few painters that I recommend, and he is one of them.”

Jackson sees intrinsic value in applying a coat of paint to a home.

“Painting is the least expensive thing that you can do to freshen up your home. Just putting on some new paint on your wall can give it a new feel.”

Prepping is 70 percent of the job, Jackson reminds. Prepping buildings — perhaps the most labor intensive aspect of any painting project — is another area which Sturk has also made efforts to render green: a combination sander-vacuum collects up to 98 percent of the dust and silica created during the sanding process. And lower VOC patching compounds are used whenever possible. Additionally Sturk uses water-based options whenever possible to minimize his company’s environmental footprint and keep toxins in a residential or commercial building to a minimum.

“Sean always preps properly, and if there’s something wrong with it, he comes back every time,” says Jackson.

Bolstering its green bona fides further, Minute Men is a Business Partner of the Green Alliance. Like all GA businesses Minute Men Painters is green-certified and their sustainability documents can be viewed in full on the GA site at

For more information about Minute Men Painters, click here!