When it came time to choose paint for our eco-friendly bathroom remodel, I wanted a zero VOC option. First, I needed to do some research to find out if zero VOC paints have performance issues. VOCs are solvents that get released into the air as the paint dries. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some VOCs are suspected carcinogens. I asked David Chism of La Jolla’s Chism Brother’s Painting a few questions about eco-friendly paints.

1. Do you go with standard paint unless your clients request low or no VOC paint?

“All house paints in California are considered low VOC. California is one of the only states that has the strictest standards on paints. So, a standard or ‘cheap’ house paint sold in California is still considered safe and green. Now, it is not a matter of low vs zero, but cheap versus premium. There are now premium eco-friendly paints on the market. What does Chism Brother’s use? We’ve always liked to use premium paints because they are easier to apply and last longer. It does ultimately depend on each customer. In this economy, homeowners are typically looking for a deal. Sometimes we’ve settled for quality paint, but not the $50 a gallon paints.”

2. Do you notice a difference in performance between zero VOC paints versus standard paints?

“I have not seen a lack of performance in the new green paints. I attended a training session a few years ago where a Ph.D. and chemist spoke about green paints. For a non-painter, this was very boring! But for me, it was very interesting. He basically said the new green paints are very high quality and will probably outperform old, traditional paints. I have yet to see a problem with any green paint for interiors. For an exterior in La Jolla, no paint lasts forever because of our conditions: salt, air quality, etc.”

3. Do you have a preferred brand of eco-friendly paint?

“Dunn-Edwards and Vista Paint have a number of good quality green paints. My personal favorites are national brands: Sherwin Williams Duration and Duration Home, and Benjamin Moore Aura. These are both very low VOC paints and perform really well. The Benjamin Moore Aura is amazing for interior surfaces. As for zero VOC, I’ve tried Sherwin Williams Harmony and Benjamin Moore’s Natura. I am not a big fan of Harmony but really like Natura especially for a child’s bedroom. There is zero smell! For an exterior, Sherwin Williams Duration or Benjamin Moore Aura works great! What I did not like about Sherwin Williams Harmony is the touch-up and the overall flat finish. It just did not look as good as their Duration Home.”

4. In what cases would you not use an eco-friendly paint? Do they ever underperform in certain circumstances?

“Once again, in California, pretty much everything is green. But not everything has a “green seal.” We may use a non-green paint for a garage, a shed, maybe certain exteriors surfaces as well. I am a big fan of green paints. The big stores like Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore have done an excellent job with their products (Dunn-Edwards too). There is now zero VOC epoxy floor finishes for a garage floor. This too performs wonderfully with NO smell!”

5. Do clients ever complain about feeling limited by eco-friendly paints? Are there enough color options?

“There are plenty of options on the market: almost too many. We’ve never really gotten complaints about the types of paints we use. Our clients are expecting us to keep up on our industry. We are members of the largest painting association, Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA), and they provide us with plenty of educational material, classes, seminars, etc. We also read trade magazines and are connected to painting companies in many states. We often ask what is working for them. I will say one final thing about green paints: Consumer Reports is not the best place to rate green paints. They do not have the proper testing to determine how good a green paint truly is.”

6. Is flat paint ever ok in a bathroom?

“If you use a flat finish in a bathroom, which I personally like the look of, I’d probably try Benjamin Moore’s Aura. They have a matte finish. They also have a Bath & Spa Aura Paint that comes in matte. That is probably the best to use. It’s expensive but very good!”

Our Decision

In the end, I went with Benjamin Moore Naturazero VOC paint. It looks great and has zero smell. It was about $50 per gallon, but worth it, in my opinion. Any Benjamin Moore color can be made in Natura paint so the options are enormous.

About Chism Brothers

I’ve used Chism Brothers for various projects over the last 5 years. After we closed escrow on our house, I noticed that there were spiders falling on my bed at an alarming rate. Turns out there were gaps between wooden planks in our master bedroom vaulted ceiling. It was horrifying.

Raul from Chism Brothers came and caulked them shut. Five years later, no spiders! Since then Raul has stained my fence, some interior windows and doors and a bunch of other stuff. My neighbors use Chism Brothers too and their vans can be seen all over La Jolla.

They have a fabulous Painter for a Day program where they’re yours for the day to do whatever you like, which is great for touch-ups and other small projects. Chism Brothers is a family owned business and they take great pride in their work. I would highly recommend them.

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Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  2. I have a coat of paint on the walls of this “Natura paint” in my bedroom. I’m really happy with it! They can make the color you want – choose the colors I like Benjamin Moore, just because they are so gorgeous. It’s great stuff.

  3. Hi,

    so you decided to use Natura for the bathroom? Our contractor highly recommends Aura Bath & Spa instead to prevent molt and peeling but we rather use a zero VOC paint than just a low VOC.

    Have you experienced any such problems with Natura? What maintenance and prevention measures are you taking if any.

    Thanks, V


    1. We actually haven’t any problems with it yet and it’s been 10 years in two bathrooms. I am not sure what else my painter applied other than the paint though!