Use The Right Paint To Look Good – VOC Compliance

by | Apr 30, 2012 | Knowledge Base

What you need to know about paint and VOCs.

If you are a property manager or a homeowner, you regularly come in contact with substrates that need painting. If you come in contact with substrates that need painting, then you need to know about VOC regulations.


In September 2010, the Government of Canada passed legislation limiting the concentration levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in all architectural painting products. 1

What are VOCs? VOCs are a family of chemicals emitted by many household products (such as oil-based paints). VOCs negatively impact the quality of air, both inside and outside your home and contribute to ground level smog and significantly increase the risk of respiratory and heart diseases. In fact, Environment Canada states that 26% of VOC emissions come from paint and other coatings. 2

As published in the Canada Gazette Vol. 143, No. 20, the Canadian government brought in the new federal VOC regulations effective September 2010. Because of the new regulations enacted, 47 of the 53 paint coating categories no longer meet the new VOC rules and are deemed non-compliant. Most notably among these coating categories are oil-based paints. As such, oil-based paints can no longer be manufactured or imported into Canada by any paint company. Paint companies have until September 2012 to sell through their existing stock of non-compliant product.

The Federal government has made it clear to the paint industry (paint manufacturers, retailers and contractors) that they will vigorously enforce these new regulations and all parties involved will be subject to investigation and scrutiny. Violation of the VOC regulations will result in stiff fines as mandated by the legislation.

What does this all mean? Simply put, while some non-compliant VOC coatings will still be available, the application of these paints will be highly restricted and primarily designated for industrial use. This poses some serious challenges for residential contractors when coating areas previously painted with an oil-based product.

Question: Under what circumstances can I use non-compliant products as part of an architectural painting project?

A: You can use non-compliant coatings on surfaces in the following 5 situations:

  • Metal with exterior exposure
  • Immersion in water or chemicals, or with chronic exposure to interior condensation
  • Exposure to harsh chemicals or fumes
  • Repeated heavy abrasions or scrubbing
  • Repeated exposure to temperatures of 2500º C and over

Q: What are some practical examples of when I can use a non-compliant product as part of an architectural painting project?

A: The following are approved uses of non-compliant coatings on architectural projects:

  • Any exterior metal
  • Handrails for businesses and institutions because they are subjected to heavy abrasions*
  • School hallways and classroom doorframes, because they are subjected to heavy abrasion and frequent cleanings*
  • Door frames of patient rooms in hospitals
  • Commercial kitchens, because they are subjected to harsh chemicals and scrubbing*

Note: “heavy abrasion” is defined in the Act as “repeated, frequent abrasion, including mechanical wear and scrubbing with industrial solvents, cleansers or scouring agents”

Q: What are some practical examples of when I CANNOT use a non-compliant industrial maintenance coating as part of an architectural paint project?


  • Interior metal, normal exposure
  • Wood trim, interior or exterior
  • School classrooms, office or storage areas
  • Walls and trim of a residential kitchen
  • Office or storage areas of a hospital
  • Storage areas for linen and paper products

Q: I have high-rise corridor walls that were painted with oil paint. Can I still use an oil-based coating when it comes time to repaint?

A: Unfortunately not. Oil-based coatings traditionally used for painting corridor walls do not meet the VOC requirements (less than 250 grams per litre) as detailed in the Act. Use of a high solids or water-based alternative coating is required.

As outlined in the new regulations, paint manufacturers have until September 2012 to sell through any remaining stock of non-compliant oil-based coatings. In fact, many major paint manufacturers have already done so and no longer have any stock of oil-based coatings for residential use. Knowing that these regulations were coming into effect, ArmourCo has been working with our paint suppliers to determine which coating solutions perform best in a variety of applications. For the progressive contractor who has prepared for the new regulations, many compliant options are available that perform as well or better than traditional oil-based paints. From adhesion primers to acrylic modified alkyds and acrylic enamels, ArmourCo has paint systems in place that will allow us to provide you with outstanding performance.

If you have existing substrates painted with oil-based paint and require a repaint, contact ArmourCo below and find out how we can make you look good.

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