One of the things I’m finding, as I write articles for this blog, is that there are a lot of great local manufacturers of truly green building products, that are “best kept secrets.” The problem is, they shouldn’t be secrets, they should be announced to the world so that people will use their wonderful products! The latest in the line of great products is Homestead House Milk Paint. Homestead House Paint Company is a manufacturer of both milk and latex paints based right here in Toronto. I spent a few hours with Jennylyn Pringle talking about her company’s products and in particular milk paint.
Milk paint is made from casein (milk protein), clay, limestone and natural pigments. The ingredients are found locally, and the paint is made in a facility just outside Toronto. It contains no synthetic or petroleum-based ingredients and is, zero VOC. Milk paint is best known as an historical paint; It is a paint formula and technique that was brought over from Europe 250 years ago and today is primarily used on antique furniture or reproductions. Colours are developed within an historical palette and are derived from natural pigments. One of the unique properties of this paint is that it actually soaks into the wood fibers, which means it will last as long as the item on which it’s been applied. Because of this, the paint is breathable and will never peal. One other benefit of milk paint is that because it is slightly alkaline (basic), it resists the growth of mould and mildew.
While milk paint has always been applied easily to plaster and wood, it has never adhered well to other surfaces. Now, however, there is a new primer, Milk Paint Bond, which, when applied to drywall or metal permits milk paint to adhere to these surfaces. Milk paint comes as a powder that needs to be mixed with water. It dries quickly, so, for the beginner, Homestead House recommends either mixing in small batches or adding an extender, which will permit the paint to be mixed in larger quantities and will stand for several days. This is ideal for room applications. When painting a room, it’s best to mix all the paint at once as the colour will be consistent. The website notes that for best consistency use a blender to mix the paint. Jenny said that it’s not actually necessary to use a blender, but if mixing by hand you need to stir really well in order to make sure all the powder is mixed in. The other option is to pick up a blender from a thrift shop.
Homestead House offers workshops in milk paint use. You can check their website for dates and cost. Right now there are a few painters in the city who will paint your house with milk paint, see their “Links page” for a list of painters and designers for more information. If you are interested in a DIY project, consider painting your next room with milk paint, or, ask your painter to give milk paint a try. I’m going to use it to paint our master bedroom. I’ll write a blog post on it when it’s done (don’t hold your breath, I’m thinking summer, 2011).
Cost: 2lb bag (which makes 1 gallon of paint), $75. Coverage: 450 sq. feet. (note that on its own, milk paint is not washable. A coat of hemp oil or beeswax must be applied for washability. If painting a room with it, it’s best to paint in low traffic rooms).
Other products: In keeping with its line of low-impact paints, Homestead House carries low-impact paint strippers and finishing products as well. See their product page for more information.