Inside Residential Painting: Interview with Jared Doumani (Part 2)

As you read in Part I of our interview with Jared Doumani, he sets a high standard for the quality of work produced by his crew. Jared Doumani is also an expert on paint, helping us offer the safest and most environmentally friendly products to homeowners. In Part II of his interview, we picked Jared’s brain about Low VOC / Zero VOC paint, water-based colorants, and how the paint industry is about to change in a big way.


Jeff King & Co: You’ve mentioned that Persnickety puts great emphasis on preparation. What is your process for previously painted surfaces?

Jared Doumani: If we work on previously painted walls, we start with pole sanding. Not a lot, just enough to take off rough bumps and built-up texture. It doesn’t take a lot of time, probably half an hour to an hour depending on room size, but the small things make a real difference.


How do you know when the building is fully prepared for paint?

We do a lot that other painters don’t do because they think it’s a waste of time. But we know it leads to an end product that you’re not just happy with; you’re delighted with. Someday I’m going to hire a blind prep guy to do sanding. They will know just by touch that it’s ready. Looking at it really doesn’t work. If you touch the surface, you’ll feel everything that’s wrong. That defines the level of prep we want to go to. 


Once the prep work is finished, how do you go the extra mile when applying paint?

The application of paint is done mostly with brushwork. Our guys do beautiful brushwork. It’s almost imperceptible that it’s been done with a brush because the marks are so faint. It feels great and looks great.



“Within the last year everything has changed. Everything is Low VOC or Zero VOC. What’s happening to the paint quality has been incredible… It’s starting to take hold nationwide.” 


Beyond technique, tell us about the products you’re using. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), traditionally used in all paints, have gained attention for their negative health and environmental affects. How is the paint industry reacting to increased demand for Low VOC and Zero VOC paint?

Seven years ago, when I started Persnickety Painters, I did a lot of research into Low VOC paints: who had them, what was available, at what price. Nobody was interested. Then within the last year everything has changed. Everything is Low VOC or Zero VOC. What’s happening to the paint quality has been incredible. The product wasn’t that good before. Now everything available in California is Low VOC. It’s starting to take hold nationwide.


Which brand is your go-to for quality paint?

C2 paint is really one of the best quality paints available today. They’ve done a great job building a very high quality of paint and that refers to quality of resins in the paint, quality of filler, and the white that’s used. They use a very high concentration of titanium dioxide to get white into their white-based paint. They don’t use chalk, which brings down cost but doesn’t make a very good product. C2 also uses a 15-color system versus the standard 12-color system and the pigments are higher quality with a finer grind that gets into the paint. The quality of paint is really fantastic.


What situations call for other paint brands?

On a recent remodel, the client requested Zero VOC paint. So now we’ve started using a brand called Mythic Paint, and we’re really happy with it. If the client wants Zero VOC/Zero Toxin paint, we have an excellent product that can fulfill that.


 “It seems you’re doing yourself a disservice using oil-based paints on anything new; you’re going to have to go to latex eventually.”


What are the advantages of using oil-based paint?

One advantage is better finishes for trim. It lies down beautifully. It’s extremely hard and durable. That’s why there are people out there who still want oil: it’s the ne plus ultra of the paint world. Also, I still believe in oil-based primer for bare wood, especially for exteriors. It is penetrative and locks in to the wood.


What are the disadvantages of oil-based paint?

It’s getting harder to find, and it is not as environmentally friendly as latex paint. As much as I like the oil finish, I recommend latex on any new construction or full remodel. It’s where paint is going. Oil may not always be available; we keep hearing it will go away completely. It seems you’re doing yourself a disservice using oil-based paints on anything new; you’re going to have to go to latex eventually. Another drawback is the smell. If you’re painting in a house where people live, it’s not pleasant.


Are there any differences in the longevity of oil-based paint versus latex?

Oil-based paints continue to coalesce and dry over time. Over 50 or 70 years it can get very brittle. Latex keeps flexibility over its entire lifetime. Oil based paints also oxidize and yellow over time. It’s gradual and slight, but it makes touch up very difficult.


Q: What trends do you see on the horizon in the paint industry?

There’s a big change coming in latex paints. Latex paints came out after oil-based paints and were designed to accept colorants that were being put into oil-based paints. It’s been a compromise. The colorant is almost a contaminant and is always somewhat separate from the latex paint. It blends but it’s not integrated on a molecular level.




Q: How are companies working to resolve this problem?

Benjamin Moore has been the first to come out with a national line using a water-based colorant system. They developed a new set of colorants or tints. Water based colorants have some drawbacks – they actually dry too fast and make the paint hard to work with in certain situations. Now other companies are developing water-based colorants as well. This is a big switch in the industry; I see it as a milestone for paint. Before water-based colorants, you could make a Low VOC or Zero VOC paint, but when you put color in, the colorant contained VOC. Water-based colorant does away with VOC in colorants and creates a paint that has better integrated color on the molecular level.


Q: The new EPA lead standards have made it very difficult to do extensive paint prep work. How do you comply with new standards while keeping homes safe and healthy?

For the most part we’ve been following these practices since we began the company. The law has stepped up our game a little and made us more conscious. It’s now regulated that we use hepa vacs and certain machinery. Now we do most of the sanding with a mechanical sander hooked up to vacuums at all times.


Q: How does this impact your prep work for interiors?  

Especially with interior work, we always put effort into containment to avoid leaving the house dusty. Blocking off areas and sealing off rooms is all part of the lead law now and certainly the EPA’s regulations have taken it a step further. We’re all in favor of them because, the fact is, they protect us as much as anyone else.


Q: And for exteriors?

For the exterior, it made everyone a lot more conscious of the work outside going into the house, which is great. When doing sanding and scraping, we’ve always had a policy of sealing off windows from inside so dust wasn’t migrating indoor into rooms. We’re glad to see it now be law.



“We really like to do renovations, returning battered trim to its once proud state. These houses have a history and that should show, but it should look worn, not beaten.”



Q: Is there any drawback to the new EPA lead standards?  

On the downside, the law adds another layer of cost at a time when clients are very cost conscious. So long as the clients understand that this is a nationally mandated regulation, then everyone should be charging extra for it. Essentially the government has made the work more expensive. We see that a lot of industry professionals are ignoring the law, which makes it difficult for us in the bidding process. But with Jeff King & Company, everyone he has us bid against is following regulations.


Q: Are there different materials that you use for exterior vs. interior?

There are specific products for each, but for the most part, exterior can be used interior but interior can’t be used exterior. With paints, there is a definite difference. Above all, the exterior paint is there to protect: to withstand moisture and sunlight and the elements in general. It’s build to do that. On the interior, paint is built to resist dirt and markings and that is a much simpler job.

Caulking is pretty much the same on the inside and out. We use a very high quality caulk that will remain elastic throughout its life; it works beautifully on the interior and exterior. For fill, we use mostly the same products interior and exterior. They are made for exterior but they work great inside and are very durable.


Q: Tell us about how you cater Persnickety techniques to the exterior of a home.      

When it comes to technique, exterior tends to be a rougher and more physical act in that you’re often times scraping paint off and doing extensive sanding. With exterior, what you’re looking for is to make everything absolutely solid and waterproof. You want to get this thing buttoned up and guarded against the elements. And you want it to be that way for a long time.

It’s a battleground out there. You have to make it work. One thing that we go after on exteriors is to eliminate movement in the siding and trim. Any kind of movement will eventually open up and let moisture in, and that will be the end of that area. It’s important to make sure things are absolutely screwed in and nailed down. Things tend to open up over time, so we give special attention to reducing movement in the joints.


Q: And how does that technique change for an interior paint job? 

The interior is generally more cosmetic than the exterior because you see things much more closely. Our brushwork on trim and cabinetry is fantastic, but on the exterior, that isn’t noticed as much. The interior also takes more physical abuse with more denting and chipping, not to mention the ultimate abuse, bad painting. It is amazing how much time we spend undoing bad work. With so many previous rental units converted to condos and TICs, it is not unusual to see a million dollar condo that was an abused rental until 10 years ago. We really like to do renovations, returning battered trim to its once proud state. These houses have a history and that should show, but it should look worn, not beaten.


Thanks for the insider view on residential painting, Jared!

Learn more about Jared Doumani’s work at the Persnickety Painters website.

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