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A Cleaner & Greener Approach to Outdoor Living

Posted by Ellen Strickland on

When it comes to healthy green building, Indoor-Outdoor living spaces present us with some of our toughest building material challenges - how do we provide the tough durable protection we need from sun and weather, and combine it with both the aesthetic look we want, non-toxic finishes and quality performance?


Luckily each spring brings innovative new products to market that offer a wider and more creative set of solutions for indoor-outdoor living spaces. Whether you are looking for products to use in these less climate-controlled spaces, or simply want to bring more sun, air, and nature to your indoor remodel projects, this blended indoor-outdoor living brings a bigger need for higher UV-protective coatings, and tougher more durable materials that are also non-toxic to ourselves, our families, and the environment.


So as you travel to the building trade shows or check the aisles of your local stores for what's new in tough safe coatings and sealers or building materials with a new look or style, keep an eye out for some of these newer products with safer healthier attributes:


  • Marine and outdoor coating removers that are soy-based and leave no chemical residue or irritate the skin. They will soften and remove anti-fouling paint, urethanes, or varnish WITHOUT using Methylene Chloride, Acids, or MEK's.


  • Water-borne outdoor coatings that can be brushed on, rolled or sprayed with improved coverage, and with UV protection from their inherent non-toxic ingredients. There are exterior primers and paints that are truly 0-VOC , concrete and masonry paints and clear coats, water-proofing finishes and even stains that have comparable performance to the more traditional products but without the toxicity and at competitive prices. Some of these are now 100% solvent-free, even when tinted.


  • Water-repelling sealers that are formaldehyde-free and made without toxic mildewicides or fungicides.


  • Biodegradable degreasers that are formulated to clean without oxidation and yet tough enough to cut grease, grime, build-up and tough stains on outdoor grilles, fans, engines, walls, workbenches, compressors, trailers, cars, motorcycles, and bikes.


  • A new water-based decontamination and protection agent coating for outdoor wood surfaces that is based upon wood impregnation with mineral silicon. The coating protects against fungus, spores, algae and rot while reinforcing the wood and creating a naturally flame-retardant surface that is totally environmentally friendly. This maintenance-free surface can last up to 10 years as a safe protective coating, providing UV protection and prevention of water penetration or leaching. This kind of coating can be used on new or old decking and all kinds of wood. Basically this smooth mechanical process without the use of biocides provides a smooth and comfortable walking surface for years to come.


  • Thermally - treated wood for outdoor floors, decks, and vertical siding. These heat-treated hardwoods have been modified to create a denser, harder, more durable, bug and fire-resistant surface that can be further stained or sealed. The process is a combination of heat and steam (without using additional chemicals) that reduces moisture content in the wood, and then stabilizes it to a 6% moisture content by the use of steam. The sugars are cooked out of the wood which makes it more bug-resistant, while leaving the darkened color of the wood consistent through-out. The boards remain 100% usable, (meaning less waste) and the end result is a beautiful, clean look with high performance and durability outdoors.


  • Outdoor furniture with electropolished stainless steel. Stainless Steel is at its best outdoors when it has been electropolished. Where other metals may corrode or tarnish, Stainless steel will remain unblemished under tough outdoor weather conditions and constant exposure to the sun. When working on a site within a mile of the seacoast, you can also find marine-grade 316 stainless steel or powder-coated standard stainless that will hold up even further under extreme conditions. Marine-grade anodized aluminum is another option, it will never rust.


  • Formaldehyde-free, low odor all weather water and vapor proof coatings and sealers for driveways, decks, pools and saunas. These coatings are good for high-fire regions because of their heat and flame resistance, as well as resistance to gasoline, oil, grease, fungi, acids and alkalines.


Many of these newer exterior-use materials and products are also friendlier to use for the installer or finisher. No harmful chemicals means no additionally needed protection like respirators, special gloves, or eye protection. And the clean up is easier - washing up with soap and water and no added hazardous waste. Besides avoiding hazardous waste charges at disposal sites, you will also help the surrounding habitats and environment by not discharging harmful chemicals or residual coatings down the drain or into leaking containers that may leave toxins seeping into the soil or the water table.


Using some of these new more innovative sustainable products provides, in some cases, ease of use with minimal clean-up, less hazardous waste, some savings on maintenance costs by using one-time coatings that require no upkeep, and improved health for you, your clients, and our environment. Consider these win-wins as you build this spring.



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