by Brian Sodoma

IdeaPaintStoryImageThe paint market offers many low- or zero-VOC coatings that are both durable and aesthetically pleasing for commercial environments. As a paint pro, you may be looked to for guidance on the best products, tints or color schemes for a space.

In these situations, sometimes leaning on a familiar brand isn’t enough, particularly in office environments where, depending on the tenant, paint product needs can vary from room to room or hallway to hallway. Sparking up a conversation with a building owner or manager about what coating is best for certain situations can help you rise above the competition. Keep the following insights in mind when it comes to suggesting the best coatings for office environments.


Rick Williams, VP of Williams Professional Painting in Alexandria, VA, says it’s important to be proactive when walking an office repaint job. Williams wants to know how many people typically use a space, where the high-traffic areas are, and he has his eyes and ears open for any unique problem areas.

“Use your common sense when seeing a space, and think about what product is best for walking that line between cosmetics and durability,” he added. “Flat always looks best but it doesn’t hold up the best. There tends to be a sweet spot with eggshell.”

Kristin McNamara, Sherwin-Williams’ director of wholesale marketing for homebuilder and commercial products, adds: “A great question to ask is what their biggest challenge is when it comes to their current space. This is often much more insightful than asking ‘what is important to you?’ because it helps the owner or manager really narrow in on the biggest pain point that a pro can solve.”

Most ‘pain,’ whether it’s excessive touch-ups or high-traffic-area needs, can be solved by choosing the right paint, McNamara adds. “A comment like ‘this lobby will likely be a space where there will be people leaning against walls, so I recommend a coating that offers more durability and will withstand repeated washing’ is powerful in that it shows that you understand the challenge and can offer a solution,” she also noted.


It’s also important to understand what the job site will look like when the paint crew is there. Will people still be working in the space when your team is trying to hit its work deadlines? Will you need to schedule crews for off-hours? These are all important questions that not only impact payroll but also product decisions, added Brian Osterried, PPG Paints’ product manager.

“If it’s going to be occupied while painting, zero-VOC paints should be a part of the conversation,” he added.

Some jobs may still require epoxy coatings for door jams or handrails—some of which may be solvent-based—Williams noted, which could impact scheduling.

Osterried said PPG’s BREAK-THROUGH!, a low-VOC, waterborne acrylic paint, is a popular alternative to solvent-based paints for high-durability situations. It’s also fast-drying and brings very little odor for those jobs that require painting while a company’s staff is still in the building. “You’re not sacrificing anything as far as durability,” he added.


Green products have come a long way in the past decade, most paint pros admit. Today, most pros also know the customer doesn’t need to go with a high-dollar paint to get low or zero VOC along with great hide and coverage.

“Five years ago, if you wanted zero VOC, you had no choice but only the higher-end products, and it could really run the budget up,” Williams added. “Fast forward to today; zero VOC doesn’t mean you have to spend $60 a gallon. In the past, you’d have to explain it’s more expensive and you’d get pushback. Now it’s not a negative; everyone wants it and expects it.”

Williams turns to Sherwin-Williams’ ProMar 200 Zero-VOC Interior Latex Paint as well as McCormick Paints’ Revo Paint + Primer in One, a true zero-VOC waterborne interior latex paint, for many office jobs.

Sherwin-Williams’ ProMar 200 line has long been a fixture in office environments, added McNamara noting this line is affordable, too, usually ranging in the $20 to $25 per gallon range. PPG’s workhorse office product is its zero-VOC Pure Performance line, Osterried noted. The premium paint is mold and mildew resistant and is usually priced in the $40 per gallon range.

Sam Carrillo, Dunn-Edwards Paints’ senior product manager, says its EVEREST ultra-premium zero-VOC line, a higher-end product, is often requested for office jobs. It is self-priming and also ethylene glycol-free. The company’s SPARTAWALL product is also popular for office environments, offering ultra-low-VOC coatings in the $40 to $45 range with good hide and durability at a more competitive price.

Some other premium coatings like Sherwin-Williams’ Paint Shield, which is the first EPA-registered microbicidal paint, can even improve overall indoor air quality by killing certain bacteria, McNamara noted.

“Paints that contribute to improved indoor air quality are great in new construction or renovation where there may be other materials that are releasing formaldehyde,” she said. “Paints that kill bacteria are great for high-traffic spaces in office settings like hallways, elevators, lobbies and kitchens, where people often touch and lean against walls.”


If a pro is pressed for color recommendations for an office space, Lisa Reyes, interior designer for Williams Professional Painting, says it’s important to remember that “gray is the new neutral.” Gray offers a modern touch, and is especially popular in lobby areas. She also encourages accent walls with blues and reds.

“You don’t want to make a space feel cold; you need those pops of other colors,” she added.

Dee Schlotter, PPG Paints’ senior color marketing manager, says with certain companies trying to attract millennial workers, some offices attempt to create more of a campus or village feel.

These unconventional environments also lend themselves to grays. Schlotter also likes to pull in nature colors like greens and purples on accent walls, especially at the end of hallways. “It delights the eye and gives that little twist to the brain after all that soft neutral,” she explained.

With the drive for more collaborative environments, Williams also sees more whiteboard requests—and not your run-of-the mill hanging whiteboards either. IdeaPaint, a coating available in either clear or white, that serves as a whiteboard surface after it dries, is his go-to product for these situations.

“We’ve taken entire conference rooms and had nothing but whiteboards for the walls,” he added.

For paint pros, office environments bring a variety of unique needs and situations. Rarely is it a case of choosing one or two paints. Understanding the end-user’s needs, preferences and budget is key to finding the best coatings and colors for their workspace.

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