Paint can fade for a number of reasons. Time, quality, sunlight, or a chemical agent of some kind can cause the paint to fade. Let’s look at each possibility individually:
Even the best paint in the world will, with time, fade. In fact, it can go lighter and it can go darker. It can even go lighter AND darker in the very same room, or even within the same wall. When a home owner is looking at the same walls in the same house for years, they often don’t notice the gradual discoloration that eventually occurs. It often takes an outsider to say “hey, Joe, don’t you think this room needs a paint job?” before a resident takes notice.
It’s hard to put an exact time on how long it should be before you come to re-paint your home. You might not wait until it’s obvious. Painting is one of the most cost-effective ways to freshen up your home, even if it doesn’t obviously need it. If you’re willing to do the work yourself, a few brushes and a few cans of paint can truly transform a room. Just remember, though, that once you’ve painted one room, the others may look grubby. You may end up taking on a lot more than you bargained for. Still, painting one room per month can spread the work over time, and make it more manageable. Doing everything in one go, one big DYI project, can really put you off painting for life. Take it is stages.
You might not know the answer to this question if, for example, the house was painted before you bought it, but often, a poor paint job doesn’t manifest itself for a few years. If, for example, the the paint was not thoroughly mixed with paint thinners, it might look OK for a while, but with time the thicker part of the paint area will look different to the thinner part of the paint area. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will last any less time, but it will like fade differently on different parts of the wall.
Stored paint also has a certain life span to it. It’s likely different for different brands of paint, but there is a shelf life to every paint. Keeping some paint in storage for possible future touch-ups is a good idea, but less so for major future paint jobs. Paint, in fact, can often last longer on a wall than it might last in the can. A couple of years in cool storage is probably OK, but if it’s sitting there in the cans for two decades, it is likely compromised. It’s also a good thing to store unused paint in a cool, dry place.
Sunlight – does the wall receive a lot of direct sunlight?
Quite often, people forget that even inside a house, the sun can have a ‘bleaching’ effect on wall paint, carpets, furniture and electronics. Good quality carpets ,, drapes and paint will withstand UV light better than poor quality materials. When you choose new paint for a job, if you expect the paint to withstand direct sunlight, mention that to your paint supplier. A good painting contract will know this, of course, but it’s no harm to mention it before the paint selection process starts, if you are planning a painting job by contractors.
Indoor and outdoor paint are usually different. The exterior of a house obviously, takes a lot more punishment, usually, than an interior does. If your house is close to a salt water sea spray, for instance, you definitely need to take that into consideration when choosing the exterior paint. Salt water eats everything faster than freshwater does.
A lot of ‘chemical agents’ around the home are benign. If you regularly cook with, say, olive oil, and your home is not well ventilated, vapors can, over time, soak into the walls, and not even just in the kitchen. I once lived in an apartment that had no working extractor fan over the stove. It did have a fan, but it just blew the air out the top, back into the kitchen, not to an external outlet. What people in my workplace pointed out to me once was, they could always smell food off my clothes. I, personally, never noticed it because I was the one doing the cooking, but without ventilation, the food vapors, smells and chemicals (even olive oil is a type of chemical) wafted into my walk-in closet. Over time, EVERYTHING in my apartment smelled of what I had every day for breakfast. What’s more, the walls in the kitchen collected a payer of grease over time. It was easy enough to clean, but it taught me that whatever is in the air eventually gets all over the walls. Olive oil vapors will, eventually, soak into the usually non-waterproof wall paint around your house or apartment, if you don’t have adequate ventilation.
I solved the problem of the clothes-smell-like-food, by the way, by inserting a box fan on the window closest to the kitchen. Whenever I cooked, I would run the fan, and keep it on until the meal was eaten and everything cleaned up. It helped a lot, but for several years, I had collected a lot of food smell in my clothes, linens, drapes and walls.
Lesson learned? Always use an extractor fan.
When I was a teenager, my neighbor once asked me to paint her house. She was an old woman, long widowed, who seemed to live on a diet of yogurt, cigarettes and cooking sherry (the latter she called her “medicine”). I had never been in to the house before that point, but when I first looked at it, I was shocked at how brown everything was. Not only was the paint job long, long overdue, but it also had perhaps 20 years of exposure to cigarette smoke in it. It took quite a few coats of paint to bring the walls and ceilings back to life, and the place looked incredible after the job, but the cigarette smoke damage was very clear. (I often wondered what such cigarette smoke must do to the inside of one’s lungs, when it can do so much damage to a wall!)
Perhaps the previous owner of your house was a smoker. It might have an effect that surfaces many years later.
That’s it from the paint desk of Bettylou! Check back next week to learn about how long you can keep paint stored.