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Need help to decide which paint or wood finish to use?

Want to find out more about low VOC paints, or the difference between natural and acrylic paints ?

You may find the answer in our Frequently Asked Questions below.

If the answer you are looking for is not here, use the contact form on the right to email us your query, or call 02 6684 1650 between 7.00am - 4.00pm (NSW time) Monday to Friday and we'll do our best to answer your queries.

1.1 What's the difference between low VOC paint and natural paint?

Low VOC paints are conventional acrylic wall paints, which have been formulated to minimise VOCs in them.

VOC's are chemical compounds that out gas from paints and other products. There are a range of VOC compounds. They all cause environmental smog and some are also damaging to people’s health. Low VOC paints and finishing products have been developed over the last ten years to address the world’s growing environmental pollution problems. They are modern paints and most are equally as durable and easy to use as the older high VOC paints.

The other good news is they are now similar in price to the older high VOC paints. For example the ROCKCOTE Ecostyle low VOC paint we sell is a similar price and quality to other high quality acrylic paints. 

Natural paints are paints made from natural ingredients such as clay, mineral or plant material. Because they don’t contain petrochemical compounds, they are by nature zero, or very low VOC. They are the healthiest and most environmentally friendly of the two types of paint because they don’t create any pollution in their manufacture, use, or disposal.

Both low VOC paints and natural paints have their value depending on what your priorities are. Low VOC acrylic paints are usually more washable and cost less than natural paints. Natural paints are often better tolerated by people who are highly chemically sensitive. Natural paints also have an appealing aesthetic quality. The choice is yours.

1.2 What are VOC'S?

VOC's is an abbreviation of Volatile Organic Compounds. These are chemical compounds that evaporate off paint and  other products, and cause environmental pollution or 'smog', and poor air quality in a home.

1.3 Is ZERO VOC paint better than LOW VOC paint?

Not necessarily. The term Zero VOC is subject to misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

In Australia there is no standard for Zero VOC. The US Environmental Protection Authority classifies Zero VOC as under 5gms/L. All ROCKCOTE Ecostyle paints are under 5gms/L VOC so would be classed as Zero VOC according to this standard. However ROCKCOTE has chosen to use the Australian APAS classification (Australian Paint Approval Scheme) to classify their paint . 

APAS classifications are :

Very High: >250 gm/L

High: 100 – 249 gm/L

Moderate: 50 – 99 gm/L

Low: 5 – 49 gm/L

Very Low: <5 gm/L

So under this classification ROCKCOTE Ecostyle paints are Very Low VOC, even though they could be called Zero VOC if you use the US classification system. 

Some paint companies are advertising their paint as “Zero VOC and therefore completely non-toxic”. This claim rides on a bit of sensationalism and can be misleading.

Firstly. Investigating the claim of one of these company’s shows their GECA certification states only that their paint has less than 5gms /L of VOCs. So the assertion their paint is Zero VOC is only their assertion and not backed up by an independent examining body. ROCKCOTE publishes the actual VOC level of their paints as established by an independent examining body Eg.  0.6gms/L of VOC in their low sheen wall paint. 

Secondly. The toxicity of a product is a slightly different issue to VOC's. The term VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) refers to a wide range of organic (hydrocarbon) chemical compounds that vaporise under normal ambient temperature. Some VOC’s are man made and some are naturally occurring. Not all VOC’s are toxic and not all toxic things are VOC's. VOC’s are measured in paints because they CONTRIBUTE TO THE FORMATION OF SMOG (air pollution) in cities. They are primarily an environmental issue. 

Thirdly. VOC’s are measured slightly differently according to the authority measuring them. For example in Australia Acetone is not classed as a VOC because it doesn’t contribute to environmental smog. In America Formaldehyde is not measured as a VOC for the same reason. Both however are VOC’s that contribute to indoor air pollution and can be hazardous to people’s health. A product could contain these and still be labeled Zero VOC in these countries.

For clear information on environmental and toxicity standards for paints in Australia I would refer to GECA's (Good environmental Certification Australia ) Paints & Coatings standards. 

1.4 Does non-toxic mean I can eat it?

Toxicity of paints and wood finishes are commonly looked at in terms of degree and exposure. Highly toxic products are those which even short-term exposure to, can create illness or damage the health of the average person. Non-toxic products are generally defined as products which long-term exposure to is not likely to damage the health of the average person.

However this definition of non-toxic does not work for all individuals. The sensitivity of the individual is also a major factor when looking at toxicity. For example children, pregnant women, and those with existing health issues are more likely to be harmed by a slightly toxic chemical in their environment than a robust adult.  This is further explained in two articles. One by the Australian-based National Toxics Network: website https://ntn.org.au/are-australian-children-at-risk-2/ and the other an article published on the American-based Health Affairs.org:   https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0151

This is where natural paints and wood finishes play their part. These are made from natural ingredients, by companies whose primary goal is to make products which are non-toxic to people and the environment. They are therefore less likely to contain ingredients that could be toxic to a very sensitive person.  They could be compared to choosing organic (chemical free) food. Conventionally farmed food is regulated so that the pesticide levels in them are supposedly safe for the average person. However sensitive people wishing to avoid all chemicals in their food will choose organic food and natural paints and finishes.

The other consideration around toxicity is toxicity to our environment. Natural paints and finishes will generally not harm the environment in their manufacture or disposal. Chemical paints & finishes however can potentially pollute our environment during their manufacture and ultimate disposal, even if they are low VOC.

So non-toxic doesn’t mean you can eat it!  Paints and finishes are designed to be applied to walls, not eaten as food.

We provide a range of paints and finishes here that can be classified as non-toxic but within this range are some that are made from chemicals which wont harm the average person when applied to your wall, and some that are made from natural ingredients and suitable for highly chemically sensitive people. 

1.5 Are the synthetic preservatives known as isothiazolinones used in Rockcote paints?

Isothiazolinones (and close derivatives) are a common preservatives used in waterborne coatings.

ROCKCOTE Ecostyle paints use a different preservative compound which is not an Isothiazolinone or derivative. However their paints are manufactured in the same plant that does use these compounds.

Their range of tints does contain Isothiazolinones.

1.6 What is a sustainable paint or finish?

We’ve used the term sustainable as a more encompassing term than eco friendly or non-toxic. It includes both eco-friendly and non-toxic, and also brings awareness to the larger picture of why eco and non-toxic are important.

To become sustainable as a society we need to consider both our personal health and the health of our natural environment. We need to consider both short and long term consequences of our choices, and be aware of the type of businesses and technologies we are supporting with our dollar.

Sustainable includes our financial wellbeing along with our physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Although we are passionate about natural paints and finishes it would not be sustainable for some people’s budgets or lifestyle to use natural paints as these are more expensive than the low VOC paints. 

Hence we’ve chosen the word sustainable to best describe the choices we’ve made in selecting the range of paints & finishes we carry.

1.7 Are there low VOC finishes which can seal off outgassing of formaldehyde from chipboard?

In our research to find a product on the Australian market that states it will seal in formaldehyde, we have been unsuccessful. There is American product called Safe Seal, but it is not available in Australia. 

The best recommendation we can offer would be to use a product we sell called Murobond Murothane. It is a low VOC floor sealer that is simple, easy and economical to use, It will definitely slow down the formaldehyde emissions but not totally seal them in. 

2.1 How much paint do I need for an average size room?

Rockcote Ecostyle low sheen covers approx 14m2/L. This is the standard coverage of most acrylic low sheen wall paints.

Allowing two coats of paint (ie over primed or previously painted walls) an average size bedroom needs about 6L of paint for walls, plus 4L of paint for the ceiling. A small bedroom may only require 4L for walls plus 3L for ceilings, or a larger room 8L for walls and 5L for ceilings.

The Natural paints Volvox Clay paint and Dispersion Paint cover approx  9 - 10m2/L. This means they go on slightly thicker than acrylic paints and is why you get good opacity with two coats of natural paint without a primer. 

Allowing two coats of Natural paint on bare gyprock, an average size room will require 8L for the walls & 5L for ceiling. A small bedroom may require 6L of Natural paint for walls and 4L for ceiling, and a large room 10L for the walls & 6L for the ceiling.

2.2 I can't decide which paint to use?

Ask yourself “what are my priorities?”  Look at the list below and put them in order of your priority.

  1. Washable
  2. Economical
  3. Safe for my family
  4. Colours from a commercial colour chart
  5. Chemical free
  6. Least polluting for our planet
  7. Most natural looking

If the top four from the above list are in your top priorities then the low VOC acrylic paints are the best choice for you. If the last three are in your top priorities then look at the natural paints.

2.3 I need help to purchase these products online

If you’re new to purchasing paints & wood finishes online start by reading the short description of each product in a Category you are interested in. Then go on to read more about a particular product by clicking on that product.

If you would like to try a product before deciding on a large amount you can purchase sample pots of most products.

If would like further help to decide on an appropriate product for your purpose we are available on the phone from 7.30am - 4pm (NSW time) Mon–Friday or 10–2pm Saturday. Call us on: 0431 721 073 or you can send an email to: [email protected]

To help you find appropriate products for your project we will ask you:

What surface you are covering? Is it interior or exterior ? Does it have a coating on it already ? What condition is that coating in ? 

What sort of look are you wanting? 

What are your priorities? ie appearance / chemical sensitivity/ eco credentials / durability/ colour / price  ?


2.4 How do I choose colours?

It is valuable to choose colours by seeing a sample in your room. This allows you to see how it combines with other elements in the room such as flooring and furnishings, and gives you time to live with it for a few days.  Another good tip is that when a whole wall is painted one colour it may appear stronger than it did on a small chip. Therefore, choosing a shade lighter that the chip you like might give you the result you are after. 

There are several ways you can see potential colours in your room.

  1. We can post you a colour chart for the Murobond Paints. There is a price for the chart but we refund this if you return the chart in good condition when you’ve finished using it. This conserves resources – both ours, yours & the planet’s. The colour chart for Volvox paints can be found here

  2. You can view online colour charts for a number of the paints we stock. This should be used as a guide only, because colours displayed on computers are not always an accurate representation, however it may be sufficient to narrow your choice down to several colours, and you can then purchase sample pots to trial these in your room.

  3. If you are choosing the Rockcote Ecostyle paint, we can match colours from major paint company charts – eg Dulux, Taubmans or Wattyl. So, if you have access to one of these charts from your local hardware shop, you can specify a colour from this. 
2.5 Do you have any products that will seal and stop the off-gassing of previous paints?

No, we do not have any products available in Australia at the moment that are guaranteed to stop all off gassing of previous paints. However painting over them with Zinsser Smart Prime and then Rockcote Ecostyle paint we stop most of the off gassing from previous paints.  

3.1 Can I paint a water-based enamel over an old oil-based enamel paint ?

Yes, but you will need to paint a special primer such as Zinsser Smart Prime on first. No need to sand, just clean with a good detergent cleaner, rinse and dry, then paint with the Zinsser Smart Prime.  Allow 48hrs for this to form a good adhesion, then apply two coats of water based enamel such as Rockcote Ecostyle in either satin or gloss.

4.1 What can I paint my beehive / flowhive in ?

Rubio Hybrid wood protection is the perfect match for this, it comes in just the right size for small projects and also has a really fun colour range . It is  however recommended to paint the roof in a solid acrylic paint  that way the roof slats will be well sealed.

4.2 What is the difference between LIVOS oils and RUBIO MONOCOAT oils?

LIVOS wood oils penetrate into the wood and require 2 or 3 coats.

RUBIO MONOCOAT is a unique oil wax product which bonds to the surface layer of the wood and thus requires only one coat.

The LIVOS oils are more deeply penetrating so create a richer deeper look and higher sheen level. 

RUBIO MONOCOAT Oil Plus 2C is packaged with a clear accelerator, which speeds up the curing time of the finish. Most wood oils take 3 - 5 weeks to develop to their full hardness even though they may be fully dry after a day or two. This full hardening is called the curing time of the oil. By mixing the Accelerator with it RUBIO MONOCOAT Oil Plus 2C is fully cured in 7 - 10 days.

RUBIO MONOCOAT is more expensive per litre but it has a much larger coverage rate compared to the LIVOS oils so much smaller quantities are needed for the same job. 

4.3 What is the difference between LIVOS Kunos and LIVOS Ardvos oil?

Both Kunos and Ardvos are suitable for a wide range of timber surfaces including floors, furniture, bench tops and trim.

Kunos is a premium product. It has a higher resin content than Ardvos, so is slightly more water repellant and can be buffed to a higher gloss level. 

Ardvos is however slightly easier to apply and penetrates more deeply into the timber. 

Kunos is preferable to use on veneer panelling because it sits closer to the surface than Ardvos and hence less likely to interact with the glues in veneer timbers. While we have had no reactions with the glues used for veneer panelling in Australia it is perhaps best to avoid using Ardvos on these.

Kunos is also certified food safe so can be used with confidence on kitchen bench tops and chopping boards etc that come in direct contact with food.

Kunos is available in clear as well as stains colours, whereas Ardvos is only available in clear. 

Kunos Counter Top oil has even more resin content than Kunos, so has the added benefit of being heat resistant to 50 degrees, thus making it great for tables needing to withstand direct contact with hot cups and plates etc.

4.4 What oil is best for Saunas?

For the external parts of saunas you can use LIVOS Ardvos or RUBIO MONOCOAT Oil 2C. Both will allow the timber to breath and release moisture.  LIVOS Kunos has a higher resin content so less vapour permeable and not suitable for Saunas.

Internal walls of saunas are generally not coated, however individual parts such as seats could be coated with RUBIO MONOCOAT Oil 2C, but would need to be left outside to fully dry and cure before installing.  

4.5 What oil is best to use for a concrete floor and how much will I need?

Concrete can vary enormously in its porosity depending on it's hardness when poured and how it was ground or polished.

If the concrete is rough or very porous then we do not recommend using oils to finish it as it will absorb a lot of oil and stay matt and dull. A water based sealer such as Murothane would be preferable for this type of concrete.

If the concrete is relatively dense but not highly polished we recommend to prime first with LINUS Priming Oil, then apply two coats of KUNOS Oil Sealer. This is because Linus is more deeply penetrating so will give a more even first coat and KUNOS will sit on the surface and give a nice sheen. 

If the concrete is very dense and has been highly polished then three coats of KUNOS would be sufficient because it will absorb a lot less oil. However, if in doubt about the quality or density of your concrete, the safest way is to use the LINUS Priming Oil first.

Another option is to use ARDVOS Wood Oil for all 3 coats. This has good penetration and leaves a nice matt finish.

All oils will darken the concrete - similar to the appearance of water on it. However if you wish to keep it a lighter colour you can add a little White Vindo paint to the Ardvos oil. This will keep the colour close to the raw colour of the concrete, or make it white, depending on how much paint you add. 

The amount of oil need will vary enormously depending on how dense the concrete is and how highly polished it is. The LINUS required for the first coat may vary from 10L / 100m2 for more porous concrete down to 5L / 100m2 for dense highly polished concrete. The KUNOS required for the second and third coats will be significantly less because the porosity will be reduced by the priming oil. However, this may still vary between 2.5 - 5L / 100m2 (2 coats)  

4.6 Water has left a white mark on my oiled timber floor. How can I fix this?

Water staining on an oiled timber floor usually means that it requires another coat of oil to make it more water resilient. Cleaning with regular cleaners, and general wear and tear will slowly dry out the natural oils, and water spotting is a way of telling that it's in need of a refresher coat.   

White marks can be removed by scrubbing with full strength LIVOS Trena or Rubio Monocoat Soap. Rinse and dry well after this and sand lightly, then reapply more oil to the patch over several weeks. Ideally then refresh the whole floor with another coat of oil as above.

4.7 What is the best finish for a timber floor or timber panelling in a bathroom?

Because a bathroom floor will be subject to regular steam and water it would be best to apply a penetrating oil finish that will repel the water but allow the timber to breath and release moisture. A film forming Polyurethane would seal the timber, but is likely to break down in time with the constant exposure to heat and moisture (which causes timber to expand & contract). Once a tiny crack has opened in the film it will then allow water underneath and lead to the film lifting, peeling & discolouring.

The best oil finish in this situation would be Ardvos Wood Oil or Linus Priming Oil as the first coat because these are deeply penetrating oils. Leave this to dry for 2 days. Then apply 2 coats of Kunos Oil Sealer (a day between each coat ) – because this has extra resin content that will be more resilient to regular water on it.

Alternatively, on timber in a bathroom you could use Deck Cote in clear. This will allow breathability and not crack but can be brought to a higher sheen than oil if this is required.

4.8 I have a dark timber bookcase which I would like to finish, but dont want it to go any darker. What product can I use?

Generally water based finishes darken timber less than oils do. So, you could use either MUROBOND Murothane or VOLVOX ProAqua Wood Finish. The Volvox ProAqua Wood finish in WHITE colour would give the lightest colour finish. 

5.1 My new clay plaster wall has some mould spots on it?

This can happen if an organic material such as straw was mixed into the clay plaster and the wall experienced damp conditions which slowed down its drying time. Once fully dry the organic matter doesn’t seem to present a problem but if it stays damp too long when first drying this can occur.

The best remedy in this situation is to clean the wall with a fungicidal wash and then apply another coat of render over it - in dry conditions.

6.1 I want to repaint an old steel water tank that is rusty. What can I use?

Spot prime the rusted areas with PHOENIX Metalfix, then apply a coat of Phoenix Metalfix 1000 over the whole lot. This will provide an exceptionally resilient base coat that will prevent any further rust. It can then be painted with any of our exterior paints.

7.1 I have an old cement rendered wall that was coloured with oxides. It has now faded and I want to paint it. What paints are suitable?

We have three options for this 

Option 1. Prime first with ROCKCOTE AE Primer then use ROCKCOTE Ecostyle Low Sheen, or a textured paint such as ROCKCOTE Render Paint Flat or Toscani.  The textured paint will be thicker and help fill any minute cracks, plus it will give a nice even, new look to the render.

Option 2. Prime with MUROBOND Primer and paint with MUROBOND Murowash. This is a beautiful matt paint with a very fine texture that works exceptionally well on rendered walls. Sand can also be added to this paint for extra texture. Alternatively for a more patina'd and character look MUROBOND Pentimento Limewash can be applied over MUROBOND Primer.

Option 3. If not powdery on the surface (ie if no colour comes off when you wipe it with your hand) you can paint with two coats of ROCKCOTE Armour without a primer. This is thick membrane paint, ideal on rendered surfaces prone to cracking because of its slight elasticity.

7.2 What is the difference between a plasters and a render?

Generally plaster refers to thin decorative coatings that are applied to inside walls with a trowel, whereas renders are thicker coatings generally applied to exterior walls. However the terms are sometimes used a bit interchangeably today.  

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