Paint varnish stain and wax

Paints, varnishes and stains are used to make a building more beautiful. Traditional painting has, to a great extent, revealed a wish to imitate other more noble building materials. The light yellow and grey fagades have imitated light stone fag ades of marble, lime or sandstone; dark red facades have imitated brick. Colour has in this way had an outward-looking, representational function and still is a powerful form of visual communication in most cultures (Ojo et al., 2006). But it can also be used for internal therapy. Theo Gimbel (2004) believes that colours can start a chemical process within us, and that each cell is a sort of eye that takes them in. Red helps relieve tiredness and bad moods, but should be avoided by those with heart problems. Yellow stimulates the brain. Green has a quieting effect, while violet strengthens creativity and spirituality. Perception psychology has also shown that experience of space can be manipulated with colours and textures. A correct colouring can 'expand' a small room. This is achieved primarily by using matt finishes in 'receding' colours such as green, blue and blue-grey mixed with white. By contrast, 'advancing' strong colours such as red, yellow and browns will make the room seem smaller. The interplay of surfaces can also have significant effects. A light ceiling in a room with dark walls will 'raise' the room height, and the opposite will make the room feel lower (Neuffert, 1975). In this way, small buildings can be made to appear and feel larger. This might be one way to make reduced space use more acceptable; we know that efficient space use is one of the keys to reduced energy use and environmental impacts of buildings (see page 8).

Paints are also intended to protect the material underneath it. This is not always the case: there are many examples of damage caused by surface treatments, such as render and masonry that quickly begins to decay after treatment with vapour-proof paint, or timber that is often attacked by mould soon after being painted. Research has shown that the decay of untreated timber, when exposed to ultraviolet radiation, wind and rain, is relatively small. In very exposed areas, only about 1 mm is worn down in 10 years; in normal weather conditions 1 mm is eroded in 10 to 100 years. A much more significant protection than even the most careful painting can be obtained instead by working wisely with untreated materials and what is now termed the structural protection of materials (see page 411).

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