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How to Choose A House Paint

Updated on February 1, 2012

The Right Paint for Your Home

It has been thousands of years since the first paints were applied to cave walls, which were derived from soil and animal fats. Of course, paint has changed drastically in its formulation, especially in the past 30 or so years. Not long ago, Oil, or alkyd, -based paints were the standard for durability, since they are solvent-based and cure slowly to a hard film. But water-based (latex) paints have taken over; they have benefited from millions of dollars worth of industry research and boast the technology to outperform oils in almost every application. Oil paints are now in retirement and will soon be gone from store shelves; and this is good news, as they are more harmful to the environment than latex paints.

Water-based Paints

Latex paints come in many varieties, but share in common a waterborne formula. 100% acrylic paints are the best grade, they contain the most acrylic resins, and such paint with a high percentage of acrylic allow for better stain resistance, and water resistance. When buying household paint, manufacturers such as Sherwin-Williams will have the words “100% acrylic” written on labels when applicable. If that is not the case, a premium-quality paint, such as Benjamin Moore's "Regal" line, are certainly of excellent quality, and have a price to match, but are a safe choice. In the paint world, raw ingredient are expensive, so you will not find a great performing paint for a huge discount. The best guage of the quality of a paint product is therefore price combined with specific performance enhancements of the product. The latter being additives, or proprietary technologies, that are added to the paint. Cheaper paints can be tempting to the cost-conscious, but the difference in price is a nearly direct correlation in the amount of quality materials that make paint perform well. You don’t want to be up all night putting a 3rd coat on your walls after realizing the "great deal" you got on the paint turned out to be a watered-down mess.

Don't skimp

When considering the cost of hiring a painting contractor to apply a few gallons, it makes sense to buy the best paint. If you are doing it yourself, you also stand to save time with a top-line paint; you avoid the need for an extra coat in some cases, and overall ease-of-use will be much appreciated, not to mention the added quality and durability of the finish that will last long after the painting work. Top of the line paint can cost upwards of $60 per gallon, but the extra money is well spent, especially for labor intensive jobs like painting furniture or trim that use little paint but a lot of elbow-grease!

We know we want latex paint, since they are greener, easier to use, and perform best overall. Products can still vary widely in the realm of water-borne formulas, and it all depends on their purpose. Interior paint is made specifically to excel at good coverage, stain-resistance and washability, splatter-resistance and even quick touch-ups inside the home. You can get a number of finishes, or “sheens”; flat, eggshell or low lustre, pearl/satin, semigloss, gloss, and modern choices such as “ultra-mat” are popular for their understated elegance. Gloss is known for its shinyness and its durability, since gloss paints contain more of the ingredient that creates a smooth, and therefore glossier finish. It is usually used for trim, however premium lines are usually durable enough even in low-sheen formulas for most home applications, so don't feel obligated to buy gloss paints.

Latex paint for exteriors is formulated for the challenges of outdoor protection. That means it is made to be resilient against the elements: durability, color retention against sun exposure and resistance to fading, moisture resistance and sealing, and flexibility to withstand weather-related expansion and contraction. To allow the product to resist these conditions, exterior paint contains more pigment and resin than interior paint. They can for the most part, be purchased in the same or similar sheen varieties as interior paints, and you can get some great looking paint that also performs well for the outside of your house. A great example is "Duration" from Sherwin Williams, which is expensive at around $70 per gallon, but boasts amazing performance in all of the above mentioned characteristics.

Interior vs exterior paint is quite different, so its important to get the right kind for your task. Specialized paints are also recommended when it is applicable; bathroom paint, for example, is engineered for moisture rich interior conditions. You also want to get specially-designed floor paint for floors and decks, since these require unusual durability. A good paint store will be able to recommend excellent paint for any painting job you can think of, and don't be afraid to ask the staff for advise; or you could call a reputable painting company. Getting the right paint is the first crucial step towards a great painting job, and you should now have a great idea of what paint to get.

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      Diana 5 years ago

      Very helpful, thanks a lot! I will take your advice and look into Duration.