The Quality Question

The premium line from any manufacturer will almost certainly cover better and last longer than its less-expensive versions. Because the expense of painting is mostly in the labor, it makes sense to buy premium paint. But suppose you plan to move or want to change the color scheme of your home in the next few years. Here's where you can save with a midlevel paint that's backed for 10 years or so versus 15 or more for many top-of-the-line paints. "We find customers really don't believe warranty claims," says Lane Blackburn, vice president of architectural marketing for Sherwin-Williams. "But they do use the warranty as a guide to quality." For example, Ace Hardware, like most retailers, offers two exterior-paint lines: Royal Shield ($20 to $25 per gallon, 15-year warranty) and Quality Shield ($16, 10-year warranty). There are other ways to pick quality exterior paint out of a lineup: Proper pigments. Quality pigments allow a good paint to cover fully with just one coat. Paints with lower-cost pigments often must be applied in several coats. That means more work, which makes buying low-quality paint a poor financial decision. The best pigment is titanium dioxide. Look for it when ingredients are listed on the can. High percentage of solids. The solids are what's left on the wall after the paint has dried. Anything over 45 percent is considered good; the higher the level of solids, the better, because you'll wind up with a denser, more durable coating. For example, a gallon of Dulux Exterior Flat contains 52 percent solids by weight. However, be aware that some companies add cheap fillers to beef up the percentage of solids - that makes it wise to stay away from inexpensive paints with a high level of solids. Although you typically won't find information about solids on the label, check with your paint retailer, ask to see product data sheets or fire up your modem and check the company's Website. All-acrylic binder. The binder is what holds the pigments, mildewcides and other solids that form the actual paint film. Look for latex paint with an all-acrylic binder, which is inherently more weather resistant than vinyl or vinyl-acrylic. Many paint companies use a modified acrylic for their interior lines and all-acrylic for premium exterior paints made to endure the elements. For example, Glidden's Spred Satin is an interior with a modified acrylic, while its Spred Dura Satin is an exterior paint with an all acrylic binder. If you don't see "100% Acrylic" or "All Acrylic" in bold on the front of the can, check ingredients for "acrylic polymer." Also be sure you pick the right paint for the surface you're covering. Most water-based exterior paints can be used on wood and hardboard siding and trim. They're also fine for vinyl and aluminum siding, and most masonry. On stucco prone to cracking, use an elastomeric paint. It's more flexible than standard coatings and leaves a durable film that's twice as thick (about 5 mil). An example is the stucco paint from Valspar, which bridges hairline cracks to keep out water. You can also buy paint tailored to conditions in specific regions of the country. Dutch Boy's ClimateGuard line was the first of these paints from a major manufacturer. For example, its Southeast formulation has extra mildewcides for a humid climate, while Northwest paint is higher in solids to resist months of rainfall.
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