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How to Identify High-Quality Paint

If you’re considering a fresh coat of paint for your home or business, a crucial preliminary step is deciding on materials.  Even for professionals, choosing paint is a critical and often-times daunting decision.  Browsing options at your local home improvement store usually doesn’t ease the anxiety, as most large retailers carry a seemingly-infinite amount of brands, colors, and varieties.

A quality, lasting paint will pay dividends in the long-run, but cheaper alternatives may cause headaches general dissatisfaction.  Conversely, top-shelf paint can sometimes run $40-45 per gallon.  So while buying the most-expensive product usually results in a quality paint job, it will come at a substantial financial cost.  Is there a happy-medium?


You Pay for What you Get

As is usually the case, cost is strongly indicative of quality.  For all major manufacturers, the premium line will always last longer and look better than the less-expensive alternatives.  However, “middle-of-the-road” choices are viable options for most individuals (although, it really depends on your specific situation and end-goal).  Mid-level paints will cost less than the premium-lines, but can still last a good 10-12 years without substantial chipping or fading.

According to Lane Blackburn, vice president of architectural marketing for Sherwin-Williams, when deciding on the quality of paint, the warranty can be valuable information.  For instance, paint with a 15-year warranty is likely of better quality than paint with an 8-year warranty.  In general, warranties correlate with price.  Is it possible to find higher-quality, suitable paints for cheaper prices?

Water-Based Paints

A key to finding the “ideal” paint (if such thing exists) is to understand its immediate and long-term use.  In the case of an exterior paint job, water-based is what you want and is what a lot of Alpharetta painting contractors prefer.  Water-based paints, also called latex paints, confer a number of advantages for exterior jobs over oil-based alternatives.  For one, they are able to expand or contract along with siding-material, giving them more flexibility and fluidity.  As years pass, more rigid paints will crack or split, but the flexibility of water-based options mostly prevents this from happening

Oil-Based Paints

Oil-based paints are great for some situations.  However, when applied to home-exteriors, may dry to an inflexible coating that blocks moisture.  Lacking any plasticity, oil-based paints can be conducive to cracks, blisters, or chips.   Again, choosing water- or oil-based really depends on context-specific details, such as the type of surface being painted, the previous paint type used, and the local climate.


Don’t Underestimate the Pigment

Perhaps the best way to understand quality pigment is to consider how many coats are needed for a good cover.  Paints with high-quality pigments will cover fully with just one coat (for this reason, some claim that the quality of the paint is merely the quality of the pigment).  Of course, higher quality pigments will cost more money.  However, many individuals trying to cut-costs end up spending more on 3-4 coats of cheap paint than they would have on 1 solid coat of quality paint.  Importantly, experts agree that the best pigment is titanium dioxide. Be sure to look for this compound on the paint can.  Its presence normally indicates quality pigment, thus quality paint.


Solids and Binders

A few other factors worth mentioning are solids and binders.  The higher percentage of solids in a paint, the better, as higher solid-contents indicate more durability.  Conventionally, anything 45% or greater is considered adequate, however this bit of information typically isn’t listed on the can.  Depending on your paint job, it might be worth reaching-out to the manufacturer or distributor regarding solid-content before investing in thousands-of-dollars’ worth of paint.

Likewise, high-quality binders produce more-durable coats of paint.  An all-acrylic binder—or sometimes advertised as 100% Acrylic Binder—is what top-shelf paints contain.  Why all-acrylic?  Simply because all-acrylic binders are more weatherproof than alternative vinyl-based binders.  Importantly, beware of “modified” acrylic binders.  Modified acrylic binders are commonly used in interior paints, however may be found in cheaper exterior paints as well.  Modified acrylic binders will fade and deteriorate much more quickly than all-acrylic alternatives, especially in regions that see more extreme weather.


Preparation is Key!

So far, we’ve discussed that higher-priced and better-warrantied products typically indicate better quality. Additionally for exterior-jobs, water-based paints are more appropriate than oil-based, specifically those with high-quality titanium dioxide pigments, solid percentages above 45%, and all-acrylic binders.  The last tip here has little to do with the type of paint, and more with how you prep your project.  If applied incorrectly, even the highest-quality paint can fail.

Applying primer before painting might add time to a project, but will save a considerable amount of effort and money in the long-run.  Not all jobs require primer, but if you’re painting an untreated surface, primer is a must (alkyd primers are ideal for bare wood, but water-based primers might be more appropriate depending on your particular situation).   Other applications or treatments may be necessary depending on your project.  For instance, some professionals apply paintable water repellent for new construction, and plenty of ventilation.

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