Pick the Perfect Paint

March 23, 2010
Color isn’t the only thing to think about when choosing the right paint for your next project

When you’re looking to paint a space, color and cost may be your only concerns. But should they be? Here are seven things to think about when you’re shopping for paint for your next project.

1. Scrubability and Burnish Resistance
Paint that has high degrees of washability, scrubability, and burnish resistance will hold up better over time. "The critical combination of washability, scrubability, and burnish resistance will help ensure durable, great-looking surfaces that will remain free of scuff and burnish marks longer," says Steve Revnew, vice president of product development for Sherwin-Williams.

2. Hiding Characteristics
Good-quality paints are self-leveling and use a high film build to mask minor drywall imperfections, which minimizes brush or roller marks and leaves a smooth, uniform finish with fewer coats.

3. Mildew Resistance
Paints that have antimicrobial properties prevent mildew and mold from forming on the paint film. These paints are seen in areas that are exposed to water – such as kitchens and bathrooms – to help hold back mildew or mold growing on the surface, explains Mark Zielinski, senior director of marketing at Kelly-Moore Paints.

4. Sheen
Sheen affects durability. "In general, when comparing a flat finish to a gloss, flats are the least durable, and durability increases as gloss increases," Revnew says. "However, a flatter finish does a good job of hiding imperfections."

5. Location
Think about the area to be painted before selecting a grade of paint. "If you’re going to paint the ceiling (nobody ever touches the ceiling), you can get away with a lower grade of paint," says Zielinski. "If you put low-end enamel on the doors or the bathroom stalls, people are touching it with their hands. With the oils and grease on their hands, and their rings scratching it, it’s a constant maintenance problem. It’s not worth it – you might as well put paint on there that will hold up to the grease, oil, and constant cleanings so you don’t have to repaint and pay the labor to repaint every couple of years or every year."

6. Frequency of Repainting
The only places where you should use lower-quality paint are places where you expect to repaint frequently (and where it wouldn’t be an inconvenience to repaint frequently), says Bob White, technical manager of interior latex paints at Olympic Paints. "It comes down to what the building is being used for – if it’s an apartment where there’s lots of turnover and you’ll paint once a year, you can get by with lower-quality paint because you’re going to refresh the rooms. If it’s a place like a hallway, you’ll want higher-durability paint because you don’t want to paint that frequently." Lower-quality paint can also be used in dorm rooms, but higher-quality paint should be used in classrooms and hallways that get lots of use and abuse.

7. Green (Not the Color)
"As demand for green building practices continues to grow, and the standards for green building certifications continue to grow more stringent, VOC compliance for a coating has become an important characteristic of a good-quality paint," Revnew says. To be classified as low-VOC paint, the EPA and other government organizations require VOCs to be limited to 50 grams per liter of paint for industrial applications, he explains. "Green paint that meets these environmental standards has 20 to 30 percent of the VOCs of traditional paint."

Also consider these paints if your paint contractors will be working in occupied spaces (such as in hospitals and office buildings during business hours). "That paint would be one that I would look at for the interior of a commercial building because there’s no odor and it’s still very high performance as far as scrubability and washability," Zielinski says.

"Lower-quality paints should cost $10 or less per gallon, while higher-quality paints will start around $15 and go up to $40 or $50. A paint above $15 should be a good quality that you can be happy with," says White. "The most important thing to consider is the right quality of paint for the job. If it’s a place you can easily paint and has high turnover, you can use lower-quality paint. But if it’s a place that’s inconvenient to paint and is subject to a lot of abuse or traffic, use higher-quality paint – you’ll be much happier." B

Kylie Wroblaski was an associate editor at Buildings.

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