Should some paint get the big brush-off? Is there really a difference in quality between expensive and cheaper paint? And what about those big box store brands? These are questions most homeowners should ask themselves before making their paint purchase.
Protecting the health of a home's inhabitants is the number one reason for purchasing "green," or toxin-free paint.
"People want to make sure the paint is safe and friendly for kids, pregnant women, dogs and everything else," says Israel Jaramillo, product manager at Phoenix Organics on Highway 99. "Conventional paint has chemicals like formaldehyde and other toxins in the synthetic dryers that are evaporating or gassing off inside the home and they can cause effects on individuals."
Although most people have resistance to the toxins in paint, others react with asthma-like symptoms and some folks experience delayed symptoms, says Jaramillo.
Chemically sensitive and environmentally responsible homeowners can purchase green paint for $25 — $30 a gallon, about the same price as high-quality conventional paint. In fact, says Jaramillo, the non-toxic alternative is practically identical to higher-end products like Benjamin Moore and Ralph Lauren, it's just made without the chemicals and synthetics.
Some of the larger brands offer "natural" varieties, but be careful — there may be hidden costs and chemicals involved.
"The base paint may be clean, but the tints are full of solvents which make the paint no longer environmentally friendly, plus you may have to pay for the tints," Jaramillo says. "It's kind of like having the organic broccoli with MSG seasoning on the side."
To avoid this consumer pitfall, look for solvent-free tints. And some stores don't charge extra for the natural tints.
"Using paint that costs $7-$9 a gallon is not a fun project," says Chris Muck, store manager at Miller Paint Company in Ashland. "It behooves you to spend a little more money and get a better quality product, one with a lifetime warranty."
Quality paint benefits the homeowner in the form of ease of application, fewer chips and increased performance — to say nothing of longevity.
"You can get the cheap stuff, but you have to ask how often will you have to re-paint?" says Israel Jaramillo, product manager at Phoenix Organics on Highway 99. "They cut paint by adding fillers to make more money off it. The difference between good and bad paint is the ingredients are better and in the long run this will pay off."
The general push in the market has been for quality products that make the consumer happier, says Muck. The combination of superior ingredients and rising transportation costs has translated into several price increases over the past three years.
"Realistically, to get a good quality interior house paint, everybody's pretty much priced in the $20-$25 per gallon range, with some paint going up to $40 a gallon," Muck says.
Where to buy paint
Predictably, these higher-end paints aren't available just anywhere and usually require a trip to a specialty shop. The good news is that advice is included.
"Big box stores might save a buck or two but you'll miss on add-on sales and customer service," Muck says.
What to ask
Quality paints are easier to use because they rate well when it comes to the product's main performance characteristics: flow, leveling and hide. Be sure to ask the counter person how the chosen paint measures up.
Flow and leveling are apparent when brushing out trim work or cabinets.
"It's how well that paint goes on and spreads, and leveling means the brush strokes level themselves out," explains Muck. "And hide is how well it covers"»."
Most salespeople will tell a customer if a paint is a "poor hider," but painters should keep in mind that most all finishes need two coats. If enamel paint is being used, ask about its sandability — because the end product is meant to look shiny, the paint may have to be sanded in places and not all enamel paint stands up to the treatment, Muck says.
If budget requires bargain hunting, be just as choosy, says Martin Sabouri, owner of Martin's Painting Services in Gold Hill. "Look for good latex paint that's harmless and odorless with no smell," he says. "And after you put paint on the walls, see how it handles itself — the amount of thickness that's attached to the wall is what gives it the protection. If you're using paint that's not good, it will affect your walls."
Finally, when a contractor or painter is hired for the job, check his credentials. "People out there act as a contractor but they're not," says Sabouri. There are so many tricks — they can mix paint with water, or mix paint with melted chalk. Get a good contractor, talk to the paint stores, pick up cards at stores and talk to managers for recommendations."
And if something doesn't seem right — either with the product or with the painters — don't be afraid to give it the brush-off and ask for something better!