Pick the Right Paint
The surest way to make the best choice is to brush up on the basics.
Synopsis: Choosing the right paint for the interior of your house can make a big difference in how good it looks and how well it holds up. This article takes you through the selection process, from determining what type of paint will work best for each job to distinguishing a quality paint. Standard paints and primers as well as additives and eco-friendly options are discussed in detail, with plenty of manufacturer resources provided.
Thinking of changing the color of your living room walls? You’re in good company. Half of all recent home buyers repainted soon after moving in. There are other reasons as well to put on a fresh coat: an addition to the family, an addition to the house, a new couch. Painting is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to update and decorate.
But don’t just grab a can off the shelf and go at it. There’s more to paint than meets the eye, and a hasty choice can leave you with poor results: paint that doesn’t cover or adhere well, a color that turns ugly when the lights go down, or dirty fingerprints that don’t wash off. And surface prep is more important than most homeowners realize. “We always say that [surface] preparation is 85 percent of the job,” says Deb Zimmer, spokeswoman for the Paint Quality Institute. Starting off right will save you money—and time—in the end.
What makes a high-quality paint?
No matter what paint you choose, there are three components in every can. Pigment, made from titanium dioxide and mineral or chemical dyes, provides color and the ability to cover or hide. Binder, made from acrylic latex, oils, and resins or alkyds (modified oils), makes the paint stick. The rest is liquid (also called the carrier or solvent), which makes the paint flow. In latex paints the liquid is water; in oil paints, mineral spirit solvents.
In both oil and latex paint, the amount of solids—pigment plus binder—is what matters. A higher volume of solids (35 to 45 percent) means the paint will dry to a thicker film and provide better coverage. A premium line will have the greatest solids content, and thus the highest price and longest warranty.
For pigment, titanium dioxide’s whiteness, longevity, and covering power is unrivaled. Cheaper paints will have a greater ratio of “extender” pigments that don’t work as well. As for binders, paints that are 100 percent acrylic are usually more durable and adhere better than less-expensive vinyl-acrylic paints.
Paint may also include small amounts of preservatives, mildewcides, and other agents. You can change some qualities, as the professionals do, with store-bought additives. For example, Floetrol (for latex) or Penetrol (for oil based) will help the paint flow better and slow down the drying, minimizing brush strokes.
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