The Best Paint for Your Money

Painting project on your to-do list? Get tips on how to get the best paint for your money.
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Better Paint Coverage

Better Paint Coverage

Paint with higher levels of titanium provides much better coverage, or "hideability."

Photo by: Blake Brinkman

Blake Brinkman

Paint with higher levels of titanium provides much better coverage, or "hideability."

A can of paint can completely transform the look of a room, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg. But what kind of paint gives you the most for your money? Per-gallon prices range from less than $8 to more than $30. Are the most expensive paints really worth the money?

One factor that affects the cost is the type of paint -- alkyd oil paint or water-based latex. Although the alkyd oil-based paints are more durable and can provide a slightly smoother coat, they are more difficult to work with and to clean up, and some states restrict the areas in which alkyd paints can be used. On the other hand, the improved chemistry of today's latex paints make them much more durable and easy to work with, and they can be cleaned up with water.

So what's the difference between a $30 can of paint and an $8 can? First, it's the amount of work it takes to apply the paint. The higher grades of paint contain titanium, which gives the paint more coverage so it does a better job of concealing the surface it covers. Cheaper paints contain little or no titanium, relying instead on clay. As a result, it may take three or more coats of cheap paint to equal the coverage of one coat of high-quality paint.

When applied by paintbrush, cheaper paints show brush marks and provide poor coverage. Higher-quality paints provide smooth, one-coat coverage.

Another big difference is in durability. The more expensive paints are also more washable and offer greater scrub resistance. If you try washing dirt off a cheaper paint, you're likely to wash off some of the paint itself.

Another benefit of higher-quality paints is their reduced tendency to spatter. They contain an antispattering agent that produces less mess than inferior paints.

Paint Colors and Finishes

When choosing paint colors, pick a paint chip that appeals to you, and match it to the store's fan deck; the colors are listed alphabetically and numerically. Next, check the light reflective value (LRV) of the paint. This is a scientific measurement of how dark or light the paint will be once it's on your walls. As a general rule, interior paints should have an LRV of 50 percent or more. Keep in mind that the color will appear more vibrant when you apply it to the walls.

Paints come in a variety of finishes, including flat, eggshell, semigloss/satin and high gloss. Flat paint is more forgiving and hides flaws well, but it doesn't stand up well to scrubbing. High-gloss paint is washable and easier to maintain, but it reveals surface imperfections and painting errors.

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