The question posed in the title is an important one for every individual, whether he or she is a do-it-yourself homeowner or a professional who wants to deliver the results that clients want and deserve. How can you get the information you need to make a decision on how much to invest in paint? Can you be sure that you’re using the “best” paint when you pay a lot more for one brand as compared to another?
Before getting into details about what makes a paint “good” and what makes a paint “great,” it might be best to make an important point. Veterans of the commercial painting world firmly believe that a paint brand can get a bad reputation because the person using it does a poor job of preparing the surface. This is a subject for another time. But you should spend as much time on surface preparation as you do on any other part of the process.
Solids content is one of the main reasons for high prices on some paints. Every paint is composed of a liquid such as water or alkyd. The other two main ingredients are pigment and binder. The paint dries as the liquid (solvent) evaporates, leaving the other two ingredients. These last two are the solids, with the binder holding the pigment together.
As you can probably guess, if a paint has more pigment and binder, it will protect the surface better and hide imperfections. If you’re paying a higher price, you should be getting more solids since the only other ingredient is water or the evaporating solvent. One place where you may want to spend a bit more on paint for this reason is painting interior walls when you have children and/or pets who could lead you to wash the walls on a regular basis. If you don’t anticipate wall cleaning because of children and pets, you can save a bit of money with a less-expensive paint.
You may also want to spend a bit more for that extra solids content if you’re covering a strong color and you don’t want to paint two or three coats to get the job done. In this case, you may save money by using one coat of a better paint. You’ll also save a lot of time, of course.
Most experienced painters will save their project money on ceiling paint. A medium-priced flat white should do the job well without emptying your bank account in the process. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you should spend more for outstanding paint when you’re painting exterior surfaces. You’ll actually save money in the long run because you won’t have to repaint as often. It’s as simple as that. Better paints extend the life of your coat of paint.
It’s also the belief of many professionals that you should use a separate paint for the prime coat and another for the finish coat. If you do try a paint and primer in one and it covers well, it’s probably because of the higher solids content.