House Paint Colors and Options

What to look for in an exterior house paint: Choosing paint colors and more

By: Don Vandervort

When it comes to improving your home, one of the quickest, easiest and least expensive ways to make a significant impact is to paint. Nothing revives weatherworn siding, perks-up tired walls or adds a touch of style and distinction better than a new coat of paint. Painting can be like instant renovation.

Not to suggest that painting is cheap. The fact is, whether you do it yourself or hire a pro, painting involves a serious commitment of time, money and effort. You want to get it right the first time, so you won't be back on ladders in a couple of years.

One of the most important decisions you'll face is choosing the right paint. This is critical to whether or not your new paint job will look good and last. But choosing paint can be tricky--paints have gone through such dramatic changes in the past few years that it's hard to know what to buy. Here we'll take a closer look so you can make clear, informed decisions.

Paint basics

Paint is primarily a mixture of pigment, resin and a carrier. Titanium dioxide is the main, white pigment; relatively small amounts of other pigments are added by the dealer to tint the color. Resin makes paint adhere to a surface. Carrier is the evaporative liquid added to thin the mixture so you can brush or roll it on--water for latex paints or a solvent such as linseed or soybean oil for oil/alkyd paints. Paint also contains clay or other inert ingredients to adjust the paint's sheen. And it may contain small amounts of secondary solvents that help gloss, drying characteristics and the like.

The amount and quality of each ingredient determine a paint's performance and price. For example, paint with plenty of titanium dioxide has strong hiding characteristics and, because this is the most expensive ingredient, costs more. Oil/alkyd paints that utilize odorless mineral spirits as a carrier are more expensive than those with regular solvents. With this in mind, price is a good indicator of quality.

Latex or oil/alkyd?

When choosing paint, the most perplexing question for homeowners is often, "Should we use latex or oil/alkyd?"

This confusion is rooted in history. For years, solvent-based paints were favored for woodwork, trim, some interior and most exterior surfaces because they flow uniformly, have excellent leveling characteristics, adhere well to surfaces--particularly chalky or poorly-prepared surfaces--and they provide a tough, hard-shell finish. And exterior alkyds can be used in sub-freezing situations.

But now, change is in the wind--literally. Both state and federal air-quality laws are clamping down on the use of solvents in oil/alkyd paints. The problem is this: A gallon of solvent-based paint contains about two quarts of mineral spirits. These solvents evaporate into the air as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), causing pollution.

In the near future, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to issue guidelines to all states, setting minimum standards for paint formulas. Many existing state regulations already align with--or exceed--these standards. Some states, such as California, have even more stringent requirements. These guidelines significantly impact the use and/or makeup of solvent-based paints. According to Lane Blackburn, Vice President of Architectural Marketing at Sherwin-Williams, "Solvent paints that comply with these guidelines don't really have advantages over water-based paints. They dry slower and are more difficult to apply. And they cost more."

Although water-based paints contain various levels of the regulated solvents (in an "alkyd-modified" latex, there may be as much as one pint of solvent per gallon), solvent levels in all water-based paints fall short of the limits.

Blackburn points out that these new regulations are good news for most people. "The environmental constraints have forced better technology than we had before. I've been in business 30 years, and it amazes me at how outstanding these new water-based finishes are. Home owners are being exposed to outstanding finishes they didn't even have five years ago."

Skip Lennox, Technical Services Manager at ICI Paints, Inc., says, "There is no question that a good quality acrylic latex has far better gloss retention and fade resistance than an alkyd. You can use it on aluminum siding or vinyl siding, as long as you don't darken the color significantly on vinyl (heat may distort the siding). And it's the only choice for masonry."

Lennox notes, "The only place really left for alkyds is trim, the front door, and maybe the windows." If there's an older coating of oil-alkyd paint and the finish is flaking or poorly prepared, it may be smart to seek out an oil-alkyd paint that complies with regulations. But, judging by the tightening standards, there may come a day when all paints are required to be zero-VOC.

The bottom line is this: the technology has shifted so dramatically that your best choice in most situations will be latex paint. Eventually, latex may become your only choice.

Acrylic, vinyl-acrylic or alkyd-modified? Latex paints are not all the same. Although the first latex paints were named after their synthetic "latex" rubber base, synthetic rubber isn't used anymore. Now the term "latex" encompasses all water-borne paint. But within that category, you have choices, notably vinyl-acrylic, 100% acrylic and alkyd-modified latex.

Vinyl-acrylic latex is the least expensive but suitable for most interior walls and for shorter-durability exterior walls. High-performance interior paints are 100% acrylic; they have better color retention, better adhesion and, in the case of the enamels, better gloss than vinyl-acrylics.

High-quality exterior paints are either 100% acrylic or alkyd-modified latex. Both are excellent. But if the siding was previously painted with an alkyd or is chalking, you may want to consider using an alkyd-modified latex. Bob Bonadies, Consumer Products Project Coordinator at Benjamin Moore & Company, says alkyd-modified latex does a better job of penetrating and anchoring the coating on a chalky surface. Other manufacturers consider 100% acrylics to be their best products.

The paint's sheen

Paint may have any of several lustres. From dull to shiny, they are: flat, eggshell, pearl, satin, semi-gloss and gloss (in Canada, satin falls between flat and eggshell). Each company has slight variations in the level of sheen in each category.

A paint's lustre depends upon its mixture of pigment, resin and inert ingredients. Paint with less pigment and more resin is glossier than the reverse. Enamel is a term that usually denotes an extra-smooth, hard surface coating--the result of using plenty of resin in the formula.

The glossier a finish, the more durable and washable it tends to be. Flat paint is great at hiding irregularities and surface imperfections, important for both exterior and interior walls. Pearl and eggshell paints are a compromise; they partially hide imperfections and are more washable than flat paints. For painting interiors, the best choices are often flat paint for ceilings, eggshell for walls and semi-gloss or gloss on doors and trim. Exteriors typically call for flat or satin wall paints and semi-gloss on trim. Sears Paint Buyer, Tom Segretto, says, "With Sears Weatherbeater, our most popular sheen is satin, a good choice because it's not too shiny but cleans easier than flat."

Highly durable gloss enamels used to be available only as oil/alkyd-based products. But now you can get a very high-gloss, water-based finish that almost looks sprayed on. Sherwin-Williams' Pro Classic Waterborne Enamels are one example of this new water-based technology; these finishes offer excellent hiding, don't yellow or become brittle and are guaranteed to cover in one coat.

One-coat hiding Another distinguishing characteristic of good paint is coverage, sometimes called "hiding." When a label says "one-coat hiding," read the fine print. An interior or exterior finish that is guaranteed one coat, without any exceptions, should cover in one coat when properly applied. Obviously, one-coat hiding is a major labor saver and well worth paying a premium to get.

The determining factor for good hiding is the level of titanium dioxide in the mixture-- the more it contains, the better the hiding. Some flat paints utilize cheap fillers to achieve high levels of hiding; unfortunately, the rest of their characteristics, such as scrubbability, fall short.

Scrubbable finishes

Interior paints have a scrubbability rating, established through standardized testing. This is a good indication of a paint film's toughness and ability to withstand physical abuse. Though this rating may not be posted on the can, a paint retailer should have information on the rating. By comparing these, you can get a good idea of the paint's quality.

One problem with using a flat paint on interior walls is that it can be washed, but it doesn't take kindly to scrubbing. If you scrub it with a damp cloth, you'll remove the dirt or smudge but exposed pigment particles actually become burnished or polished--which ruins the finish. To avoid this, it's better to choose a high-performance eggshell (not flat) paint.

Some new high-performance finishes are amazingly easy to clean--you just sponge them off as if you were wiping off a countertop. Ketchup, food, scuff marks, mud...all of these things just wipe clean. Sherwin Williams' Everclean is such a finish; Dutch Boy Kid's Room Paint and Benjamin Moore & Company's Regal AquaVelvet and Sears Best Easy Living Satin are other easily-cleaned examples.

Which room?

Choosing the right paint also involves recognizing how the room will be used. If you don't want to figure out the right formula, sheen, and other characteristics for a certain job, you may want to check out Dutch Boy Paints' line. They decided to take the guesswork out of choosing the right formulas.

"We found out what most the often painted interior rooms and exterior projects were, and formulated products for those uses," says Linda Feldman, Brand Manager. "In functional rooms such as kitchens, baths and bedrooms, you want durability and easy maintenance first. In more decorative rooms, such as living rooms, master bedrooms or dining rooms, appearance is often the key factor. In a child's room, safety is critical." With the results from their research, Dutch Boy came out with "Kid's Room Paint," "Kitchen & Bath," "Cabinet & Trim" and other location-specific paints. Their Kid's Room Paint, for example, is a durable, washable low-odor latex formula that coordinates with a line a matching children's borders.

Final advice

When you buy paint, go with reputable brands. Tailor your choices to the project, but don't waste your time or money on low-quality paint. There are significant differences between cheap and quality paints, particularly in characteristics such as hiding and washability. You're also more likely to find a more extensive color palette in the quality lines.

And last, but not least, don't forget to check the warrantee on the label--this is a benchmarking device that normally gives you a fair measure of the differences between quality levels of various paints.

Article source :

Color Style Studio

Wouldn’t it be great to preview color combinations on your house, before spending a lot of money on paint? You can, with a virtual painting program called Color Style Studio. Just point and click to see rooms, furnishings, and house exteriors in so many different colors. Use this program to explore possibilities, then test spot your chosen paints in a small area. Visit the home page of this software for more information.

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