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Up to the Testing: Consumer Reports’ Take on the Top Exterior Paints

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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If money is no object—or let’s say, it’s not “the only” object—The Sherwin-Williams Company’s “Duration” exterior paint is hard to top.

If price is an issue, on the other hand, a number of other exterior paint products make a good deal of sense in terms of delivering a balance of performance and economy.

 Consumer Reports

 Consumer Reports

Value proposition: Exterior paints from Glidden earned “Best Buy” billing in the Consumer Reports ratings.

That’s the word from the influential, unbiased and non-profit Consumer Reports, which recently issued its influential ratings of exterior paint products, based on a battery of demanding test methods analyzing a number of important appearance and performance measures.

Sherwin-Williams’ Duration, in satin and semigloss finishes, took the top rating in the rankings, and finished No. 2 in ratings of flat paints, behind California Paints’ Fres-Coat Velvet Flat.

“Paying more than $60 per gallon for Sherwin-Williams’ Duration flat, satin and semigloss paints buys a finish that still looked impressive after the equivalent of nine years, or about how often most homes are painted,” Consumer Reports says in its June edition, citing testing in “grueling outdoor conditions that intensify the effects of sun, sleet and snow.”

Under these accelerated outdoor methods, CR says, “one year of exposure equals roughly three on your house.”

Exterior paints


Consumer Reports said products making the rankings list of “winners” still looked good after the equivalent of up to nine years on a house, or three years on a deck for stains.

But, the report adds, Glidden’s Premium Spred flat and satin paints are two of “several” finishes that performed almost as well for a markedly lower price.

At a price listed in the report at $42, California Paints’ Fres-Coat flat joins Sherwin-Williams Duration flat as carrying significantly pricier bar codes than several other highly-rated paints that cost considerably less—Glidden Spred Flat and Premium Flat, Behr Premium Plus Flat, and Valspar Ultra Premium Flat.

Thus, while Fres-Coat and Duration flats earn the CR “recommended” stamp of approval, the other paints are judged “CR Best Buy”—they are not only “recommended” but offer “the most performance for the price.”

In the “Satin” category, Duration and Pratt & Lambert’s Accolade Eggshell get the overall top ratings and “recommended” label at Nos. 1 and 2, but the CR Best Buy prize goes to Glidden Premium Satin and Glidden Spred Satin.

In the semigloss column, Duration Gloss is “recommended,” and is followed by the CR Best Buy products Behr Premium Plus Semi-Gloss Enamel and Glidden Spred Semi-Gloss.

Superlative Stains

In the ratings for exterior house and deck stains, Behr’s Solid Color Deck, Fence & Siding Wood Stain won the top rating in the “solid stain” category, also winning the CR Best Buy stamp of approval. Wolman DuraStain Solid, at No. 2, is “recommended” but did not win the “Best Buy” endorsement.

The No. 3-ranked solid-color stain, Sears Weatherbeater Deck, Fence & Siding Solid, joined Behr’s Solid Color stain as a “Best Buy.”

Behr also scored the No. 1 ranking in the semitransparent stain category with its Premium Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing Wood Stain, also winning the CR Best Buy designation. No. 2 Sherwin-Williams Deckscapes Semi-Transparent also was judged a “Best Buy,” while Flood’s TWF Semi-Transparent Wood Stain finished third but did not win the CR Best Buy seal.

Among clear sealers, the No. 1 product and a “Best Buy” is Thompson’s WaterSeal Advanced Waterproofer, followed by another Thompson product—Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterproofer Plus Clear Wood Protector. Other highly rated products are clear sealers from Olympic, Wolman, Benjamin Moore & Company, and Sherwin-Williams.

Consumer Reports said products making the CR rankings list of “winners” still looked good after the equivalent of up to nine years on a house, or three years on a deck for stains. All meet or exceed federal VOC limits of 250 grams per liter for paint and 350 to 550 g/L for deck stains. Some also meet stringent California regional VOC limits of 50 g/L for paint and 100 g/L for stain.

Some of the paints also come with “built-in primer.”

Labor-Intensive Testing: ‘9,000 Brush Strokes’

Consumer Reports says 76 paint and stain products were tested in all, with “9,000 brush strokes applied.” Products were evaluated after the equivalent of three, six and nine years of outdoor weathering, and were rated for cracking, color retention, and dirt and mildew resistance.

As with Consumer Reports’ recent ratings of interior paints Durability + Design reviewed the report, published in the June 2012 issue of CR. Representatives of the Consumer Reports organization ask, however, that media outlets refrain from disclosing extensive details about the report and the rankings.

The publication is available by subscription only; information on the paints rating and subscriptions is available at The best exterior paints stand up to all weather conditions.

The Biggest DIY ‘Goofs’

The report on exterior paints and stains also features a rundown of the “biggest painting goofs” by do-it-yourself users, and cautions that the DIY painter can save considerably on the $2,500 to $5,700 typical cost range for a professional job, or “pay even more if a pro has to fix your mistakes.”

• Picking the wrong color. Solution: sample several colors on the surface to be painted, and go darker rather than lighter because natural light tends to “soften” color.

• Painting in foul weather. Clear skies, low wind and humidity, and temperatures of 50 to 85 F for 48 hours prior to painting are ideal.

• Skipping on prep. No mystery here, as scraping and sanding, cleaning with scrub brush or power washer, priming, removing old caulking, and filling cracks with acrylic patch material are mandatory for optimal results.

• Buying the wrong amount. Here, a calculator from the Paint Quality Institute is referenced as a recommended guide.

• Choosing an inferior product. See our rankings, CR says.

Biggest Gripes About Pros

Interestingly, the CR exterior paint ratings report also lists a number of “major gripes about pros” and how customers can avoid such aggravation.

• Work took too long. Ask for clear start and end dates, with the understanding that unforeseen problems can alter the timetable.

• Bill beefs. Get an estimate that breaks down labor and material costs, including the number of coats and primer.

• It didn’t last. Ask for warranty protection for the labor, covering chipping, peeling, blistering, and flaking of the finish for two years.

• Surface wasn’t prepped. Ask for detailed description of the surface prep planned, and be prepared to pay extra if all the old finish is removed to obtain a totally smooth surface.

• Damaged plants and landscaping. Ask how this will be avoided.

• Used wrong paint. Specify the brand and product, or be sure the pro’s alternative performed well in ratings.


Tagged categories: AkzoNobel; Behr Paint; California Paints; Coatings manufacturers; Exterior coatings; Glidden; Sherwin-Williams

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