Consumer Reports Says It Doesn't Pay To Buy Cheap Paint

Our friends at Consumer Reports tell us that even though the price of exterior paints and stains has gone up a few dollars per gallon on average from last year (due to price hikes for many of the petrochemicals that go into paint), big box stores are keeping consumers isolated from manufacturers who would love to be passing on those added costs. It may be tempting to cut costs by buying a lower quality product, but CR warns against using crappy paint. Specifically, CR suggested Behr (sold at Home Depot), Valspar (Lowe’s), and Kilz (Wal-Mart) as competitively priced paints that “ranked among the top performers.”

From CR:

As we reported in our June 2008 story “Scrimping Doesn’t Pay,” the Valspar Ultra Premium Satin ($24 per gallon) and the Valspar Ultra Premium Semi-gloss ($24) exterior paints are less expensive than the California 2010 ($38) and Kelly-Moore Acry-Shield ($32) finishes that we rated just above them…If you hire a contractor, then labor costs will add another reason to choose a longer-lasting finish. A finish that lasts for a decade will cost you less than a cheaper one that fails after five years.

Protect Your Investment: Buy quality paints [CR]
(Photo: traci_todd112 )

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  1. B says:

    I always assumed that because it was sold at Home Depot, Behr was a rip-off. It’s nice to know I was mistaken.

  2. HIV 2 Elway says:

    Buy Benny Moore, its priced like its liquid gold but you’ll see the difference.

  3. V-effekt says:

    I painted 10 rooms in the last two years and while Behr is good, Valspar from Lowes goes on a lot easier and looks just as nice. Both really work well, though. I forget when their annual sale is, but both offer $5 off per gallon at least once a year.

  4. savvy9999 says:

    ditto the Valspar, does the job. I have also used Sherwin-Williams with great success, but it’s quite pricey compared to the big-box brands.

  5. HIV 2 Elway says:

    Another option is to make friends with the guy working in the paint department and have him “misstint” the paint for you. May not be the most ethical move but it will get you cheap paint.

  6. Hiyall says:

    I was a house painter in my younger days.IMO, benjamin moore goes on easier, covers better, and last longer than most of the other brands. It is a bit pricy, but it’s worth it.

  7. durkzilla says:

    “It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.”

    I’m a fan of Benjamin Moore paints – the locally owned paint and wallpaper store in town sells it, and yes, it’s a little more $$ than what you can get at Home Depot or Lowes, but I think it’s worth it.

  8. xnihilx says:

    We painted three bedrooms with Valspar when we bought our house in November. It’s great. Granted, even with the primer we needed two coats but we were trying to cover up the nastiest green I’ve ever seen in all three rooms. Valspar went on smoothly and effectively. We wanted to be done painting until we changed our minds a long time from now. (in fact it’ll take a decade for me to want to paint again) Also, I like the Sherwin Williams bathroom paint that has a mildew reducing agent in it (probably ammonia from the smell) it’s super thick too.

  9. legwork says:

    I’ve used plenty of Behr & Sherwin Williams but count me as seconding Benjamin Moore. Amazing stuff, especially if you’re changing colors. Fewer coats, less touch-up, less TIME, and really, time is the most expensive part.

  10. Lambasted says:

    Don’t forget the importance of using the right primer depending on what surface you are painting. Good paint won’t matter when it is sliding off the walls in a week.

  11. Darren W. says:

    I’ve been doing some renovating, and have exclusively bought Behr, Killz, and Val-Spar. They all did their jobs correctly and covered well. I’m glad to see I’ve chosen wisely.

  12. Youthier says:

    My brother and husband paints residential and if the homeowner won’t shell out for Sherwin-Williams, they say Valspar.

  13. crankybureaucrat says:

    Also? a good primer goes pretty far. Taking the time and spending the $$ on Kilz is well worth it. (tinted primers reduces the number of coats when using a dark color.)

  14. cmdrsass says:

    @Lambasted: This is true. You should spend a lot more time prepping your walls than painting them – washing, patching, sanding, and priming.

  15. SkokieGuy says:

    @HIV 2 Elway: Another option is to bring a stroller into the store and hide paint in the stroller and leave without paying.

    May not be the most ethical, but it’s a way to get cheap paint.

  16. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @SkokieGuy: One way you do pay for the untinted base.

    Befriending hardware store employees pays huge dividends. Especially when it comes to finding an honest contractor.

  17. SkokieGuy says:

    Befriending hardware store employees is a great idea.

    Buying genuinley mistinted paint for a discount is a great idea

    Encourage an employee to deliberately mistint to defraud their employer to save you a few bucks, not so friendly.

    Also, keep in mind that the “friendly” referral may be a contractor who has bribed employees to recommend them, pass out their biz cards, etc. Since many of these stores treat their employees so poorly, something as simple as springing for pizza may generate referrals that have nothing to do with the contractor’s quality or honesty.

  18. quagmire0 says:

    Benji Moore is the best, period. Now, if you’re painting an apartment, dorm room, or treehouse, buy the cheaper stuff. But if it’s a house, go Benjamin Moore. It costs more, but it goes on really nice and probably saves you money in that you don’t need to use as many coats for it to look good.

  19. bohemian says:

    Valspar and Behr are oh so much better than whatever crap they sell at Walmart as their color variety paint. I used Walmart’s excuse for paint to paint a small kids room. I used double of what I used to paint larger master bedrooms.

  20. Cupajo says:

    I just recently finished up a bunch of painting projects and was very very happy with the Valspar paint. Conversely, I wouldn’t use Olympic paint again if someone held a gun to my head.

  21. TMMadman says:

    I have a friend who has done painting before and he won’t use anything but Sherman-Williams or Benjamin Moore paints. Sure it costs a bit more, but it is worth it in terms of looks and how long the paint lasts.

  22. TheShepherd says:

    As someone who owned their own painting business, I can tell you that Ben Moore is the best paint. I would say that anything short term, (APT, dorm, etc) you might be able to get away with the cheap stuff if you’re going to be gone in a year. However if you own, or plan to be wherever you’re painting for more than 3 years, you want Ben Moore.

  23. MotherFury says:

    Behr Paint, Primer and Stain is recommended by MotherFury.

    *grin*

  24. MadameX says:

    Behr paint rocks. I’ve used many, many gallons of it and it covers much better than the Sherwin-Williams stuff my builder left us. Doesn’t smell as “chemical-y” either.

  25. Landru says:

    @Youthier: I take it you and your husband/brother are from West Virginia?

  26. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    Behr and Ben Moore are great. Also Glidden aand Pittsburgh.

    Priming is everything in painting. When painting exteriors, use Emulsa-Bond in the first coat. My Dad (a painter for 30 years plus) swears by it. He showed me to this house he painted 17 years ago, and you’d swear it was painted last week. Start with the Emulsa-Bond and wash the house once a year, that’s all it took.

  27. RBecho says:

    Just recently did a bunch of rooms in the new house and we are very happy with the Behr paint, went on well and even. I wouldn’t recommend the Glidden. It was the first gallon we bought (I could get Dallas Cowboys Blue!!), and went on thin and uneven.

    The Behr is MUCH better, took fewer coats and was a much more even result.

  28. WarOtter - I went to Japan and all I got was this tumor. says:

    Pittsburgh paints FTW!

  29. shockwaver says:

    I prefer to use the ink from ink cartridges. Sure, it may be a bit pricey at $50 per 10mL, but for that kind of money, it HAS to be good!

  30. Sudonum says:

    @MadameX:
    Because your builder probably used Pro Mar 400. I use it on the ceilings of the entry level houses I build, but won’t go near a wall with it. S-W’s Super Paint is the best, but it’s pricey. Had a guy working for me get some over spray on an anodized aluminium window frame and let it dry. We couldn’t get that stuff off with anything. Finally had to get an industrial coating to match the anodized color and paint the frames.

  31. TobiasFoote says:

    How about Dutch Boy’s Dimensions? I’ve used it and had great results
    with it. Anyone else use it? What kind of results did you get with it?

  32. MotherFury says:

    @Landru: *snort*

  33. mikelotus says:

    Behr is a bear to apply inside though. But once you manage it, its the best. Most pros will charge you more to apply inside.

  34. marsneedsrabbits says:

    I’ve used Behr and Valspar in the last 6 months, and liked the Behr better. It was thicker, but at the same time went on smoother and more evenly. They were both good, but Behr was just a little better.

    Behr smells a ton better, too, insofar as it has less smell than pretty much anything else.

  35. JayDeEm says:

    As first time buyers we made the mistake of taking the builder’s ‘basic white’ interior option, as opposed one of the 3 different levels of hideous beige/taupe they offered. In hindsight, the hideousness of the beige(s) may have been better than the crappiness of the basic white paint they used. The stuff stains if you look at one spot for too long and sucks the luster out of any paint put on top of it without a primer coat.

    After the first room we bought a 5 gallon bucket of the Kilz primer and use Sherwin Williams for the colors which is working out great. We also started with the Lowes Valspar but were not too impressed, though I will concede that this may be been because we applied it directly to the white base without a primer coat.

  36. Use the proper primer.

    Oh, and white paint seldom covers black paint very well. I learned that lesson the hard way.

  37. tdicola says:

    I painted a bathroom with Behr latex paint and was really impressed with the results. With a coat of primer and two solid coats of color the finish is smooth and durable.

  38. velvetjones says:

    I’m a huge fan of Benjamin Moore, but have recently started using Pratt & Lambert, and that paint is wonderful, so creamy and has great coverage. DO NOT under any circumstance or chemical substance, buy Dutch Boy. I learned this the hard way. Goodness is that stuff crap. Also, choose your sheen carefully. I’ve seen too many people spend all kind of time painting walls with flat paint. Bad idea.

  39. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    Behr worked great on the master bathroom walls.

  40. Floobtronics says:

    Our walls never see any paint other than Benjamin Moore or Finnaren & Haley. Both are priced higher than the crap you can get at Home Depot or Lowes, but it’s totally worth it. 2 coats of Benjamin Moore or F&H will last three times as long as 3 coats of Behr or Valspar. I know the manager of a local paint shop, so he gives me a (slight) break on the price. I pay around $25 a gallon for F&H, or $28 a gallon for BM.

    Say you’ve got a room that takes 2 gallons of BM or F&H to coat with 2 coats. That same room will probably take 3 gallons of Behr or Valspar, since you’re going to need to put more paint on the walls. Over 10 years, you bought 2 gallons of premium paint, vs 6 or 9 gallons of HD/Lowes crappy paint.

    Don’t even get me started on Glidden either. With that garbage, you might as well never stop painting, like forever.

    As others have noted, use a good primer too, if applicable. If your walls don’t need priming, clean them before you start! Paint doesn’t like to stick to dust.

  41. JiminyChristmas says:

    @velvetjones: Seconded on the Dutch Boy. Once you realize it takes three or more coats to get good coverage it doesn’t seem so cheap anymore either.

    Once you experience the joy of redoing a failed paint job, e.g.: blistering, peeling, cracking, the wisdom of buying high-quality paint becomes apparent. I’ve had good experience with Sherwin Williams.

    @Floobtronics: You are spot on about the importance of priming and prep. If you screw up that part a $50 gallon of paint won’t do you any good anyway.

    I would also mention that when it comes to painting, especially exterior, I follow the application instructions to the letter: temperature range, drying times, all of it.

  42. ZoeSchizzel says:

    Wait, don’t buy that paint. Go to your local hazardous waste facility. They’ve got GALLONS of good paint for the taking. As do many thrift shops or Habitat for Humanity Rehab stores. Alternatively, our city puts out a dumpster twice a year and everyone dumps off cans of paint. I’ve gotten full gallons of high quality paint. I also routinely check the OOPS paint buckets at either Lowes or Home Depot for high quality gallons for as low as $4. As a commercial/residential painter, I’ve saved tons of money this way.

    My favorite brands:
    Benjamine Moore
    Sherwin Williams
    Pratt and Lambert
    (For the MONEY): Valspar followed by Behr. For darker colors and for the price, Valspar can’t be beat.
    For a primer, go Zinsser.

    I’ve been able to paint every room in our home with salvaged paint. As my husband brags, “Even our dogs are used.” Too bad we’ve got four of them, which is not quite a bargain…

  43. tpej says:

    Funny. Consumer Reports rated California Paints tops for quality and durability over the last coupole of years. I’m painting the exterior of my home (hardiplank) with their Fres Coat velvet flat. I have to say it looks incredible. It’s a bit pricier than the big box store brands – they share their color system with Duron. Their claim to fame is their background of developing super tough coatings for outdoor recreational applications.

  44. algormortis says:

    benjamin moore costs out the butt but it goes on beautifully and their resellers are experts. when i said “i wanna paint my new pad” they told me how to do it. the $260 i spent would easily have ended up being more if i had to go back and buy other paint, and it looks *beautiful*. seriously, it looks like a professional painted my house, but i did it!

  45. HOP says:

    i’m gonna be doing a little room painting soon….thanks to all of you for the info…..

  46. HOP says:

    .

  47. snoopy316 says:

    I worked at the home depot for 4 months in the paint department. Not only was the job terrible place to work, Behr Paint is complete crap. When people asked me my honest opinion on the paint, i would then them down the road to the Benjiman Moore Dealer.

  48. dix99 says:

    Ace Hardware is the best I’ve used & I used to be a painter by trade. Wait til it’s on sale and buy extra, then, when you decide what color you want at a later date, take it back & have them add the color you want. I dicovered it by mistake before I moved house. I wanted to add a fresh coat of paint to help the sale & it covered really, really well. Want to know the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in a paint purchace? No, oh well then I’ll still tell ya. That special watered down rubbish, they call ‘Ceiling White’. And yes, we did sell the house, in case you want to know.

  49. mariospants says:

    farrow&ball all the way, baby.

  50. ezmobee says:

    I’ll agree with previous posters and say that I’ve had really bad experiences with Glidden and Dutch Boy. Most notable the Dutch Boy ceiling paint that goes on pink and turns white. No amount of coats made it not streaky. Had great luck with Behr, specifically their kitchen & bath paint. Also surprisingly Sears paint isn’t half bad.

  51. m.ravian says:

    i have to second the Oops paint. i’ve painted my entire apartment with it (6 rooms). the trick is to swing by your Lowe’s and Home Despot frequently, until you see something you like. Lowe’s used to the sell gallons for $3, but they’ve since gone up to $5. Home Despot is getting more expensive now – more like $7-10.

    and Valspar is the bomb dot com. it’s like buttah.