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Best Exterior House Paint

By: Angela Stringfellow on May 16, 2017

Behr Premium Plus Ultra is the best exterior paint

Experts and contractors say that while price doesn't always correlate with quality – some of the best exterior paints fall in the middle of the price range – you should steer clear of bargain-priced paints as they don't weather as well as the premium products, even from the same brand. Choosing an exterior paint based on quality rather than price means you may save money in the long run as they can often get the job done with fewer coats. Premium or top-quality exterior paints are also more durable -- able to withstand wear and tear better, and not fade or discolor -- which means they can last longer without needing to be repainted.

Behr Premium Plus Ultra (Est. $35 per gallon), sold primarily at The Home Depot, earns the top score in testing by ConsumerReports.org, maintaining an impressive appearance after the equivalent of nine years of outdoor exposure, simulated in laboratory testing. Editors say it also resists cracking, color change, dirt and mildew, and they point out that Behr's claimed 50 grams per liter of VOCs falls below the federal limit and also meets the stricter VOC limits in the state of California. These sentiments are echoed by technicians at the Paint Quality Institute, who name Behr Premium Plus Ultra as one of the best exterior paints for aluminum siding and praise its fade resistance and overall durability. Behr Premium Plus Ultra contains 100 percent acrylic latex binder, which helps paints develop a strong bond with exterior surfaces to resist issues such as peeling and cracking.

In the J.D. Power and Associates 2016 Consumer Satisfaction Survey, Behr lands second among the exterior paint brands consumers like most, behind the Sherwin-Williams brand but ahead of Benjamin Moore. User reviews for the various colors and sheens are extensive at HomeDepot.com, with some Behr Premium Plus Ultra exterior paints earning positive feedback from hundreds of users. While most written feedback isn't very comprehensive, consumers typically note common pros and cons, and most agree that it offers excellent, smooth coverage, is easy to apply and dries quickly, with several noting that it still looks great years later. Among the few detractors are those users who didn't get desired results using Behr Premium Plus Ultra. A few report poor coverage or peeling paint after a few years, but these complaints are isolated. Behr Premium Plus Ultra is available in a wide range of colors, sheens and quantities, and most draw similar ratings.

Valspar DuraMax (Est. $40 per gallon) is another top contender in this price range. While DuraMax lands near the middle of the pack at ConsumerReports.org, it still earns good scores and maintains a very good appearance after the equivalent of six and nine years' exposure in simulated testing environments. Editors say Valspar DuraMax, which is sold primarily at Lowe's, resists cracking, color change, and dirt, although it doesn't resist mildew as well as the top-rated Behr Premium Plus Ultra.

Editors at the Paint Quality Institute place Valspar DuraMax in their top four exterior paints overall, and it also earns accolades as one of the best-performing paint-primer combination formulas as well as for its rust protection, in both flat and semi-gloss formulations. At Lowes.com, hundreds of consumers weigh in with feedback on Valspar DuraMax in its various sheens, offering mostly positive feedback and high ratings. Several users say this paint offers excellent coverage in a single coat, is easy to apply, and does a good job at covering flaws.

There are some negatives, however: a few reviewers say it didn't cover well for their projects, even after two or three coats, and some report a runny consistency. Valspar DuraMax contains 50 grams per liter of VOCs, like Behr Premium Plus Ultra, thus meeting the voluntary standards for low-VOC, low-toxic paints established by Green Seal in 1993, updated in 2010.

A slightly more expensive option, Behr Marquee (Est. $50 per gallon) earns props from the Paint Quality Institute for its ability to resist rust, dirt and mildew. Its performance in ConsumerReports.org's testing, however, paints a different picture. Behr Marquee earns the lowest score overall among exterior paints in the review, and editors say it resists cracking, color change and mildew, but it falls short for dirt resistance. That said, it does maintain a very good appearance after six years of lab-simulated outdoor exposure, dropping to a "good" appearance rating at the nine-year mark. With a VOC rating of 50 gallons per liter, it falls similarly in line with most of the mid-priced exterior paints covered in this report.

At HomeDepot.com, Behr Marquee paint earns good ratings from users across several different formulations and finishes, although a closer look at reviews indicates a mix of opinions. Some reviewers say they swear by Behr Marquee exterior paint and won't use any other brand, with some even saying it out-performs the premium Sherwin-Williams paints. Others, however, say it's too thin and doesn't cover well as a result, sometimes leaving chunks and streaks behind, as it dries too quickly.

Ace's Clark + Kensington (Est. $35 per gallon) exterior paint is another alternative. It costs about the same as the top-rated Behr Premium Plus Ultra, and performs similarly in ConsumerReports.org's testing, earning praise for its excellent appearance after simulated lab tests designed to mimic the equivalent of six years of exposure to real-world elements. Editors say it resists cracking, mildew, dirt, and color changing, and its built-in primer is a time-saving benefit resulting in better coverage and durability. With 50 grams per liter of VOCs, this exterior paint falls in line with some of the strictest VOC limits in some parts of California and other locations. Editors at the Paint Quality Institute name Clark + Kensington as one of the most fade-resistant exterior paints, and it also earns accolades for resisting dirt pickup and mildew formation, as well as rust resistance.

Because Clark + Kensington is sold almost exclusively at Ace Hardware stores, there are relatively few user reviews for this brand on retail sites. There are several discussions surrounding Clark + Kensington on discussion boards, but overall opinions are mixed. That said, some contractors commenting on these threads haven't actually used the paint, but are forming opinions based on perceptions of Ace Hardware stores or Valspar, which purchased the Clark + Kensington brand in 2013. Others say that given its price point, it performs remarkably well.

While these mid-priced exterior paints perform well in professional tests and get positive feedback from owners, we read quite a few comments on PaintTalk.com, a forum for professional painting contractors, from those who say they won't use Behr paints. Some say they've had poor experiences with the brand, resulting in added labor costs, while others say Behr paints tend to remain soft for several months after application. A few contributors say their displeasure has more to do with disdain towards Home Depot, the big-box retailer who predominantly sells Behr paints. Others say that the average homeowner simply doesn't know what they're missing out on, because they've never used a premium exterior paint.

Sherwin-Williams Duration (Est. $70 per gallon) is one such premium paint that earns a good share of praise from professionals and consumers alike. Duration is Sherwin-William's top-of-the-line exterior paint, as its premium price tag suggests, but most experts, professional painters and do-it-yourselfers agree that it's worth its cost.

Testers at ConsumerReports.org found that Duration resists cracking and color change, but other paint brands perform better for dirt and mildew resistance. In the J.D. Power and Associates 2016 Consumer Paint Satisfaction Survey, Sherwin-Williams earns the top spot among the exterior paint brands consumers like most, although it doesn't land in the top picks in any category at the Paint Quality Institute.

User reviews for Sherwin-Williams exterior paints are thin, as this brand isn't readily available from many online retailers. As such, we turned to Sherwin-Williams.com for opinions from those who have used Duration in real-world conditions. In just a few dozen user-written reviews, Duration earns mostly good ratings; however, just over half (56 percent) say they'd recommend it. That said, there are several users who attest to Duration's ability to hold up well over time with exposure to outdoor weather elements.

Some painters on Internet discussion forums who frequently use Duration for outside projects say you shouldn't need more than two coats, and some say one coat is sometimes adequate thanks to its self-priming ability. Duration goes on thicker than many other paints, and while it's easy enough to apply, according to reviews, it may take a bit of getting used to when gliding it on.

Duration comes in satin, flat and semi-gloss finishes, all of which meet all federal and state limits for volatile organic compounds, containing 44 grams per liter, less water and federally exempt solvents, and emitting 20 grams per liter of VOCs. There's a lifetime warranty (as long as you own your home) to cover blistering and peeling on a properly applied coat of paint.

Another premium exterior paint often praised by pros on professional painting contractor forums is Benjamin Moore Aura (Est. $70 per gallon), which editors at This Old House name the best exterior paint with 100 percent acrylic latex binder. Like Sherwin-Williams Duration, Aura contains 44 grams per liter of VOCs. Professional painters at PaintTalk.com generally have good things to say about Benjamin Moore exterior paints overall, including the Aura formulation. Testing at ConsumerReports.org indicates that Aura should perform similarly to Duration.

However, some painting pros do admit that there's a bit of a learning curve involved in getting the best results from this paint. One issue is that Aura begins to dry rapidly, and the resulting tackiness makes it difficult to work with if it's not applied well with the first brush stroke or two. If it's applied too thick, some users have experienced sagging as the paint dries and levels. That said, most painters commenting on Aura say once you've gotten the hang of using it, it works fantastically well, offering great, smooth coverage and lasting durability.

Some cheap house paints are great for do-it-yourself projects

Giving your house a fresh, new look doesn't have to break the bank. While most experts agree that you should buy the best paint you can afford, and professionals tend to opt for premium exterior paints, a few inexpensive house paints earn strong recommendations in independent tests. These are especially worth considering if you're painting an exterior structure that is on a part of your property where it's not in full view of everyone who comes to your home.

If you're looking for a real steal, Olympic Assure (Est. $20 per gallon), is one of the lowest-priced exterior paints we found. It lands near the bottom of the pack at ConsumerReports.org, although editors say it maintains an excellent appearance after three years and a very good appearance after six years of lab-simulated outdoor exposure. At the nine-year mark is when Olympic Assure begins to show its wear, although editors still award it a good rating for nine-year appearance. Editors say it resists cracking, color change and mildew, although it doesn't resist dirt as well as some higher-rated exterior paints.

Olympic Assure exterior paint is primarily sold at Lowes.com, where it earns good ratings overall in dozens of user-written reviews. Reviewers say it goes on smoothly, covers well (often in two coats), and dries quickly, enabling homeowners to apply a second coat in as little as two hours. Most agree that Olympic Assure is of surprisingly good quality given its low price point. However, there are a few detractors who say that Assure leaves a blotchy, streaky finish when it dries completely. It's also worth noting that some of the reviews of Olympic Assure at Lowes.com were collected as part of a promotion, although not all such reviews are positive.

Behr Premium Plus (Est. $30 per gallon), a step below the Behr Premium Plus Ultra formulation, is another less-expensive option that earns positive feedback. This exterior paint, which is available exclusively at Home Depot, earns good scores at ConsumerReports.org, slightly outpointing both Sherwin-Williams Duration and Benjamin Moore Aura according to its tests. The exterior paint maintains a quality finish after being subjected to accelerated weathering tests for the equivalent of nine years, and it resists cracking, color change, and mildew, but falls short in dirt resistance.

At HomeDepot.com, Behr Premium Plus is well received, earning a rating of 4.4 stars out of 5 in nearly hundreds of owner-written reviews. Reviewers say it offers great coverage, even after a single coat, although two coats produces a better result. Most users reviewing Behr Premium Plus say it's easy to apply, dries quickly, and coats evenly. Several say it works well to cover old blemishes and stains, and a few point out that it holds up well to weathering over time.

Like Behr Premium Plus Ultra, Behr Premium Plus also has a few detractors who have had experiences that differ from the majority using this paint. A few consumers reviewing this paint at HomeDepot.com report problems such as blistering or tackiness that lasts for several days after application. Outside of these complaints, most of the other negative reviews relate to a poor color match, which is not always a reflection on the paint formulation itself but sometimes on the mixing services provided by retailers, which, as is the case with any paint, can vary in quality from store to store.

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