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, sold primarily at The Home Depot, earns the top score in one professional test conducted by a consumer testing organization, 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 top four exterior paints overall and praise its paint-primer formulation, as well as its fade resistance and rust protection, particularly in the flat formulation.
In the J.D. Power 2015 Consumer Satisfaction Survey, Behr lands fourth among the exterior paint brands consumers like most, behind the Clark + Kensington, Sherwin-Williams, and Pittsburgh brands. User reviews for the various colors and sheens are extensive at HomeDepot.com. For example, Behr Premium Plus Ultra 1-gal. Pure White Flat Exterior Paint draws more than 450 reviews and a 4.3 star rating. While most written feedback isn't very comprehensive, consumers typically note common pros and cons, and most agree that it offers excellent coverage, is easy to apply and dries quickly. 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. Most other colors, sheens and quantities draw similar ratings.
Valspar DuraMax (Est. $40) is another top contender in this price range. While DuraMax lands near the middle of the pack in one ongoing professional test, it still earns good scores and maintains a 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, nearly 240 consumers weigh in with feedback on Valspar DuraMax, contributing to an average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5. Several users say this paint offers excellent coverage in a single coat, is easy to apply, and does a good job at covering flaws. Overall, 82 percent of those reviewing this brand say they'd recommend it.
There are some negatives, however: a few reviewers say it didn't cover well for their projects, even after two coats, and some report a runny consistency. Valspar DuraMax contains 100 grams per liter of VOCs, twice that of Behr Premium Plus Ultra, but it does meet the voluntary standards for low-VOC, low-toxic paints established by Green Seal in 1993, updated in 2010.
If you don't mind spending a bit more, Sherwin-Williams Duration (Est. $70) 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 one consumer testing organization found that Duration resists cracking and color change, but other paint brands perform better for dirt and mildew resistance. In the J.D. Power 2015 Consumer Paint Satisfaction Survey, Sherwin-Williams lands second among consumers' most-liked exterior paints, 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 over 35 user-written reviews, Duration earns a rating of about 4 stars out of 5; however, just over half (54 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 (VOCs), though not the toughest local limits in certain parts of California. The manufacturer claims that adding their colorants to Duration doesn't alter the VOC rating. There's a lifetime warranty to cover blistering and peeling on a properly applied coat of paint.
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, 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.
Ace's Clark + Kensington exterior paint is on-par with the top-rated Behr Premium Plus Ultra in one professional comparison test, 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.
In J.D. Power's 2015 Paint Satisfaction Study, Clark + Kensington is the brand of exterior paint most liked by consumers. Editors at the Paint Quality Institute name Clark + Kensington as one of the most fade-resistant exterior paints, and it also earns accolades for mildew and rust resistance, earning it a spot as one of the four best exterior paints overall.
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.
Behr Premium Plus (Est. $30), a step below the Behr Premium Plus Ultra formulation, is a less-expensive option that earns positive feedback in expert reviews. This exterior paint, which is available exclusively at The Home Depot, earns top accolades in independent tests. It maintains a quality finish after being subjected to accelerated weathering tests for the equivalent of nine years, which simulate the effects of sun and precipitation. Expert testers say 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 350 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. 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.
If you're on a tight budget or working on a smaller project where quality is of less concern, Glidden Premium (Est. $25) lands near the middle of the pack in one professional roundup, performing almost as well as the higher-priced Sherwin-Williams Duration. Editors say it resists cracking and color change, but not dirt or mildew. At HomeDepot.com, one Glidden Premium product receives more than 115 consumer-written reviews, but the majority of reviews are from Glidden's manufacturer website and are actually referring to Glidden Duo, a different version of Glidden paint for interior use.
That said, there are a handful of positive reviews for Glidden Premium at HomeDepot.com. The satin and semi-gloss finishes get better feedback overall. Lots of users say it offers great coverage and it's easy to apply. Additionally, reviewers report that this paint doesn't put off much of an odor. According to Glidden's website, Glidden Premium is a low-odor, low-VOC paint, although the specific VOC amount is not listed. Experts at one consumer testing organization say this paint contains 100 grams per liter of VOCs, which meets Green Seal voluntary standards.
Like all cheap house paints, it receives mixed reviews from contractors in discussion boards -- but like Behr Premium Plus, it's received more favorably than some other brands of exterior paints. There are some who say if they have to buy budget paint, they go with Glidden Premium.
Elsewhere in this report: