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Sherwin-Williams Duration is the top pick of professional painters

Some veteran painting contractors and homebuilders have strong preferences for certain brands of exterior paint based on their experience, which they discuss in user forums such as ContractorTalk.com, PaintTalk.com and DIYChatroom.com. In these forums, professional house painters overwhelmingly recommend exterior paints from Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore -- but one paint, Sherwin-Williams Duration (*Est. $55 per gallon), emerges as the clear favorite.

"I've used them all and the best paint for exterior trim and siding is Duration by Sherwin-Williams," says one user on ContractorTalk.com, neatly summing up the opinions of several professional painters on various forums.

Duration is Sherwin-Williams' top-of-the-line paint. Sherwin-Williams markets Duration exterior paint as offering "true one-coat coverage" and "self priming to bare wood, vinyl and other surfaces." Although they say it's expensive, professional painters say Duration makes up for its extra cost by saving time and hassle. Some say Duration really does eliminate the need to use primer or roll on more than one coat in some cases. Others say they still prime first and follow with two coats of Duration, just as they would with any other paint. But even then, Duration earns praise for being durable and effective at hiding the color underneath. One properly applied coat of Duration dries to 2.8 mils (thousandths of an inch) thick, according to Sherwin-Williams -- 75 percent thicker than Sherwin-Williams' step-down SuperPaint line (discussed below).

Note that Duration's one-coat coverage applies only if you're using it on a previously painted surface, according to Sherwin-Williams. On other surfaces, "self-priming" means two coats of Duration -- one to act as a primer and one to act as a top coat, Sherwin-Williams' website states.

Reviewers say Duration has a very thick consistency when wet -- "not quite like mayonnaise," says Jack Pauhl, an Ohio painting contractor. Pauhl finds Duration too thick to spread easily, and some do-it-yourselfers agree. "Like spreading cake batter," complains one DIYer on PainterForum.com. "It drags," rather than flowing smoothly under the brush. Pro painters say it's best to work quickly with Duration, as it dries rapidly, which frustrates some users who don't paint that fast. "I found painting exterior door casings very annoying because I would get the edge looking nice, then face off the front of the casing, then mess up the edge, over and over and because Duration dries so fast," Pauhl writes. "I ended up making a complete mess."

Still, Duration is the consensus choice among pro painters, several of whom (unlike Pauhl) report that it's one of their favorite paints to work with. Two pros who post on PaintTalk.com report using Duration for almost every exterior painting job they do -- one for the past six years and one for the past 12 -- and they say it really does look good for a long time. Duration is "guaranteed against peeling and blistering for as long as you own your home," but pros say you really shouldn't count on any paint job lasting for decades -- it varies according to how harsh your climate is, among other things. ConsumerReports.org is testing Sherwin-Williams Duration along with other house paints in an accelerated exposure test. So far, Duration semi-gloss has ratings posted for a simulated six years of exposure, with three years' simulated exposure for the flat and satin finishes, but those ratings are available only to subscribers.

Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint offers good quality for less money

Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint (*Est. $40 per gallon) was the company's top paint prior to the introduction of Duration. Many of the same contractors who recommend Duration on user forums also recommend SuperPaint, as a slightly more budget-friendly paint that still offers excellent quality.

"I would use Sherwin Williams SuperPaint, as that is primarily what we use on all of our exterior re-paints and have great results on wood, vinyl, hardiboard and aluminum siding," says one New York painting contractor at DIYChatroom.com. "We have used it for years and have never had a problem. I've tried other exterior paints, but am very happy with the results of the SuperPaint." A Maine property manager on the same forum agrees, saying, "I like SW SuperPaint too. It's tough, less expensive, and easier to apply" than Duration.

Still, SuperPaint does not get the accolades that Duration house paint does. Reviews are mixed. One Cape Cod painter who cites 20 years of experience says, "SuperPaint is not my favorite to work with, but it is a good paint. Duration is excellent." SuperPaint goes on thinner -- some say easier -- than Duration, and a properly applied coat dries to a 1.6-mil thickness, versus 2.8 mils for Duration, according to Sherwin-Williams. Unlike Duration, Sherwin-Williams does not promote SuperPaint as a one-coat, self-priming paint; the company advises using primer plus two coats of SuperPaint in most circumstances. While Duration carries a lifetime warranty, SuperPaint carries a 25-year warranty (although professional house painters say you shouldn't count on any coat of house paint lasting that long). SuperPaint exterior paint is not included in ConsumerReports.org's testing. It comes in flat, satin, gloss and high gloss finishes.

Sherwin-Williams paint is available at Sherwin-Williams retail stores. Sherwin-Williams also makes Dutch Boy, Pratt & Lambert, Duron and other paint brands. Pratt & Lambert Accolade (*Est. $45 per gallon) and Dutch Boy Extreme Adhesion (*Est. $20 per gallon) are both included in ConsumerReports.org's ongoing exterior paint test; editors have rated Pratt & Lambert's appearance after a simulated three years of weather exposure, and Dutch Boy after a simulated six years, but these ratings are available only to subscribers. Professional painters who post on user forums say these brands are all good choices for exterior paint, although they don't recommend them as often as Sherwin-Williams' self-named brand or their other favorite, Benjamin Moore.

Most of the recommendations for Benjamin Moore are for the brand in general rather than for a specific formula. However, several of its top paints are mentioned. Its top-of-the-line, Benjamin Moore Aura (*Est. $60 per gallon), is advertised as a one-coat, self-priming, lifetime-warranty exterior paint, similar to Sherwin-Williams' Duration. It, too, dries to a thick film (2.1 to 2.9 mils). All three of its finish levels -- flat, low luster and semi-gloss -- are currently being tested by ConsumerReports.org; subscribers can see ratings for each paint so far after a simulated three years of weather exposure. Painting contractors often recommend Aura and Duration side-by-side as the best exterior paints you can buy. The main downside, reviews say, is that Aura costs more than Duration. Note that there's also an interior version of Aura, which we cover in our report on interior paint.

Benjamin Moore's step-down formulation has different names for each of its three finish levels. Benjamin Moore MoorGlo (*Est. $45 per gallon) has a "soft gloss finish," as the company describes it, and MoorLife (*Est. $40 per gallon) is a flat paint. MoorGard 100% Acrylic Low Lustre Latex House Paint (*Est. $42 per gallon) falls between the two in luster and price. Like Aura, these paints carry a lifetime warranty. They also form a thinner dry film than Benjamin Moore Aura (1.9 mils dry, for MoorLife), and the manufacturer recommends using a primer plus one or two coats of these paints. Benjamin Moore paints are available through independent paint and hardware stores.

Professional painters who post in forums also like the results they get from other respected brands' top-of-the-line paints, which include ICI Dulux and Pittsburgh Paints (and its subsidiary Porter Paints). In ConsumerReports.org's latest exterior paint test, the best performer is California brand paint. These brands are available through independent paint and hardware stores.

We also found some recommendations for Valspar DuraMax (*Est. $33 to $35 per gallon), the top-of-the-line exterior paint from the Valspar brand, available at Lowe's. Like Sherwin-Williams Duration, Valspar DuraMax is marketed as self-priming, with one-coat coverage and a lifetime warranty. Valspar DuraMax earns praise in a comment section at OurFixerUpper.com, where several do-it-yourselfers report that DuraMax has been durable and mildew-resistant on their houses. However, the Valspar brand gets mixed reviews from professional painters who post on user forums -- some say it's OK, while others say paints from big-box stores such as Lowe's are low-quality. The specific Valspar DuraMax product gets few reviews on these forums.

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