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In this report

Behr Premium Plus aces Consumer Reports' tests

Budget paint is a thorny subject in reviews. Some of ConsumerReports.org's top-performing paints cost $25 or less per gallon, but professional painters almost always advise steering clear of low-priced paint. They say the fact that ConsumerReports.org recommends low-priced brands shows that its tests aren't reliable, compared with the real-life experience of veteran house painters. Reviewer after reviewer warns that budget-priced paint will take more coats, won't cover as well and will be harder to work with than premium paint -- all of which can cost you more money, time and hassle in the long run. "You get what you pay for" is the overwhelming sentiment among painting contractors who post on user forums.

At the heart of this controversy is Behr paint, found at The Home Depot. As it has been for years, Behr is a top performer in some simulated testing. But many professional painters who post on user forums despise Behr. Some don't give a reason why, or say they simply prefer not to give their money to big box stores such as The Home Depot. But others say the paint itself is bad, including this detailed post from a pro at DIYChatroom.com:

"Honestly I've had problems with Behr every time I've used it. It's difficult to apply uniformly. You have to push the paint across the surface because it's too thick. It dries too fast and leaves paint build-up spots where the roller overlaps with the cut in. It dries flashy leaving dull and shiny spots when looking down the length of a wall. It smells like ammonia. I've seen the junk sag when applied heavily. It has virtually zero leveling power on horizontal surfaces."

A few pros say Behr isn't as terrible as their colleagues make out. "I'm not a big fan of Behr myself, but there are worse paints out there," says one professional painter on PaintTalk.com. Says another: "I had to use some a few summers back on a 130-year-old VictorianÉ it still looks fine, perhaps it's the DIY user that exacerbates the [paint's] bad reputation even further." Behr paint gets a nod from Bob Formisano, About.com's guide to home repair, who recommends it as a "high-quality manufacturer." Behr Premium Plus comes in flat, satin and semi-gloss sheens, and carries a lifetime warranty.

Other low-priced exterior paints

Other well-known, budget-priced exterior paint brands are currently being tested by ConsumerReports.org editors, but testing is not complete, and ratings are available only to subscribers.

All budget brands get mixed reviews from professional house painters that post their opinions on user forums. For example, The Home Depot's competitor, Lowe's, offers its own bargain-priced exterior paint: Valspar Ultra Premium, available in flat, satin, semi-gloss and high gloss finishes with a lifetime warranty. Valspar Ultra Premium paints are undergoing testing at ConsumerReports.org. Otherwise, this exterior paint isn't extensively discussed on professional painters' forums, where the users overwhelmingly favor paints from Sherwin-Williams, Benjamin Moore and other paints that are available from dedicated paint stores and independent shops. Some say this lower-priced paint from Valspar is not a good choice -- one reports that it ran off some exterior walls on one job, when it rained two days after the paint was applied -- but other posters say it's OK or are indifferent to it.

Glidden is another brand that gets no strong recommendations from our other sources. For every pro painter that likes Glidden paints on a user forum, another says they're terrible, and few posts specifically discuss Glidden Premium exterior house paint. This paint is available in flat, satin and semi-gloss sheens and carries a lifetime guarantee. Glidden is sold by The Home Depot and independent retailers.

Olympic Premium exterior paint has completed its nine-year simulated wear test at ConsumerReports.org, but the results are available only to subscribers. This paint is made by PPG -- the same parent company as Pittsburgh Paints, a brand that gets some recommendations from professional house painters who post on user forums. However, Olympic, its budget brand, gets less respect. One user at DIYChatroom.com advises a do-it-yourselfer who asks about Olympic that it is "the bottom of the food chain," paint-wise. In a ContractorTalk.com forum where users rate paint brands from 1 to 10, one painting contractor rates Olympic a 2, while another gives it a 3. Another professional painter in that thread says Olympic is "not too terrible," but this brand gets no ringing endorsements from any of our sources, and its Premium line -- its best exterior paint -- proves less durable than other exterior paints in one test, although it boasts a lifetime warranty. Olympic Premium exterior paint is available in flat, satin and semi-gloss finishes. Olympic products are sold at Lowe's, Sears and some other stores.

Sears' own house paint, Sears Weatherbeater Ultra (*Est. $16 per gallon), has completed six simulated years of exposure testing at ConsumerReports.org, but its ratings are available only to subscribers, and it remains to be seen how well it will hold up after a simulated nine years. Sears Weatherbeater Ultra is recommended by Tim Carter, a veteran contractor who answers home improvement questions on AskTheBuilder.com. Carter says he painted his own house with Sears Weatherbeater Ultra, and it still looks good nine years later. However, we found little discussion of this paint on user forums frequented by professional house painters. It is available in flat, satin and semi-gloss finishes.

Dutch Boy Extreme Adhesion (*Est. $20 per gallon) has also undergone a simulated six years of exposure in ConsumerReports.org's testing, but its ratings are available only to subscribers. Dutch Boy is made by the respected Sherwin-Williams brand, and professional painters who post on user forums say Dutch Boy is a decent brand itself, but we found no discussion of the Extreme Adhesion line specifically. Dutch Boy Extreme Adhesion is marketed as a one-coat exterior paint with a lifetime guarantee. It is available in flat, satin and semi-gloss finishes and is sold at Walmart.

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