A beautiful paint finish can really bring out the best in a room and repainting is one of the quickest, easiest and most affordable ways to spruce up your home. But regardless of your skill level, a paint job can only look as good as the quality of the paint used. That's why choosing the right type of wall paint is so important.
The best interior paints are smooth from start to finish. The top interior paints should go on smoothly, without sticking or streaking as you roll or brush them on. They typically provide a richer and smoother finish; you should not be able to see brush or roller marks on the dried wall. They're also more durable. Durability means they resist fading, especially in bright, sunny rooms, and they don't lose their color or texture when scrubbed or cleaned. They should also be easy to clean when dry and not absorb residue from water- or grease-based spatters. Professionals and dedicated do-it-yourselfers usually recommend that you buy the best paint you can afford.
There are a few quality paints out there that won't break the bank. We found a couple of good choices for cheap interior paints that get good reviews for performance, with some experts and do-it-yourselfers saying they rival paints costing $30 or more per gallon. The drawbacks to these less-expensive wall paints are that the finish tends to be less rich, and they may not be quite as durable as pricier paints, but they definitely have their place in your do-it-yourself projects.
Low-VOC and no-VOC paints are all the rage. One hot topic that's really sprung up in recent years is the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in interior paints. VOCs refer to the potentially harmful chemicals in paint fumes that can cause headaches, dizziness or nausea in the user. They've also been linked to respiratory and liver damage, along with other health concerns, over prolonged exposure. VOC levels in wall paint are regulated by the federal government and are currently set at 250 grams per liter for flat paints and 380 grams per liter for other finishes. California's state-level limits are stricter: 100 grams per liter and 150 grams per liter, respectively. The experts' take on this is you should always use the lowest-VOC paint possible and the fewer VOCs there are, the better it is for you, the homeowner, and the environment in general.
Be sure to choose the right sheen for your paint. This is important because you can spend a lot of money on paint, and a lot of time on painting, but if you choose the wrong sheen you may experience some serious buyer's remorse over the results. High-luster finishes, such as satin or semi-gloss, are best for high-traffic, high-moisture areas like kitchens or bathrooms because they're easy to clean. Also pay attention to the kind of reviews these paints get for mold and mildew resistance. Low-luster finishes, such as flat and matte, are ideal for low-traffic rooms and ceilings, and many recommend eggshell for medium-traffic rooms like a living room. Most paint stores have experts who can help you choose the right paint sheen for your area at no extra charge. Many will even advise on color, to further cut down on the chances that you'll regret your room makeover.
Once you're done with the inside of your home, don't forget to spruce up the outside as well. Our report on exterior paint will help guide in you in making the best selection for your job. And don't forget that preparation is the key to a great paint job; consider our report on pressure washers to make quick work of that dirty job.
ConsumerSearch editors pored over expert and consumer reviews, as well as analyzing the results of professionals who tested wall paints in the lab and on the wall. The results of our hard work are recommendations for the best interior paint, budget interior paints and no-VOC interior paints.