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Best Exterior House Paint

By: Angela Stringfellow on April 04, 2018

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Best exterior paint

Behr Premium Plus Ultra

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. $40 per gallon), sold primarily at Home Depot, earns the top score in testing by Consumer Reports, maintaining an impressive appearance after the equivalent of nine years of outdoor exposure simulated in a laboratory setting. 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. 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.

Users say Behr Premium Plus Ultra provides excellent coverage, sometimes requiring only a single coat. Many users agree that it's easy to apply and offers a good temperature application window (meaning it can be applied in a wide range of temperatures). It also dries quickly, reviewers say, and a few users say it's lasted for six years or more with minimal fading.

There are a few detractors who didn't have good experiences with Behr Premium Plus Ultra, however. Among them, some say that it sets too quickly and leaves brush strokes and streaks as a result. While the thicker consistency lends to better coverage in fewer coats for some, others find the consistency too thick for easy application.

Valspar DuraMax (Est. $40 per gallon) is another top contender in this price range. It earns good scores in Consumer Reports' testing, maintaining 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 mildew, although it doesn't resist dirt as well as the top-rated Behr Premium Plus Ultra.

In J.D. Power and Associates' 2017 Paint Satisfaction Survey, Valspar ranks highest in consumer satisfaction among exterior paint brands, earning high marks for its design guides and selection of product offerings. Consumers have mostly positive things to say about Valspar DuraMax, with many noting that it's a great value for the price, offering good coverage -- often in a single coat, easy application, and good durability with minimal fading over several years. A few users, however, say that it can be difficult to work with in higher temperatures, and some say its hiding power is lacking. Valspar DuraMax contains less than 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 positive feedback from hundreds of users at Home Depot across the various colors and finishes available. Most reviewers say Behr Marquee has a thick consistency that covers well in just one or two coats and dries quickly, remaining bright and vivid without fading.

On the downside, a few users report peeling and blistering after a few years, and some say that it doesn't go on smoothly. In Consumer Reports' testing, it earns middling scores compared to other exterior paints, but 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. In tests, it resists cracking, color change and mildew, but it falls short for dirt resistance. With a VOC rating of 50 grams per liter, it falls similarly in line with most of the mid-priced exterior paints covered in this report.

While these mid-priced exterior paints perform well in professional tests and get positive feedback from owners, we read quite a few comments on Paint Talk, 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. $80 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 Consumer Reports 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 2017 Paint Satisfaction Survey, Sherwin-Williams earns the second spot among the exterior paint brands consumers like most, ranking highest in application and durability.

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 the Sherwin-Williams website 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, there are several users who attest to Duration's ability to hold up well for years 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. Some surfaces, such as old wood that hasn't been painted in many years, may soak up more paint and require more than expected for full coverage, users say. Although, since Duration lasts reliably for years, you'll spend less in the long run by repainting less frequently.

Duration comes in satin, flat and gloss finishes, most of which contain less than 50 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. Aura contains 44 grams per liter of VOCs. Professional painters at Paint Talk generally have good things to say about Benjamin Moore exterior paints overall, including the Aura formulation. Testing at Consumer Reports indicates that Aura should perform similarly to Duration, and in the J.D. Power and Associates 2017 Paint Satisfaction Survey, it ranks third for consumer satisfaction overall in a tie with Dutch Boy.

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. However, 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.

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 Consumer Reports' testing, earning praise for its excellent appearance after simulated lab tests designed to mimic the equivalent of six years of exposure to real-world outdoor 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.

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. 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.

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.

Behr Premium Plus (Est. $30 per gallon), a step below the Behr Premium Plus Ultra formulation, is a less-expensive option that performs well in professional tests and earns high ratings from thousands of consumers across multiple finishes and colors on Home Depot, where it's sold exclusively. In Consumer Reports' testing, it 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.

Consumers say Behr Premium Plus 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 covers old blemishes and stains easily, 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 complain that it doesn't self-level like an enamel paint should and continues to show brush strokes even after three coats. Others report color fading in areas exposed to sunlight, and there are a few users who say they've noticed signs of mildew as little as a year after application.

If you're looking for a real steal, Olympic Assure (Est. $22 per gallon) is one of the lowest-priced exterior paints we found. It lands near the bottom of the pack in Consumer Reports' tests, 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 it still earns 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 Lowe's, 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 were collected as part of a promotion, although not all such reviews are positive.

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