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Best Interior Paint

By: Angela Stringfellow on June 13, 2017

Editor's Note:
If price is no object, there's no better interior paint than Benjamin Moore Aura. If price is an object, we found a number of paints that are almost as good, but cost a little -- or a lot -- less. Most are durable and cover even dark colors in a minimum of coats. All are low- or no-VOC formulations, too.

Benjamin Moore Aura Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Available sheens – Matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss VOCs – 0 g/L Coverage – 350-400 square feet/gallon

Best interior paint

A favorite among professional contractors and consumers alike, Benjamin Moore Aura is a zero-VOC paint that glides on smoothly, leaving no brush or roller marks behind, covers old paint exceptionally well, and resists mildew and fading. It covers in just one or two coats and offers good stain resistance, with crayon and other marks scrubbing off easily in tests. If your budget allows for a premium interior paint, Benjamin Moore Aura provides a perfect, freshly-painted look that lasts for years.

Behr	Premium Plus Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Available sheens – Flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss VOCs – 0 g/L Coverage – 250 to 400 square feet/gallon

Budget no-VOC interior paint

If your budget is limited, but you still want a quality zero-VOC paint, Behr Premium Plus deserves serious consideration. This self-priming paint costs less than half as much as the top-rated, zero-VOC paint, Benjamin Moore Aura, yet scores well in expert testing, earning high marks for hiding and resistance to mildew and aggressive scrubbing, plus it maintains its sheen over time, making it a solid performer for painting areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Interior paint is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to refresh your home

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 give your home a fresh look. But regardless of your skill level, a paint job can only look as good as the quality of the paint used. Interior paints vary in their ease of application, viscosity, coverage, smoothness of finish, stain resistance, freedom from fumes, and other factors, making careful analysis of the qualities of an interior paint formulation a critical step in getting the best results.

The best interior paints are smooth from start to finish

The best interior paints should go on smoothly, without sticking or streaking as you roll or brush them on a surface. These typically provide a richer and smoother finish; you should not be able to see brush or roller marks when the paint has fully dried. Top-rated interior paints are also more durable, meaning they resist fading, especially in bright, sunny rooms, and they don't lose their color, texture or sheen when scrubbed or cleaned. They should also be easy to clean when dry and resist staining, and they shouldn't absorb residue from water- or grease-based spatters. The best interior paints are able to cover old paint -- even dark surfaces -- completely in one or two coats. That's why 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

Interior paints span the price spectrum from $25 per gallon (and sometimes a few dollars less) to $70 per gallon or more for premium paints. Overall, however, we found that price isn't necessarily correlated with quality; some of the top-rated interior paints differ in price from the cheapest paints by only about $5 or so per gallon. The drawbacks to some less-expensive wall paints are that the finish tends to be less rich, and they may not be quite as durable as pricier paints. Cheaper paints that don't cover surfaces as well may require more coats, so you could end up spending nearly as much as you would have on a premium paint that would get the job done in fewer coats, and sometimes just one. That's why coverage should be given as much, weight (or more) as cost when choosing an interior paint.

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 create strong paint odors 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. Some states, such as California, require even lower levels: 100 grams per liter for flat paint and 150 grams per liter for other finishes. The bottom line, experts say, is that 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. The good news is that many top-rated paints now claim to have low VOCs; some even claim zero VOCs in their standard formulations. Most interior paint brands offer at least one formulation for consumers looking for low- or no-VOC paint.

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 could 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 easier 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 advise you on the right paint sheen for the room you want to paint at no extra charge. Many can even advise you on color to further cut down on the chances that you'll regret your room makeover.

This report covers interior paints. 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 that job.

Interior paints from Benjamin Moore and Behr earn the most praise

Top-quality paints are worth their higher cost because they'll typically get the job done with fewer coats. Higher-quality paints also go on more smoothly, are less likely to show flaws such as brush marks and usually provide a better finished look. They're also more durable, holding up to bright sun and scrubbing and resisting dings and scratches.

Benjamin Moore ranks third in the J.D. Power 2017 Consumer Paint Satisfaction Survey, and earns the highest possible ratings for application and durability. Benjamin Moore Aura (Est. $70 per gallon), which claims zero VOCs and is self-priming, is a favorite among contractors on discussion forums at ContractorTalk.com, and it does well in professional tests. In one head-to-head interior paint roundup, for instance, Benjamin Moore Aura lands fifth overall, with excellent scores for hiding and scrubbing, as well as good scores for staining and surface smoothness. Editors say it resists mildew, sticking and fading, and once dry, roller and brush marks aren't detectable. On the downside, they do point out that satin and semi-gloss finishes may lose some of their sheen with aggressive cleaning, and the matte finish doesn't perform quite as well as the glossier finishes in resisting stains.

Editors at TheSweetHome.com say that Benjamin Moore Aura is highly regarded and note that professional contractors they spoke to say it offers the best coverage they've seen. This sentiment is echoed by editors at Good Housekeeping, where Aura earns a 5-star rating, and TheSpruce.com; editors at both sites say it covers light and dark surfaces, as well as stained surfaces, in as little as a single coat -- or at most, two coats. Editors say they were able to remove stains from coffee and crayons easily in tests, leaving little evidence behind, and that Aura holds up well to cleaning and general wear-and-tear.

The biggest concern surrounding Aura is its high price. Lee Wallender at TheSpruce.com says that Aura is the paint to use when you need to "pull out all the stops for a high-quality interior paint job." However, he adds that it can be too pricey for homeowners who are painting their entire house or doing another large-scale project. Cost also prevents it from being the top choice at TheSweethome.com, even though the editors note that "The coverage does appear to be exceptional." The bottom line? If your budget permits it, Benjamin Moore Aura is a great choice for a perfect finish that hides just about anything underneath in one or two coats.

If Benjamin Moore Aura is too costly for your budget, at around half the price, Behr Premium Plus Ultra (Est. $35 per gallon) is a good option to consider. It earns a recommendation from editors at ConsumerReports.org, earning praise for its smooth finish and ability to cover old paint. This self-priming paint also resists fading, tackiness, and mildew, though its matte finish is not the best at resisting stains. Editors also find that Behr Premium Plus Ultra holds up well to aggressive scrubbing without losing its sheen.

The Paint Quality Institute also recommends Behr Premium Plus Ultra for consumers opting for self-priming paint, noting that interior self-priming paints that contain a 100 percent acrylic latex binder (like Behr Premium Plus Ultra) perform best. Behr Premium Plus Ultra is also favored by users, earning high overall ratings in hundreds of reviews at HomeDepot.com, the primary retailer for Behr. Most of those reviewing Behr Premium Plus Ultra say it's thick and covers well, leaving no trace of brush or roller marks behind for an ultra-smooth finish.

There are a few detractors who have had different experiences, including several users who say it took several coats of Behr to get the job done for various interior projects or that it fails to cover old layers of paint in colors such as blue and orange. Overall, however, the majority of consumers praise Behr Premium Plus Ultra for its even coverage and smooth finish. Covered by a limited lifetime warranty, Behr Premium Plus Ultra is a low-VOC paint.

Sherwin-Williams Duration Home (Est. $65 per gallon) is another option, and also a low-VOC paint. The Sherwin-Williams brand earns the top rank in the 2017 J.D. Power Consumer Paint Satisfaction Survey for overall consumer satisfaction, and it's a brand often mentioned by professional painting contractors at JackPauhl.com and ContractorTalk.com. Editors at ThisOldHouse.com say Duration Home is the top-of-the-line interior paint offered by Sherwin-Williams, noting that its high level of titanium dioxide means it requires no separate primer, and its styrene-based acrylic resin adds durability, making it more washable than inferior formulations and brands.

Sherwin-Williams Duration Home also earns positive feedback from owners at Sherwin-Williams.com, the only source for consumer opinions on Sherwin-Williams paints given that they can typically only be purchased at specialty paint stores. Reviewers say it's extremely durable, holding up to regular washing, and because it retains both color and sheen exceptionally well, it can be touched up easily even years later. However, its performance in ConsumerReports.org's test doesn't quite meet these expectations. Duration Home earns middling scores and editors say it doesn't resist fading as well as some interior paints, its satin finish is prone to tackiness, and its semi-gloss formulation may lose its sheen over time. It's almost as costly as Benjamin Moore Aura, though even a $5 per gallon savings can add up for a big project. In addition, discounts and other promotions that lower the price can sometimes be found.

Olympic ONE budget paint is an affordable contender

Although painting is considered one of the most budget-friendly ways to spruce up your home, if you have a lot of space to cover, the cost can quickly add up. If your budget is very tight and you're looking for a balance between quality and cost, there are some budget-friendly options that won't leave you disappointed.

One option if you're on a tight budget is Olympic ONE (Est. $25 per gallon), sold exclusively at Lowe's. Olympic ONE earns excellent ratings from editors at ConsumerReports.org for maintaining its glossy finish and holding up well to aggressive cleaning and scrubbing. It also earns a very good score for covering older paint well and a good score for stain resistance, but a lower score of fair for surface smoothness (which editors say is a problem with both flat and semi-gloss finishes). This self-priming formulation also resists mildew well, but isn't a particularly exceptional performer when it comes to fade resistance.

The Paint Quality Institute names Olympic ONE as a good option for home owners looking for a quality paint and primer in-one formulation, noting that it contains 100% acrylic latex binder for great adhesion and better durability. Hundreds of users give Olympic ONE positive ratings at Lowes.com. They say it goes on thick and covers old paint well, including dark colors such as brown. Olympic ONE claims low-VOC levels, but some users say the paint has a strong odor when applied. Some consumers say that Olympic ONE may look streaky during the drying process, but looks great once it's completely dried.

Glidden Premium (Est. $20 per gallon), sold at HomeDepot.com, is another budget-friendly option that earns positive feedback from hundreds of reviewers. Glidden Premium is a low-VOC, low-odor interior paint, and reviewers at say it provides smooth, even coverage. Many reviewers say it covered previous paint colors in just a few coats. However, there are also some detractors who say that the coverage is poor compared to other paints they've used, and some report problems with streaking.

Glidden Premium lands near the bottom of the pack at ConsumerReports.org. It earns an excellent score for holding up to aggressive scrubbing, but only a fair score for stain resistance. Editors note problems with mildew formation with the flat and satin finishes, and stains with both the flat and semi-gloss finishes. However, if you're looking for a budget-friendly option for repainting an area of your home that's not as visible as your entryway or living room, or to freshen up your house prior to selling it, Glidden Premium might fit the bill.

No-VOC paints are a "green" choice for chemical-sensitive homeowners

Paint is made up of three components. The pigment represents the color; a binding agent ensures the pigment sticks to the wall; and a solvent keeps it all liquid until exposed to air. The solvent evaporates on application, leaving the pigment behind on the wall, and that's the main source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paint.

Homeowners who paint once every couple of years, or are painting an area that isn't used very often, may not be too concerned about VOCs. However, if you're affected by paint fumes, if sensitive people live in your home or if you just want to avoid off-gassing in general, the good news is that most popular paint brands are offering formulations with lower VOC levels, and many offer special low-VOC and zero-VOC formulations that meet the strictest VOC standards in states like California.

Our best-reviewed interior paint, Benjamin Moore Aura, discussed above, is a zero-VOC paint that earns high praise from both professionals and DIY painters, but the high cost of Aura is a deal-breaker for some. If your budget is tight, there are other options for no-VOC paints that won't break the bank.

Behr Premium Plus (Est. $25 per gallon) is one such option. It's a self-priming, no-VOC formula that lands near the top of the pack in an interior paint test at ConsumerReports.org, earning excellent scores for hiding and for resistance to aggressive scrubbing, and good scores for surface smoothness and its ability to maintain its sheen over time. Editors say most Behr Premium Plus finishes also have excellent stain resistance, with the exception of the flat finish, which may be more prone to staining from water- and oil-based spills and splatters. It also resists mildew and fading, and it dries completely, leaving no tackiness behind.

Behr Premium Plus earns positive feedback from thousands of users posting reviews at HomeDepot.com. Reviewers say it covers exceptionally well, often in just one or two coats, dries in no time, and doesn't have a strong odor. Some users say it took a few coats to cover darker paints or flaws such as pencil marks, and a few reviewers say it doesn't cover textured walls as well, leaving unpainted pockets and spots of behind as it dries.

Valspar Reserve (Est. $45 per gallon) is a zero-VOC interior paint that also earns consistent praise from professionals and consumers. Although it's a bit pricier than Behr Premium Plus, it's not as costly as the top-rated Benjamin Moore Aura, making it a sold no-VOC pick in the middle of the price spectrum. It earns excellent scores for hiding older paint and holding up to scrubbing and aggressive cleaning in testing, as well as a very good score for stain resistance and a good score for surface smoothness. It also resists mildew and sticking, although editors at ConsumerReports.org say it's not totally fade-proof.

Consumers posting feedback to Lowes.com, the primary retailer for Valspar paints, say it provides excellent coverage – even over darker paints – and is a great value for its reasonable price. Valspar Reserve earns high ratings from hundreds of reviewers, and most users agree that it's easy to apply with a brush or roller. Like most interior paints, Valspar Reserve also receives some mixed feedback, with some consumers reporting poor coverage or the need for multiple coats.

Expert & User Review Sources

We found several professional reviews of interior paints. ConsumerReports.org (ratings available to subscribers only) offers the most comprehensive review, evaluating more than 20 interior paints for durability, surface smoothness, fading, resistance to stains and mildew, and ability to cover old layers of paint. TheSweethome.com also conducts comprehensive testing of interior paints, considering more than 55 interior paint formulations and spending more than 30 hours of research to come up with their top recommendations. The Paint Quality Institute doesn't offer a formal roundup of interior paints but does recommend a few paint and primer in-one formulations offering exceptional adhesion, and we found a similar review at TheSpruce.com recommending the top three interior paints. We also consulted reviews from Good Housekeeping, JackPauhl.com and This Old House. J.D. Power and Associates surveys consumers on their preferred paint brands but focuses only on brands, not individual formulations. User reviews from sites like HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com, Sherwin-Williams.com and Amazon.com and discussions on sites like PaintTalk.com, ContractorTalk.com and Houzz.com offer insight on long-term durability in real-world conditions as well as valuable consumer feedback on coverage and ease of application.

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