In Consumer Reports' latest tests of interior paints, a newcomer, Clark+Kensington, outperformed products from Benjamin Moore, Behr and other big-name brands. Clark+Kensington, sold only at Ace hardware stores, earned the highest scores of 65 products evaluated for overall finish, ability to hide and more.
“When choosing paint, don't assume a leading brand you swore by last time will do just as well this time around,” said Bob Markovich, home and yard editor for Consumer Reports. “Our tests found paints can vary year to year – and a bigger name does not always equal a better product.”
Consumer Reports found Clark+Kensington paint to be top in satin and semigloss finishes, and among the best for flat paints. It was also impressive at hiding, leaving a smooth finish that resisted stains, and scrubbing. Its volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are low enough to meet the toughest, regional California standards.
While Clark+Kensington is available only at Ace stores, other paints that were great at hiding, durable, washable and low in VOCs are as close as Home Depot, Lowe's and Benjamin Moore retailers.
And while new formulas have improved some paints, others performed worse than they did just a year ago in Consumer Reports' tests. Compared with earlier versions, the Behr Premium Plus Satin Enamel wasn't quite as good at hiding, and it became dull when cleaned.
Some paints, such as Olympic One Flat Enamel, improved at hiding. Better hiding also helped move Valspar Signature matte and semigloss up in Consumer Reports' Ratings, joining Behr in besting Benjamin Moore, which costs roughly twice as much, among flat and semigloss paints.
Twenty of Consumer Reports' top picks let consumers skip priming and paint directly over old finishes, bare wood and wallboard. One coat of a Recommended paint should be enough to hide most colors beneath it, though a second coat adds richness.
Since colors often look different in different lights, Consumer Reports suggests buying a sample, painting a patch and living with it for a day or two before buying more. Here are three things to consider when choosing paint:
•Go online before hitting the store. Manufacturer and retailer websites and Facebook pages offer a wealth of tips on choosing colors, including photo galleries of finished rooms and calculators to help consumers figure out how much paint will do the trick. Those are also the places to check for deals, such as free samples, moving discounts and rebates if consumers are unhappy with the color after it's been applied.
•Find the perfect color. Certain hues are specific to a brand, but retailers can often match colors. Paint-color formula books and color-matching computer technology means consumers don't have to rely on a sales clerk, though one with a good eye and clean mixing equipment may be able to match colors, too.
•Match sheen to surface. The best low-luster satin and eggshell paints offer easy hiding and durability, making them ideal for most surfaces. Flat paints hide flaws better but are less resistant to stains and smudges, so use in low-traffic areas. Semigloss works well for trim and other surfaces that don't need to be wiped frequently.