With Paint, the Less It Smells, the More It Costs
WASHINGTON – Painting may be all about looks, but the price is partly driven by another sense – smell. The basic recipe for paint is simple: pigments for color, binders that hold the pigments together, and a solvent base. Some paints also have additives that work in such traits as moisture resistance. In general, more solids will give more thorough coverage. The bad-smelling stuff that gives you a headache? Those are volatile organic compounds – usually called VOCs – in the base. Many factors influence the cost of paint, including finish. “The shinier it is, the more expensive; and shinier paints are more durable, more moisture-retardant,” said Sara Noel, a color consultant at suburban Regal Paints. “And darker colors cost more.” Driven by consumer interest in the environment, some of the costliest paints on the market are those that minimize VOCs. For a professional painter, a preference for such paints is a matter of survival, but even homeowners taking brush in hand for a weekend may want to avoid the worst of the chemicals, especially people with pets, young children, allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities in the house. It’s a truism that one of the cheapest, fastest ways to spruce up a room is with a coat of paint. But the cheapest route isn’t always the best one. “You really do get what you pay for,” Noel said. It’s important to match the paint to the job, especially the finish, which ranges from matte to glossy. A gallon of paint typically covers about 400 square feet. Here’s a look at what you can get for your money. The Bargain If your budget is tight, consider Behr paint, available at Home Depot for $20 to $25 a gallon. It comes in a wide range of colors and finishes. Consumer Reports ranked it a “best buy,” praising its scrubability, coverage and resistance to staining. The Basics If you’ve got a bit more to spend, consider the retail brands at Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams. Benjamin Moore’s Regal interior line runs $36 to $48 a gallon, depending on the finish. The Regal line is particularly good at resisting fading, according to Consumer Reports. Another option in this price range is Devoe, which costs about $30 a gallon. Jeri Gregeris, a designer for suburban Lustig Interiors, swears by it. “It doesn’t smell, so you can use it in winter. You get better coverage – and no splattering.” C2, a brand frequently praised by other professional designers, also falls in this range. The Upgrade Those willing to spend even more can go for the green. Aura, a paint marketed as being especially environmentally friendly, sells for about $60 a gallon. The line includes a no-VOC formula, full washability even in the eggshell finish, drying time under an hour, and a wide range of colors. It’s not all about the environment at this level, though. You’ll also find Farrow & Ball, an upscale British line with a traditional sensibility, higher pigment content and rich colors. The Splurge On the top shelf are the specialty finishes. Those dazzling metallic and pearlescent finishes can top $100 a gallon. Most homeowners use them sparingly, for reasons of taste as much as price, Noel said. She’s seen people use them in bathrooms and basement bars to nice effect. Most major brands have their own formulations for special finishes.
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