What's in Paint?

About the only thing that hasn't changed in paint in the last 50 years is the can itself. Modern paints have a wide range of pigments and additives to help them endure heat, smog and rain.

If it's been quite awhile since you opened a paint can, you may not be aware that latex paint isn't used much anymore. The new standard is acrylic paint, which has greater flexibility, better ultraviolet light protection and is more scrub-resistant.

Your grandfather may have said that you have to use an oil-based enamel on the trim, but that's not so anymore. Acrylic enamels are less likely to fade and crack than the old oil paints and, of course, there's the advantage of not having to use gallons of paint thinner to clean up.

When shopping for paint, you'll probably notice a wide range in prices, from $6.99 to $18.99 for a gallon of 100% acrylic paint. What's the difference?

"If you're just trying to paint the house to make it look good before you sell it, using a cheap paint is fine," painting consultant Charlie Kaczorowski said. "But if you want the finish to last longer than a few years, buy the best you can."

Even though both paints may be acrylic, the acrylic compounds in the more expensive paint are probably of better quality. Coverage and "hideability" are more effective in the better paint, and it will probably have a longer life.

"Say you need to paint an average-sized house and you need 10 gallons," Kaczorowski said. "By paying $5 more per gallon on a better quality paint--$50 total--you're getting an extra five years before you have to repaint."

Here's a money-saving tip. Check with your local paint stores to see if they have any "miss tints." "These are paints that the customer orders and then decides not to buy," Leonard said. "They're usually unopened and perfectly good. It's just that after seeing the color, the customer may have decided on a lighter shade." These can be sold for as much as 50% or more off the regular price.

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