Pro Choice

by Katie Lee

Like the professionals, be choosy when choosing exterior paint.

By Harry Pettit

So paint is paint, right? Wrong! Paint cans might look the same — but what goes into them makes all the difference in how long that paint will last. Aside from the aesthetic values that paint brings, its primary purpose is to protect the surface beneath it. A “cheap” gallon of paint will protect the surface as well as an “excellent” gallon of paint in the short term, but after a few years, the difference will become painfully clear.  The extra expense in the beginning of your project will actually save you money in the long run.


• Spend the extra money for higher quality paint. The relatively small increase (roughly 20%) in product cost will allow your scheduled maintenance painting timeframe to be extended by an average of 3 years. The math is quite simple: You paint less when you use higher quality paint, resulting in savings over the long run.

The better grades of paint have higher film thickness, which means more protection. The more paint that remains after the paint has dried will equal a thicker defense from the damaging forces of nature.  A higher dried film thickness (see diagram) found in quality paints means better protection of your building’s exterior surfaces because they contain binders and pigments. The higher quality paints create more protection (dried paint film) than the lesser quality paints.

Paint Cans Harry ArticleLook into UV and weather resistance. The primary responsibility of paint is to protect your building surfaces and make them look more appealing to your customers. The better the grade of paint, the more resistant the coating is to fading and protecting the surface from moisture issues. The lesser quality paints break down sooner than the higher quality paints. Once the paint film breaks down and allows moisture and sun damage to penetrate the building, the sooner damage will occur.

Still use two coats. Though the better grades of paint have a higher dried film thickness, it’s always better to apply two coats. It will not only result in more protection, but it will allow your building exterior to have a more uniform look. Sometimes with only one coat, different areas of the building will absorb the paint at higher rates, and this can sometimes result in areas looking more flat and inconsistent. Two coats will always give your building a uniform color and a more polished appearance.


Believe everything you hear from painters. While I am one, some of my counterparts will try to use the cheapest products available to save a few dollars. The truth is that paint costs are a relatively small part of the entire painting project. The labor is the largest part of the costs. And it costs exactly the same, labor-wise, to apply the better grade of paint as it does the cheaper paint.

Look to save a few dollars upfront. To underscore a previous point above: Don’t be lured into saving a few dollars initially. The better quality paint will pay for itself; not at first, but in a cyclical/maintenance program cycle it will save you substantially in the long run.

Let your site go too many years between paintings. Depending on your area of the country, you can expect to gain an extra 3 years of protection from using the better grade of paint. It’s still very important to maintain your cyclical painting program. If you wait too long between painting projects, you will incur more expense from preparation costs to fix the damage caused by waiting too long. Keeping the paint film intact will not allow the damage from moisture and the sun’s UV rays.

Spend the money on better quality; but use the traditional universal colorants. The relatively new “water borne” colorants that have arrived in the industry have been one of the best breakthroughs in paint technology in my career. Before these new tints, the industry, for the most part, used universal colorants. These colorants have been very thin and didn’t add much value to the gallon of paint. I am sure you have experienced situations where bright yellow and red paints have taken four, five or even six coats to cover. With the new colorant products available, the numbers of coats have been cut down to two, maybe three coats maximum. The new water borne colorants are like adding paint to your paint, whereas the old universal colorants were like adding more water to your paint. Water borne colorants add better coverage, more UV resistance and extend the life cycle of the coatings they are added into.

At the end of the day, you rely on your customers to purchase from your location and to invest in your brand. Curb appeal plays a critical role in sales and customer retention.  Using the highest quality products, in a cyclical and predictive manner, is the always the wisest choice.

So yes, be choosy when given the choice.


— Harry Pettit is the director of painting programs for Ferrandino & Son, Inc. Email the author at [email protected].

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