What paint is better?
March 16, 2011 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Please explain to me, using any objective or reasonably subjective means, why Benjamin Moore / Dunn Edwards paints are superior to the premium Behr paints? I've seen the Consumer Reports, but this doesn't seem to have convinced scores of people that Behr is really that great.

I am pricing paint for interior painting, and the price difference between name-brand contractor-grade paints and retail paints like Behr is significant. I have been unable to get a good idea of why, exactly, Behr paints are not considered as good as Ben Moore of Dunn Edwards paints. Scientific explanations are welcome, as are your personal observations. Thanks!
posted by jabberjaw to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I always found Behr to be "plasticky". It didn't spread as smoothly and was harder to clean up. Benjamin Moore covers better and cleans out of brushes easier. IMO.
posted by GuyZero at 11:31 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most contractor-grade paints are vastly superior, in that people who do it for a living tend to buy the coatings that go on easily, cover, and last.

I have never used Behr, but have used but Benjamin Moore and Dunn Edwards. I like Dunn Edwards a lot.

I suspect that if you buy the absolute top of any line, you will not be disappointed. Just make sure that it is the premium paint of that brand. It will go further and you will spend less time painting.
posted by Danf at 11:36 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

My findings were precisely the same as GuyZero's. I bought Benjamin Moore out of my own (poor) pocket rather than use the landlord's Behr any further (it clogged my paint sprayer and I had a devil of a time getting it to dry, evenly or otherwise).

Also, the colours in Behr weren't as true as I'd been led to believe.
posted by batmonkey at 12:02 PM on March 16, 2011

Dunn Edwards goes on easy, but the colors tend to be dull and lifeless to me. I much prefer Pratt & Lambert for color options.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:14 PM on March 16, 2011

I always had decent luck with Behr, but I can't remember using Benjamin Moore (despite living next to their head marketing guy for several years).
posted by wenestvedt at 12:27 PM on March 16, 2011

I think Behr got the reputation of being Home Depot's "gimme the cheapest thing ya got" paint. My own experience with the Premium Plus Ultra (the one with the primer in it) has been totally positive, true one-coat coverage and pleasant to use. I'm not a professional, don't use a sprayer and haven't attempted much beyond small rooms, plus some exterior trim, and I haven't done anything particularly challenging, like trying to paint over orange stripes. I'm also not particularly hard on my walls, so I can't really speak to wearability down the road. But for my happy homeowner-type jobs, it's my go-to paint. You can order the 8-oz. samples online too.
posted by sageleaf at 12:29 PM on March 16, 2011

I don't know, I'm sitting in a room painted with Benjamin Moore right now, and it took three coats to cover. Yes, we primed first (so 4 coats) and the paint is a light color. And it was freshly prepared and shaken.

Two of our rooms were done with Behr and it was so-so. To me, if using Benjamin Moore doesn't save me any time or labor, I guess I might as well use mediocre Behr.
posted by Knowyournuts at 12:51 PM on March 16, 2011

Oh, also, I used some Glidden and it went on smoothly and covered in two coats. Just as cheap as Behr, which is to say, half the cost per gallon of Benjamin Moore.
posted by Knowyournuts at 12:55 PM on March 16, 2011

A Dunn Edwards rep actually came and spoke to my class the other day, and he described it this way: The same things go into every can of paint, regardless of brand. This is stuff like resins/adhesives, colorant (the liquid pigment), etc. The thing with more expensive brands is the quality of those ingredients--just like any other product I guess. Behr has always worked fine for me in terms of application, but I think the difference comes down to the long-term: How long before it fades? How is the water-resistance? If you try to clean it, will you end up with a faded spot? How soon will you need to repaint? Will it chip? Will it crumble? Think of a designer dress versus its knock-off counterpart. They may look exactly the same next to each other, but the knock-off probably has crappier material (which will wear out sooner), thinner thread, cheaper buttons, etc.

The guy also said to keep this mind if you're contracting out the work: What you're really paying for (in most cases) is the hourly labor rate--so it is actually more cost-effective buying a higher quality (read: expensive paint) that will take someone less time to cover a room with, rather than going for cheaper and having them do one or more extra coats. I do realize that I heard all of this directly from a Dunn Edwards rep so it may be biased, but I can see the logic there.
posted by lovableiago at 12:57 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

First of all, Dunn-Edwards makes freaking excellent paint. But you'll pay for it. I've been doing a lot of painting around the house lately both inside and out with Behr Premium Plus paint and I've been happy with it. I've also done some painting with the Premium Plus Ultra and that stuff covers damn good. The best thing you can do is get some of the 8 oz testers and see what you think of them when they're actually on the wall. One of those little testers can cover around 30 sq.ft. so you can get a really good idea.

Just remember that quality paint is important, but nowhere near as important as good prep work. The best paint is only as good as the surface it's applied to.
posted by azpenguin at 1:11 PM on March 16, 2011

We painted our house last year with a wide range of stuff: C2 (three bedrooms); Sherwin Williams Duro (living & dining rooms); Behr (closets and all trim, some ceilings); and Glidden (some ceilings).

1. Nothing covers in one coat. The C2 and SW did for the hand-painted part where we cut in, though - i.e. we cut in, rollered, and rollered again without having to do more than touch-ups on the edge parts.
2. Even if you're scared you did a crap job of drywalling and they say to use matte paints to hide uneven textures, use eggshell. Our C2 paint was matte, and in a month scuffed up with dirt smears that won't wipe off. Thus we don't have a 100% positive opinion of C2, though that's no real fault of theirs. Which is a bummer since we have leftovers in a color we were planning to use in the hallway, but that will never do for heavy-traffic.
3. Behr was not as easy to use as C2 and SW; it was a bit too sticky. We didn't do any whole rooms in it, so I can't really comment on its one-coat capabilites, but it seemed fine but unremarkable for ceilings. Also, brush stroke textures didn't vanish as cleanly as for SW/C2 (opinion).
4. Glidden is a horrible paint to use for ceilings. The pink-dries-white is very convenient, but Glidden is (universally, according to the internets) thinner than many other brands, and drippy liquidy thin paint is the last thing you want to be applying over your head. However, for walls, maybe thin (Glidden) is easier to use than sticky (Behr). Who knows. Not likely to buy it again.

We finally finished our bathroom reno last winter, and after all the previous experience, went with Sherwin Williams for the walls. Even though SW could surely have matched our particular shade of off-white trim with little trouble, we kept with Behr for that, just for simplicity, hadn't had enough problems to make it worth changing.
posted by aimedwander at 1:13 PM on March 16, 2011

I've used a lot of Behr interior and while I like their flat, I don't like how the eggshell and semigloss goes on, it is indeed plasticky to apply. Longevity-wise, the colors in Behr flat that I applied have lasted as long as the pro-contractor applied BenjiMoore but the Behr eggshell hasn't held up as well as the BM eggshell. Behr flat took 2 brushed on coats for light tones, 3 coats for a medium tone eggshell. The BM was sprayed on, don't know how many coats.

My current favorite for one-coat-and-it's-truly-covered is Kilz latex flat, from Walmart. However, all of Kilz colors have a strong greenish cast to them, even the warmer colors, so I reserve it for when I want something with cool undertones. I used very saturated Kilz colors to paint a boy's bedroom 8 years ago, the colors haven't faded at all in there.

Worst experience: Ralph Lauren's flat paint (also carried at Home Depot). Five coats of a medium tone, each had to be wrestled on, I still see some streaking, colors faded dramatically within a year. If I were choosing from paints HD carried, I would avoid RL completely and have them color match the sample to Behr, RL is awful quality for the price.
posted by jamaro at 1:14 PM on March 16, 2011

People tend to forget that pricing is a huge part of a products marketing strategy. There is very little difference in the medium to high priced paints. I have done a lot interior/exterior painting and have consulted with the 'contractor' paint shop and Home Depot and it's all the same thing 'what's your price range?'. Bottom line, don't pay $40 a gallon when you can pay $20 and only sacrifice a small, if none percentage in quality.
posted by repoman at 1:16 PM on March 16, 2011

I bought waaaaay too much Benjamin Moore paint when painting my new place because I was used to Behr coverage, but the Benjamin Moore went a lot further. And it was low VOC so it didn't stink as much.
posted by ldthomps at 1:29 PM on March 16, 2011

People who paint walls for a living have the technical knowhow to handle paint flow, or adjust their prep to suit the walls and woodwork. That applies especially to anything with more than a hint of gloss in the finish. Their other concern is consistency from job to job, which is important when you're quoting up for materials and time.

From what I can tell -- my dad's in the trade -- contractors tend be fairly conservative in what they use, and less willing to experiment on the job with the latest and greatest, whether on the high or low side of the price spectrum. They find a decent, consistent range of paints for particular tasks, and stick with them unless there's a specific request for something else, and special requests generally require more wiggle room on the estimate until it's clear how well they perform.
posted by holgate at 1:30 PM on March 16, 2011

Please explain to me, using any objective or reasonably subjective means, why Benjamin Moore / Dunn Edwards paints are superior to the premium Behr paints? I've seen the Consumer Reports, but this doesn't seem to have convinced scores of people that Behr is really that great.

I think this whole question is based on misunderstanding. Consumer Reports ranks Behr premium brand as the best interior paint, ahead of Benjamin Moore and Dunn Edwards. I believe the contractor grade paint is not ranked nearly as highly, but the premium interior paints are ranked as the best.
posted by Justinian at 1:42 PM on March 16, 2011

Smell and drying times are two of the main reasons I tend to pay a bit more for paint.
posted by ddaavviidd at 2:01 PM on March 16, 2011

I work in a higher end paint shop. We carry Benjamin Moore, C2, and California. There are a lot of variables that make a good can of paint, and there are different paints for different people:

- If we're just talking about the makeup of the paint before tinting, the #1 factor in a good paint is the amount of solids the paint contains, i.e. the resins and other components that are left on the wall when the solvents evaporate. Paints like Behr and Glidden from big box stores tend to have pretty low solids, so they tend to cover poorly and leave behind a thinner film (although their higher end lines are better). They're also often not 100% acrylic latex, and will be termed 'vinyl acrylic' paints. Paints like Ben Moore and C2 have higher solids, so they tend to have a greater film build, greater adhesion, and better coverage. However, all companies have different grades, and Ben Moore has a line that includes cheapy, low-solids contractor grade paint and their high-end, high-solids Aura paint.

- The colorant that goes into each can, and the color that you choose also have a great deal to do with quality. As an example, C2 in particular uses pigments that are higher strength and more finely ground than many other companies (Ben Moore included) and their colors will often be made up of three or more pigments. Whereas a Behr blue tone might be made up of some concentration of a single blue colorant, a C2 blue tone might be created with a mixture of four different pigments, and sometimes won't even include any blue colorant at all! This gives colors more complexity, vibrancy, and better coverage. Ben Moore's new tinting system takes a different approach, and uses pigments that are made out of actual resin rather than a universal tinting system. When you tint their colors you're basically adding more solids to the paint, and this allows the colors to be both higher-hiding and more durable to wear and tear. And ultimately, the color you choose matters a lot too: a muddy, complex brown tone is going to cover well in pretty much any paint brand (although in cheaper paints I'd say it would be closer to muddy than complex), and reds and magentas will almost invariably cover poorly (with the difference being whether you'll have to do three coats in Ben Moore, or five coats in Glidden).

This is already a lot longer than I intended, so I'll try to summarize. What separates a good can of paint from a mediocre can of paint are the ratio of solids to solvent, the quality of the pigments that are used in it, and the complexity of the colors each company has. In a lot of situations, a higher-end can of Behr and a standard can of Ben Moore may be indistinguishable, and spending the extra money might not be a necessity. But if you need a burgundy that's going to cover a green in less than three coats, or if you want rich earth-tone that isn't going to look dead on your wall after a few months, it's worth it to get a more expensive can of paint that has a little more thought put into it.

(also, two things that are bullshit: Consumer Reports paint ratings [it has more than a little to do with market share and skewed comparisons] and "paint and primer in one" [all 100% acrylic paint is self-priming, but if you're painting on anything besides a previously painted wall, use a separate damn primer].)
posted by billypilgrim at 3:59 PM on March 16, 2011 [7 favorites]

P.S. There are more nuances that I almost definitely left out (I've worked 10 hours today at said paint shop, paint topics are just piled haphazardly in my head at this point), if you want any more focused explanations (or more sense in the explanations I've already given) let me know!
posted by billypilgrim at 4:07 PM on March 16, 2011

All of the professional painters I know hate The Behr and refuse to use it, because it doesn't go on as smoothly. They are not just being conservative, with this product it takes them more time to get an even coat, and time is money.

But if cost is a factor, and you are painting for yourself, and not really fussy about the finish, then go for it.
posted by ovvl at 4:22 PM on March 16, 2011

I have 6 doors painted with Behr High gloss that are pretty much not salvageable. They peel like crazy. When I decide to fix the problem, I'm going to just buy new doors.

I am not happy with Behr paint.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:12 PM on March 16, 2011

These are all really great answers. I usually hear discussions on this topic without a lot of reasoning behind it -- absolutist "Benjamin Moore is the best" and "Behr is better and cheaper" and "Behr is crap" without a much explanation, just a lot of "take my word for it." The responses so far are really helpful, and I think it'll help me shell out for paint with a bit more confidence. Thanks!!
posted by jabberjaw at 9:33 AM on March 17, 2011

Another anecdote:

I used the Behr Premium Plus Ultra Super Duper stuff (whatever it's called, their most expensive line) to paint my kids' room a few weeks ago. I previously used Sherwin Williams paint to paint our kitchen. Both colors are very dark (navy blue and chocolate brown) and I'd say they both performed equally well. (Very well.)

The boys' room had a half-wall of black chalkboard paint, and the Behr paint covered that as excellently as the lavender the rest of the walls were. One coat, mostly.

Just my 2 cents.
posted by pyjammy at 9:48 AM on March 17, 2011

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