Newcomer tops Consumer Reports' tests of interior paints

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Newcomer tops Consumer Reports' tests of interior paints Clark Kensington
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Newcomer tops Consumer Reports' tests of interior paints Clark Kensington

Benjamin Moore and Behr are familiar paint brands, but in Consumer Reports' latest tests of 65 interior paints, it was a newcomer that earned the highest score. Clark+Kensington bested Behr and Benjamin, shaking things up in the paint aisle.

Consumer Reports found Clark+Kensington paint to be tops 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 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 and results in a more even finish even for top performers.

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. They are also the place 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 mean consumers don’t have to rely solely on the skills of a sales clerk, though one with a good eye and mixing equipment with clean nozzles 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, because repeated cleaning will dull most finishes.

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

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