What’s Important In Painting?

Published in the ECHO Journal, August 2009

Good paint performance depends on good adhesion, and paint adheres best to surfaces that are clean and sound. That’s why contractors make sure the surface is in this condition before they start.

Taking shortcuts on surface preparation can cause even the highest quality paints to fail prematurely. In fact, according to experts at the Paint Quality Institute, inadequate surface preparation is the single greatest cause of premature exterior paint failures.

Thus, just as a builder needs a solid foundation to construct a house that lasts, so too must a painting contractor start with a sound surface. It is the first step to a durable, long-lasting exterior paint job.

Benefits of a Properly Prepared Surface

  • Better adhesion — the paint is less likely to blister, flake or peel.
  • Better uniformity — the paint has a more consistent color and sheen or gloss.
  • Better hiding — no show-through from the surface that is being painted.
  • Increased mildew resistance — the paint won’t be marred by unsightly black or brown fungal growth.
  • Increased corrosion resistance, in the case of painting metal —results in a longer- lasting paint job because of better protection against rusting.

Using Top Quality Paint

When doing exterior or interior painting, an important decision is the quality of paint to be used. Top quality paints are designed to produce the best-looking and longest-lasting results. And even though quality paints may cost a little more, they provide a smoother, more uniform appearance, and can last more than twice as long as ordinary paints, so they are really more economical in the long run. Here are some of the specific benefits of using top quality paints, compared with using an “economy” paint:

Benefits of Top Quality Exterior Paint

  • Better adhesion, thus less likely to blister, flake or peel.
  • Better chalk resistance, for excellent color retention.
  • Better dirt resistance, so that the paint remains fresh-looking.
  • Better mildew resistance, to reduce marring by unsightly black or brown blotches.
  • Overall superior durability.

Benefits of Top Quality Interior Paint

  • Goes on smoothly and evenly, without showing brush or roller marks.
  • Minimal spattering during application.
  • More hiding power, thus requiring less touch-up and, possibly, fewer coats.
  • Surfaces have less tendency to stick to each other, so that freshly painted surfaces won’t bond to one another.
  • Better resistance to dirt and stains, which facilitates cleaning and maintenance.

What is Quality In Paint?

No matter what kind of paint you choose, you’ll find a variety of prices and a wide range of quality. You’ll pay less per gallon for lower quality paints, but don’t let that fool you. You generally get more for your money, and a much better value, with a higher quality paint.

How Paint Ingredients Affect Quality


  • Provide color or whiteness and hiding
  • Top quality paints have higher levels of high-hiding pigments
  • Top quality exterior paints have more durable pigments that resist chalking and fading better


  • “Bind” the pigment into a tough, continuous film and help the paint adhere to the surface.
  • Top quality flat paints have a higher binder to pigment ratio.
  • Many top quality exterior latex paints are based on 100 percent acrylic binders to maximize:

    1. Adhesion when wet for resistance to blistering and peeling;
    2. Resistance to mildew and dirt;
    3. Alkali resistance over fresh masonry


Liquids carry the pigment and binders. In oil-based and alkyd paints, the liquid is a paint thinner. In latex paints, the liquid is water. Top quality paints have less liquid and more solids (pigment & binders).


Ingredients are used at low levels to provide key properties found in quality exterior paints, such as mildew resistance, better flow and leveling, and splatter resistance.

Application Properties Associated with Quality in Paint

Feature Benefit
Excellent Flow & Leveling Smoothness for Good Appearance
Superior Hiding Appearance; Speed of Application; May Need Fewer Coats
Low Spatter when Rolling Less to Clean Up; Speedier Job

Resistance Properties Associated with Quality in Paint

Interior Paint

Feature Benefit
High Degree of Adhesion Less Chance of Blistering, Peeling; Stands Up Better to Dampness, Washing
Scrub Resistant Stands Up to Cleaning
Burnish Resistance Won’t Get Shiny When Rubbed or Cleaned
Stain Resistance Won’t Absorb Dirt; Easy to Keep Clean
Block Resistance Won’t Stick when Surfaces Touch

Exterior Paint

Feature Benefit
High Adhesion Less Chance of Blistering, Peeling
Chalk Resistance Retention; No Run-down Over Dark Surface; Slow Erosion Rate
Mildew Resistance Little or No Mildew to Mar Appearance
Color Retention Maintains Color, Appearance
Alkali Resistance Resists Deterioration On Fresh Masonry
Dirt Resistance Won’t Pick Up and Hold Airborne Dirt

Judy O’Shaughnessy is a Property Management Specialist for Associations at Kelly Moore Paints. She is also a member of ECHO’s Maintenance Panel and its South Bay Resource Panel.