This is the question I get most about painting; "I want a good paint job, so what is the best brand of paint?"

The paint industry does not want you to know what I am about to tell you.

The brand of paint has nothing to do with the success of a paint job, especially when it comes to long-term durability.

The old saying is true:  A good paint job is 80% preparation, 20% application. My new saying is even truer:  An excellent paint job is 95% preparation. Here Phyllis uses the Wet Abrasive Scrub method to clean the clapboards. Brushing on the paint is the fun at the end of the project, like the frosting on the cake.

If 0% failure is when all the paint falls off the next year (yes I've seen it happen), and 100% success is that it still protects the wood and looks good 25 years later (yes this is possible, I've been doing it for the past 40 years); if this is how you describe success, then...

40% of the success is in selecting an appropriate treatment, such as spot paint maintenance or full recoating, or complete paint removal, etc.

40% is timeliness of the treatment, say every 2 years, 10 years or 20 years. If you put it off longer you'll have more than paint problems to deal with.

10% is in the skill and knowledge of the worker, from the first time DIYer, to the contractor who has painted hundreds of buildings.

9% is correct selection of the product type, such as paint or stain, oil-based alkyd or waterborne acrylic, oil-based primer or latex primer.

ONLY 1% of success is in the selection of the specific product, which makes little difference. The brand make no difference at all !

So, if this is true, why does it sound so UPSIDE DOWN CRAZY? Everybody says, "X Brand is best," "I only use Y Brand,"we used #%@& Brand and it failed, so now we use Z Brand, and pray it works." Why? Because the paint manufacturers and marketers have spent millions of dollars in marketing and advertising over the past 60 years to convince, brainwash, fool and trick us into BELIEVING that the brand makes a difference. It's a matter of belief and faith, not practical experience and real evidence. The only difference that brand makes is how much in profits the manufacturers and marketers can report at the end of the quarter.

So how can you overcome the brainwashing? Think for yourself, instead of trusting what the paint manufacturers want you to believe. Yes, it's easy to believe in a BRAND, and difficult to THINK, but you can do it. You are off to a good start: You are here asking questions, you have assessed paint conditions and know your climate. Instead of buying a brand of paint, hire a knowledgeable painter, or learn about painting if you are a do-it-yourselfer. Painting is not rocket science, and you can learn to do it.

To find a knowledgeable painter, seek one who has painted at least a few-hundred or even several-hundred houses. Five or ten houses, sixty or ninety houses is enough experience do a job that looks good, but not enough to accumulate the deep knowledge that is needed for truly long-lasting work.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you need to study and practice. Read the articles that are written by painters, the workers with the brushes in their hands, not the advertising written by paint manufacturers. Read the Old-House Journal paint articles going back to the 1980s. Subscribe to a painter's journal such as Painting and Wallcovering Contractor, or study at their website:
To practice, start out on the barn or around back of the house. First paint ten 1'x1' squares. Yes, that's right, you are now "in training" so this means, get everything together, paint 1'x1', then clean your brushes and put everything away, figure out what went right and what went wrong, then the next day get it all out and do better the next time. You will begin to learn what you need to know as you build your experience level.

Then paint ten 10'x10' sections, after each one figure out what went wrong and right, then plan to do better on the next. You will learn how to do good work and build up the muscles to scrape and brush with control. Then paint a 10' wide section from foundation up to the eaves. You will build stamina and develop endurance and learn how to work in high places without killing yourself.

By this time you probably have most of one side of the barn painted, go ahead and finish it up with two or three more 10' wide sections. Now you know enough about painting to hire and supervise a good painter, or perhaps you will know enough to paint the rest of your place. Otherwise, it's a hit-or-miss affair. You might hit it just right. If you miss, call me in the morning and I'll help you out.

--John Leeke
by steam and heat he strips it neat
by brush and hand it looks right grand

Views: 1728

Comment by Ray Tschoepe on November 16, 2008 at 5:10pm
Hi John,
I have to agree with you on the importance of paint preparation. I'm not certain that I can assign percentages of importance as you have, but preparation is definitely the factor which most influences paint longevity. In our experience we have found that since our surface preparation and application have been pretty much the same over the years we can eliminate them as variables in the calculation. The only other variables that we find are the primer, the exposure, the condition and species of wood and yes, the paint manufacturer. All of these have had an influence on the amount of time that the paint system lasts. We have made (and continue to make) changes that we hope will buy a few more years. We have had some significant successes by changing paint manufacturers. This is particularly true where wooden elements are south facing and afforded little protection from wind driven rain and sleet. In more forgiving exposures, we too find that paint from manufacturer A performs about the same as paint from manufacturer B.
We also have had uneven results from professional painters. They are geared up for speed more than quality. Time truly is money. I recall reading an article in a painters journal some years ago, where a painter confides to the professional readership that he uses the cheapest paint possible. It helps his bottom line in 2 ways he explains. First, his material costs over many hundreds of gallons become a significant savings and second, he is assured of a return call to re-paint. He says that he finds that most people are blame the paint and not the painter.
Well, we're always trying to learn. Any advice is ALWAYS appreciated.

Ray Tschoepe
Comment by John Rodgers on November 16, 2008 at 6:04pm
excellent read as always John...question for you:

At some point soon I am going to have to repaint the exterior of my 1911 home, which has the original stucco throughout...unlike stucco of today, this is much much courser, and has crevices deep enough that I do not believe a roller of any thickness would properly coat it. The granddaughter of the original owner told me she remembers the home being gray--in looking at the areas where paint is chipping, I'm only seeing a white layer under its current color, followed by the natural gray color of the stucco, not gray paint. In this case...would I simply pressure wash the exterior to remove any loose paint, and then spray coat it? It is my experience that spraying the paint does not last as long as rollers and brushes, but I see no other way to do it on my home.
Comment by John Leeke on November 17, 2008 at 10:01am
Roger, Some of these early 20th century stuccoes were intended to not be painted and were not painted for a few or several decades. The idea was that moisture could leave the stucco more easily. Once they are painted the paint tends to keep moisture in the stucco. I'm not sure what to do, I don't have much experience with it, but adding more paint would tend to keep more moisture in.
Comment by John Leeke on November 17, 2008 at 10:17am
Ray, the percentages are more for illustration than they are definitive.

Do you have a step-by-step paint schedule written down that defines your prep and paint procedure? We've got them here and use them to keep ourselves on track. Some are standard paint schedules, which are sometimes adapted for specific jobs. For an example see my Spot paint Maintenance article in the Aug.2005 OHJ issue, which was based on the paint schedule for this procedure. Some of our paint schedules even have photos showing each step, as seen in the article.

If you ever come across that paint journal article again please let me know the specific reference on it. I sure would like to be able to quote that article, because it's clear that is the marketing strategy for a large segment of the house painting industry, at least as it relates to old houses.
Comment by Pat Scheible on July 4, 2009 at 1:00pm
I don't have too much experience with exterior paints except on our own house, but I'm a professional decorative painter. If I'm to do any sort of glazed or washed finish, the glaze has to slip around on the wall surface to a degree. I specify Benjamin Moore Aquavelvet (eggshell) paint for the base. Even when I say, "no substitutions", you would be surprised at the number of clients who let their painters talk them into using something else because "the brand doesn't make a difference" (and it's cheaper for me). Then the wall sucks up the glaze and you have to tell the client that the painter didn't know what he was talking about; it has to be repainted. For your usual off-whites, the most expensive ingredient is the acrylic resin, and that's the element that gives you washability, durability, and sheen. New houses are the worst. Even if it's a million-dollar condo, the builder uses the cheapest stuff he can get by with. I have used Fine Paints of Europe's interior and exterior acrylics whenever possible. They're amazing. The interior can be a little tricky at first, it's so heavy-bodied. Their trim paint levels beautifully, just like oil. I have used their oil base enamels for some red doors-a real candy-apple finish that will knock your socks off. The brushes they carry are the best I,ve ever used, hands down. I'm a believer that you get what you pay for, for the most part. Of course, you can't stint on the prep work, nothing will cover up for that.
Comment by christine larkin on July 5, 2009 at 3:45pm
I have a 1953 house with plaster. Do I choose latex or oil enamel?
Comment by John Leeke on January 14, 2010 at 3:06pm
Pat Scheible writes:
>>Even when I say, "no substitutions", you would be surprised at the number of clients who let their painters talk them into using something else because "the brand doesn't make a difference"

Pat, you are correct. In your artisan/artistic work the specific product would make a difference. It's clear you have the extensive experience and need to control the very subtle differences between products to achieve your artistic effects.

In my diatribe above I'm talking about craft level work, which itself can get very detailed, but does not go the extreme subtleties of artistic work.

Well, I guess it sometimes can. When we are doing spot paint maintenance on exterior work, we have to match the surrounding weathered paint. The color needs to match pretty exactly, and also the surface sheen (flat, satin, gloss or more precisely, somewhere in between)--that can be quite subtle. This does, in fact, go beyond craft level work to artisanry.

I often think of this range of knowledge and skill that is possessed by building workers:

Laborer - uses strong back and shoulders, does the bidding of others, often the heavy work of moving stuff from one place to another

Tradesperson - uses hands, follows codes and standards set by others to assemble standard parts into systems, electricians, plumbers, carpenters

Craftsperson - uses hands and mind to create new things from basic materials: woodworkers, masons, painters

Artisan - uses mind, hands and heart to create works that influence those nearby in a spiritual way: decorative painters, woodcarvers, sculptors

There is honor in all good work and none is better than the other.

Mind, Hand, Heart


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