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Best interior paints

Find a finish that looks good and lasts

Consumer Reports magazine: March 2013

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New formulas have improved some interior paints, but others performed worse than they did just a year ago in Consumer Reports tests. And a newcomer had the highest scores of the dozens of paints we tested.

Our new winner was superb at hiding, leaving a smooth finish that resisted stains and scrubbing. It earned high scores in each finish—satin, flat, and semigloss. It’s sold only at Ace stores. Other paints that were easy to apply, great at hiding, durable, washable, and better for the environment are as close as Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Benjamin Moore retailers.

But that doesn’t mean you can pick any paint off their shelves. Now that we’ve put down our paint rollers, here’s what else our tests have found:

Self-priming paints save work. Twenty of our top picks let you skip priming and paint directly over old finishes, bare wood, and wallboard. They’re footnoted in the Ratings. One coat of a recommended paint should be enough to hide most colors beneath. Even with these paints, a second coat adds richness and results in a more even finish.

Better Homes is cheaper, not better. Don’t expect to be featured in the pages of its magazine if you buy Better Homes and Gardens paint. All three finishes left roller marks and mottled surfaces, and the flat paint also had mediocre stain resistance and hiding. Only the semigloss made our picks, offering impressive hiding and excellent resistance to staining, gloss change, and scrubbing.

How low can they go? More manufacturers are claiming that their paint is free of volatile organic compounds, though the tints used to color the bases might have some. Those solvents, released into the air as paint dries, are linked to respiratory problems and air pollution. Most companies now say that their products have 50 grams of VOCs or less per liter. But low or no VOCs doesn’t mean the paints are odor-free.

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