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Q&A: Will one coat of paint cut it for interior projects?

Consumer Reports News: February 18, 2008 03:09 AM

We’re going to try to prep and paint two bedrooms in a long weekend. Any chance we can get away with only one coat of paint?

Our latest testing of interior paints reveals that some finishes deliver better one-coat coverage than others.

To determine one-coat ability, we paint a white, pastel, and medium of each paint on striped hiding charts with light-gray to jet-black bars (shown). To merit better one-coat distinction, even the white version of a paint must conceal at least the two lightest-color bars with a single coat. As you can see, the paint on the bottom offers more-complete coverage after a single coat than the one on the top.

But before we can recommend you use only one coat, we need to know the exact nature of your project because there are times when even the best one-coat paint won’t provide satisfactory coverage. For example, if you’re changing the bedroom walls from a darker color to a lighter one, say burgundy to beige, no fewer than two coats will keep the darker base from bleeding through.

That’s why you should use two coats of a top-rated paint for any decorative application—two coats are better than one. What’s more, to enhance hiding ability of a paint, manufacturers might skimp on some additives and end up diminishing other performance results of their paints. That is, a paint might cover well in one coat but might not resist scrubbing with a sponge or might start to fade a few months down the road.

If you’re intent on trying for a one-coat application, you won’t have to spend big bucks to do so: Five of the 14 paints that deliver better one-coat hiding cost $20 or less per gallon. One of those paints is the No. 1 paint in the low-luster category, which we consider to be the best paint for most applications.

Which paint is that? Check our Ratings of interior paints, available to subscribers.—Daniel DiClerico

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