Paint your child's room in one coat, no primer

Consumer Reports News: January 17, 2013 12:11 PM

Maybe you're getting ready for baby, or just perking up your child's sleep or play space. Either way, who has time to paint? Well, it turns out, you do thanks to one-coat, no-primer-needed paints that actually work. We know they do, because we tested them. (See our interior paint Ratings.)

Consumer Reports just finished testing 65 interior paints and found that 20 of our top picks--all self-priming--let you skip priming and paint directly over everything from old paint or wallpaper to new unpainted drywall or wood. Plus our experts say that one coat should be enough to hide most colors. (Full-disclosure: a second coat does add richness and give a more even finish. But those days of perfectionism are over, right?)

The finish you choose should suit the job--which in this case may be getting lots of sticky little hands all over it. Semi-gloss is durable and resistant to stains, but can lose its sheen if it's scrubbed too hard. (Our experts recommend gloss finishes for trim only.) On the other extreme, flat or matte paint hides imperfections--such as walls that are not completely smooth--because it doesn't reflect light, but it's harder to clean because dirt adheres to it more readily and it lets stains soak in. A good compromise for rooms that will get a lot of wear-and-tear from kids is to use a satin finish, or eggshell, which is a bit more flat than satin. These finishes are durable when cleaning, stain resistant, and most likely to hide the paint and imperfections you're painting over. (See details about specific paints in our report and Ratings of interior paints.)

More good news for busy parents: Volatile organic compounds or VOCs--those ingredients that used to cause paint to give off strong fumes--are minimal or gone from most paints today. Almost all the paints in our Ratings are low-VOC or no-VOC paints, including the top-Rated self-priming paints.

Get more tips here for setting up baby's nursery. And see our Ratings of cribs, and crib mattress and crib bedding buying advice, for related information.

If you have a house built before 1978, see our report on ways to prevent child lead poisoning for tips on prep work and resources to help deal with lead paint.

Artemis DiBenedetto

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