What a lifetime paint warranty really means

A long warranty doesn't guarantee that a paint or stain will last

Published: May 15, 2014 11:30 AM

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Long warranties and a long life for paints and stains top most people's wish lists for exterior finishes. But the two aren't necessarily synonymous. And don't expect a team of uniformed pros to arrive at your house if the paint or stain you used fails early.

Even lifetime warranties, which usually last the life of your house, merely cover problems caused by defects in the finish, not improper application or normal aging. What's more, the most you can usually expect is enough free paint or stain to cover the affected area.

Consumer Reports' outdoor paint testing also shows that some paints and stains with similar warranties perform very differently. Our tests are especially tough, but they suggest that some finishes could let you down quickly, regardless of warranty coverage.

‘Lifetime' paints differ
Our results approximate up to nine years outdoors for paints and stains on house siding. All of the paints we tested carry a lifetime warranty for defects. The best of the 36 in our exterior paint Ratings still looked impressive after the equivalent of nine years, but the Kilz Casual Colors Satin and Kilz Casual Colors Semi-Gloss paints showed cracks and dirt.

Stains fail sooner on decks
That is because horizontal surfaces are exposed more directly to the elements. Indeed, fewer stains offer warranties, with some stating only that the product "can be expected" to last a certain period. Flood SWF -Solid  Wood Stain does carry a five-year warranty for decks. But unlike some with similar coverage, it was among those that looked worn after three years of testing. The semitransparent Wolman DuraStain, and the clear Wolman RainCoat and Olympic Maximum Sealant have three-year warranties—and looked worn after just one year of testing.

Bottom line. Pick a paint or stain that held up best in our paint tests, regardless of its warranty claims. Here are some of our top paint picks.

—Ed Perratore

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