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Exterior paints
The best paint can improve your homeís appearance and protect it from the weather for about nine years.

While a fresh coat of paint on the siding and trim will give your house curb appeal, exterior paint isnít just for show. It provides an important layer of protection against moisture, mildew, and the effects of the sun.


Major brands include Ace, Behr (sold at Home Depot), Benjamin Moore, Dutch Boy, Glidden, Sears, Sherwin-Williams, True Value, and Valspar (sold at Lowe's). You'll also see many brands of paint sold regionally.

Exterior paints come in a variety of sheens. The dullest is flat, followed by low-luster (often called eggshell or satin), semigloss, and gloss. The flatter finishes are best for siding, with the lowest-sheen variety the best choice if you need to mask imperfections. Glossy paint is most often used for trim because it highlights the details of the woodwork and the paint is easy to clean. Price range: $15 to $40 a gallon.


Our tests of exterior paints are very severe, exposing painted panels on outdoor racks angled to catch the maximum amount of sun. One year of testing is approximately equal to three years of real-life exposure. Generally, most paints will look good for at least three years, some should look good for about six, and top-rated products about nine years. Most also do a good job of resisting the buildup of mildew and preventing the wood from cracking. To determine the best paint for your home, consider the following tips:

Buy the best. Our tests have found that the grade of paint matters. "Good" or "economy" grades don't weather as well as top-of-the-line products. Using a cheaper grade of paint means you'll spend more time and money in the long run because you'll need to repaint more often. "Contractor" grades of paint that we've tested in the past also tended to be mediocre.

Consider where you live. Paints of any color accumulate dirt over time. The top-rated paints tended to resist it better than the others; darker colors hide it better. Good dirt resistance is important in urban areas. Mildew can be a problem in damp areas, from rainy Seattle to steamy Tampa, or on any house that gets more shade than sun. Baking in bright sun can change even the best-quality pigments. Blues and yellows are the most likely to change.

Don't overlook the prep work. Be sure you scrape, sand, and clean the siding thoroughly before applying the paint. Good preparation makes any paint last longer. And plan to apply two coats.

Tailor your prep work. Our tests are based on applying one primer coat and two top coats to new pine siding. If you're painting over other materials, different steps may be necessary. Stucco and masonry may need sealing beforehand. Vinyl siding can fade before it fails. But to avoid the possibility of warping, don't use a darker color than the original.

If you plan to sand or scrape paint on a house built before 1978, be warned: The older coats of paint may contain lead, so you'll need to take extra precautions.

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