Tuesday Tips: Buying Paint

One of the most expensive supplies in a painting project is the paint. It's hard to believe, since it's just paint, but paint a room with cheap stuff and it shows. High-end paint can run you $100 a gallon. So here are a few tips on buying paint without taking out a second mortgage on your home:

Tip #1: If you're painting to sell a house, consider using a lower grade paint in a neutral color and a flat finish. A new owner will likely paint the room their own color anyway and you haven't spent a ton of money to make your house look nice while it's on the market. "You're not going to get a lot of wear in the time from when you paint it to when you sell it," said Bill Thornton, owner of Potomac Paint, a paint store in Alexandria, Arlington and Chantilly.

Tip #2: Think about the space that you're painting. It will dictate what kind of grade of paint you buy. Builders grade, which is the lowest, may not withstand cleaning products that you use to clean the walls. Higher grades, such as contractor grade, will withstand ammonia-based cleaners, as well as magic markers and other stains.

Tip #3: Before you head to the paint store, look online for coupons and sales. Brands that are sold in boutique paint stores like Benjamin Moore and Duron often have discounts at certain times of the year, as well as online, printable coupons.

Tip #4: Ask for a discount if you're painting the entire house. Some stores will cut some of the price if you're buying several gallons of paint. It also never hurts to ask for a discount if it's a house you're trying to sell before a potential foreclosure. "We try to work with people and if they tell us that they're pinching pennies for whatever reason, we try to be a good neighbor," Thornton said.

Tip #5: If you're using a contractor to do your painting, ask if they have discounts at any paint stores. Many contractors have relationships with paint stores that give them small discounts for exclusively buying their paint.

Tip #6: Think about how much you want to paint. A higher quality paint might often mean you're rolling on fewer coats of paint, which means less expense in the end.

Tip #7: Don't buy the most expensive paint supplies, such as brushes and rollers, if you're just doing one small project. And use less expensive plastic drop cloths rather than canvas ones. Old shower curtains work great as well. And if you don't need a whole gallon of paint, buy two quarts instead. "Two quarts costs less than a gallon," Thornton says.

What are your tips for buying paint on a budget? Who has the best deals?

By Tania Anderson |  April 7, 2009; 12:00 AM ET General Interest , Home Improvement
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Regarding Tip #3: I thought you didn't like coupons!

Posted by: subwayguy | April 7, 2009 8:24 AM

I pick out a color at Benjamin Moore from their color chips and then go to Home Depot to actually buy the paint. They can reproduce most other manufactures' colors and their quality is highly rated from Consumer Reports. I used to buy Duron but I find the Home Depot brand just as good for my purposes. I think the cost per gallon is 20-25 dollars.

Posted by: maijja | April 7, 2009 8:36 AM

I'm a huge fan of SW Duration line. No spatters, cleans easily, and has a nice thick hide. Plus, anyone can open an "account" at SW and receive 15% off all purchases.

Regarding Tip #1, though: we bought a house last year that had just been painted throughout with really crummy paint. Now, even though we hadn't bargained on using our time or money on new paint, we find we HAVE to repaint. In fact, we had to sand down the bathroom and replaster in areas because the paint was so cheap and was the wrong finish. DON'T DO THIS TO YOUR BUYERS. Be a good person.

Posted by: kajr | April 7, 2009 9:26 AM

I would strongly disagree with a lot of these "money saving tips."

First, I have never noticed a huge difference in quality between designer and store brand paints, so the easiest way to save money is to just buy a store brand. Both Lowes and Home Depot run sales on their store brands (Valspar and Behr, respectively) just about every quarter with up to $5 discounts per gallon. Both stores offer color matchings, so it should NEVER be a matter of a color not being offered.

Second, the simplest way to save on paint is to use a primer. Painting on paint ALWAYS takes 2-3 coats. Painting on primer usually can be accomplished in one coat.

I strongly disagree with using inexpensive painting tools. The cheap stuff will always get you into trouble, I would NEVER put down a plastic dropcloth over a carpet or floor I don't mind dripping paint on, in which case you should just paint without a dropcloth altogether. Cheap brushes provide cheap results. Purty should be the lowest quality you use unless you don't care about the quality of the finished product. Buy a good set of rollers and a roller washer so the roller covers last longer (I've been using the same 4 roller covers for 3 years). Good roller covers and brushes will help to stretch paint. If you cannot paint a 12x12 room (8 foot ceilings) with 1 gallon of paint, you're doing something wrong!!!

Finally, make sure you buy the "correct" finish. ALWAYS put semi-gloss in kitchens and bathrooms. High gloss should be reserved for doors and trim (and ceilings in those rare instances). Satin and eggshell should be the standard finishes for most walls. Stay away from flat unless that extra $2 will kill your budget.

The easiest way to save on a painting project...DO IT YOURSELF!!!

Posted by: Russtinator | April 7, 2009 4:06 PM

Having had some major interior renovation work done (because of a fire), I recommend the Benjamon Moore paint. The quality is much better than what I see at Lowes and Home Depot. As the contractor went with me to pick out the paint (and a lot of it) , I got a nice discount.
As for painting supplies, never scrimp on brushes and rollers. For brushes, go with Corona.
A fine brush.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | April 7, 2009 4:48 PM

I've done a lot of painting over the years, so I have to say how much I've come to love Benjamin Moore paints. They are a little more expensive, but they go on like a dream and can stand up to normal wear and tear very well. I would say go with house brands if you're repainting for resale, but go for good, heavy paint if you're repainting a house you're not planning to leave for a while.

I also agree with those who say don't skimp on the finish of the paint if you're going to resale. Satin and eggshell aren't that much more expensive than flat, and look much better.

Primer is also a lifesaver. 1 coat of primer costs half what a coat of paint costs. And if your walls are exceptionally, rarely "thirsty", then 2 coats of primer isn't bad. Just watch the fumes - if you're painting something like a closet, splurge on the low-fume variety.

Also, if you're painting over a good sized patched piece of wall, two coats of primer is a must in these spots. Fresh spackle will suck down paint like nobody's business. And if the paint color is dark, I'll even paint the patch/patches on their own, let them dry, and then start painting the whole room. Keeps you from getting a discolored patch on the wall where the paint was absorbed unevenly.

Keep away from the stupid gadgets. A few good brushes in varying sizes (that you keep clean - overnight if you wrap them VERY tightly in foil if you're starting first thing in the morning) are better than all the cheap brushes in the world.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 9, 2009 11:03 PM

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