Reader Question: Paint Prices

Written by on January 4, 2014 in Ask the Topcoat Team! with 8 Comments

Scott,

I was at my local paint store today pricing some paint, and I simply can’t justify
any chemical mixture in a can that costs $50 a gallon.

But I did notice that Super Spec is half the price.

Is it really half the paint?

Thanks, 

Elliot

Scott’s Response:

Elliot,

That’s a really good question. Paint prices are a topic I discuss almost daily with homeowners, customers, contractors and manufacturers.

In fact, two years ago, I asked  a Benjamin Moore executive this same question and many others in an interview for Blogging Painters: Pricing and Value. And here is a subsequent related piece: Responses.

I think you will find this to be very interesting.

You will notice that part of the discussion revolves around the raw material titanium dioxide, which paint manufacturers use considerable amounts of in paint formulations. In recent years, there was a shortage, prices went up.

paint pricesFrom a practical standpoint, I agree with you. A gallon of ANYTHING shouldn’t cost $50/60/70. Especially in a world where we pay premiums for basic needs that are also measured in gallons: water, milk, gasoline, etc. These are things we need more than paint in our lives, and we pay considerably less for them.

For me, both personally and professionally, I don’t really need a $60 gallon of wall paint. Especially when I use $30 wall paints that are perfectly suitable.

I have had to prioritize my painting needs in relation to paint prices. Trim paints are a more formal element in my paint jobs, so I am willing to pay more for a really good one. Cabinet finishes are the highest standard. I am willing to pay according to relative significance to my work.

What makes one better than another for me can be how it applies by brush, roller and/or sprayer. Dry times and recoat times. User friendliness. Availability. Color retention. Durability. All factors that I have to consider when specifying paints for projects.

The short answer to your question is no, a $50 can of paint is not necessarily twice as a good as a $25 can of paint. It is a subjective decision, though.

And it can be a slippery slope. Not all $25 cans of paint are created equal either. There are some very good ones, and there are some that are garbage. That is why it is important to put due diligence into research. And by that I do not mean Consumer Reports. Often, their ratings fly in stark contrast to what most pros experience with paints day in and day out.

Since your question was specifically about Benjamin Moore, I will tell you that I have used them all. I have reviewed many of them, including the pricier ones such as Aura and Natura. I subsequently used their “Ben” line on a project and was floored with how good it was at its price point, which is much more economical than the aforementioned ultra-premiums. You might want to give that a try if you are interested in continuing in the BM lines.

Hope this helps.

 

Scott Burt

Scott Burt is a contractor and freelance writer whose column "From the Field" has appeared in American Painting Contractor magazine (www.paintmag.com) since 2008. His writing and projects also appear in other print and digital venues. This site is an extension of Scott's publication work, and he encourages readers to leave comments and questions about articles published here. Hope to hear from you!

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8 Reader Comments

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  1. Matt says:

    Doing the research is everything. Sometimes BM puts out something new with a huge price tag and then take off the shelves (Details). For a few less bucks regal select high build exterior works better than regular regal select. Further evidence of too many paint lines. And advance should completely cure in one day and brush better for what they want to charge.

  2. Daniel says:

    Hi Scott, Interesting topic. I think it is important to note that the quality (and the cost) of what goes into a can of paint varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Not all resins, binders, and titaniums are created equal. This is why there are so many price points, driven by the marketplace. Companies like Benjamin Moore fail to realize how much they confuse consumers with there various “lines”.

  3. PainterOne says:

    I remember, years ago, when a painting and decorating retailer manager type told me he would never sell that Spec grade of Ben Moore, but after the big price hikes and the destruction of the economy–they closed most of their stores–he sells mostly that. I used to love SW Promar 200 but recently had a customer complain that it looked and felt chalky—but the good news is the Big Box paints like Valspar, and Behr have had a big improvement in quality but with a moderate increase in price. I only use SW nowadays for cabinets, but I may swap to one of the others if they add some more leveler.

    • Scott Burt says:

      I agree, PO, there has been so much change in the past 3 years. Hopefully the trend for the pricey boutiquey ultra premiums will pass. We all did just fine in the 90s when it was all glycol based Regal and ProClassic. Midrange lines now blow away what used to be top lines. I have written it a bunch in published articles, and hopefully manufacturers are starting to get it…we don’t need any better paints at this time, we have everything we need.

  4. David Horner says:

    Hi Scott , my sherwin rep told me the reason titanium dioxide is so expensive is because the Chinese have bought it all up and they control the market I’m not sure I believe that but he did.I thought that was very good explanation of how to manage costs in today’s market.I also used the Ben line on a job recently and was equally impressed.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Interesting theory, for sure, David! Haven’t heard that one before, and I guess I’m skeptical of it. Maybe your rep has a dry sense of humor? It is easy to blame China for a lot of issues, I suppose. Glad to hear that you had the same experience with Ben. SW Cashmere is another that falls into the “bang for the buck” category. Thanks for commenting.

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