Sheen decisions

NorthlutMay 22, 2012

We've met with four painters, and been told conflicting things about the best sheen to use for the inside of our house. Some say that flat is the only way to go, it looks best, is easiest to touch up, and since we don't have kids or dogs, won't need to get scrubbed. Others have told us that velvet/satin is better, because it's more durable. We're having a really hard time making up our minds. These would all be paint brands like Benjamin Moore, Dunn Edwards or Sherwin Williams, so hopefully good quality.

Anyone have some guidance?

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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

Any of those company's make a flat or even better matte which is washable. Personally, I find any more than a matte everywhere except kitchens and baths to institutional looking

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 4:34AM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Decide on the brand first. Then take a look at their sheen level samples. Often when it comes to selecting sheen the focus is solely on function.

The "hand" of the final finish also has a visual impact. If there is a visual impact, there is a physio-psychological impact as well.

Selection of sheen should include your personal tolerances and preferences. My favorite example is a client I had years ago who told me that flat was "NOT! an option". When I asked about her very strong response to a flat paint finish she said there was something about it that made her teeth hurt - like nails on a chalkboard. Just knowing that was the finish on the walls felt unsettling to her.

Alternatively I've gotten input about too much sheen. For example, the walls look upholstered in Saran Wrap - cheap.

I agree with Chris about matte finish. It's not too flat, not too shiny. Since the function aspect is not a #1 priority for you because of your low wear environ, maybe just focus on what you think looks best.

Choose based on what you like the most.

Flat maybe "easier" to touch up but you still have to finese it. If the touched up spot catches the light just right, you'll see an outline. Not sure I'd base sheen selection choices on which one is allegedly easier to touch up.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 12:25PM
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My rule is that unless you have level 5 walls (absolutely flawless) not to use a sheen any higher than required to satisfy your functional needs. Angular sheen tends to accentuate drywall/taping flaws so why go there unless you need it?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 5:28PM
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This is such a personal preference thing, and the sheens being discussed could change from one brand to the next. Here's my personal experience in learning I prefer matte walls.

I used Ace Sensations aka Royal Finest (no longer in production) in Satin in my bathroom. It has a definite sheen, but holds up to moisture well and looks alright since the walls are smooth (I think smooth is key for sheen to look good). Then I painted my living room and kitchen (one large room) with Benjamin Moore Regal Select Matte (a washable flat). The heavy texture disappears into the wall and the color looks very rich. I've had good luck with both scrubbing and touching up this paint.

For the next room, an office/spare bedroom, I mixed a bunch of left-over sample paint in eggshell (the sheen between flat and satin/pearl; mostly Ace Royal Finest, plus a little Ben). The wall texture is much more visible, though not quite as shiny as my satin bathroom. I wish I had used a matte paint again, because the sheen looks cheap, IMO. I really dislike how visible the wall texture is. On smoother walls, it would likely be less bothersome.

The latest bedroom I painted with Ace Clark + Kensington Flat Enamel (another washable flat). It's not as flat as the BM RS Matte, but flatter than the eggshell of the other room. So, the C+K flat enamel is nice doesn't bug me like the office walls do, but it's not quite as rich looking as BM's Matte.

With the technology to make matte/flat paints more durable, I see no reason to go with higher sheens on walls (though I still like semi-gloss for cabinets and trim). Sheen does help protect against moisture, but BM has Aura Matte Bath & Spa paint to address the moisture issue if you want to minimize sheen in every room.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 5:50PM
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sherwin williams is the only paint we use, for many reasons, #1 is the quality of paint-also known as solid count, if its not solid its water. also the fact that you can walk in in 5 years and get an exact color match.
sheens are up personal preference, and there is no standard. flat at one place would be considered matte at another.
at sherwin williams for example flat has 0-5% gloss, and matte has 5-10% gloss, while both have the same solid count
flats and mattes have the highest solid count of all paints, that is why most people use them expecially if the walls or ceilings have flaws, as well as for the greatest touchupability. (oh yeah the builders solution series is wipable in flat and matte)
next is eggshell and satin both have a sheen so not so good for imperfect drywall, both keep the eye moving so ok for small areas you want to make appear larger, wipable/washable rarely worth the tradeoff of the flaws it shows off. touchupability not for average homeowner that does not know how to (wipe entire area with damp cloth, then touchup while wet) also notable like everything that has sheen, sunlight and age dull them making a 3 year old paintjob almost imposible to touchup, so generally a touchup is corner to corner. this problem with all sheens here and above. AND though noone ever wants to say it every step up also reduces the solid count,and though many will argue diferently: with the reduced solid count you should add another coat to achieve a honest job.
Next would be semigloss- washable
Next gloss then enamel not recomended for walls at all LOL
HERE is the best part about Sherwin-Williams get ready for it
Low-Sheen all the great things of eggshell or semigloss without the sheen, I use in all bathroom kitchens where they need washability, touchupability ok if you use damp cloth first even on 3 year old walls.
hope it helps

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 12:08AM
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A painter will almost always be more concerned about touch up because the product's ability to do that affects their livelihood. As a homeowner I am only slightly worried about touch up.
I think matte or eggshell is perfectly acceptable for any wall surface in a house. Anything higher in sheen comes with it's quirks as previous posts have mentioned.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 8:41AM
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I always use love flat because it hides their mistakes.

Personally my favorite is Martin...Charile is too crazy now a days.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 12:32AM
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I am a huge, huge, HUGE fan of Benjamin Moore Pearl. It's the exact middle of their sheen selections and I've used it for years. Gorgeous finish, not too shiny at all, definitely not matte. Reflects light but doesn't make wall imperfections glaring. Feels great to the touch. Cleans very easily. Looks rich.

Anyway, I always question when some feel flat paint is more expensive looking, especially when every apartment in America is done in flat paint so it can be cheaply repainted. There's a reason flat paint is cheaper to buy. And I hate the feel.

I agree that painters push flat - I'm sure after it's freshly painted they have few complaints. But I wonder if some paint contractors give you a set price including them supplying the paint. Flat paint is cheaper and thus ups their margin.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 8:39AM
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Lori A. Sawaya

lol! :) @andrelaplume2

Gotta love paint humor.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 12:08PM
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I don't push flat finish at all, for a number of reasons. From a pure profit standpoint, flat is a cheaper paint job, less labor (flat can be a one coat job) and less material costs which means less money for me. Flat paint decreases my 'margin' not increases it. Also, you cannot touch a wall painted with flat paint without it turning to a dull spot. Sure, it touches up, and it hides flaws better, but in 4 or 5 months after a bunch of people have bumped, touched and leaned on the surfaces, the walls look like they are ready for another paint job. Finally, walls painted with paint that has no sheen at all just looks like an apartment to me. There are not very many real paintjobs I do these days that get a flat finish and it's not something I would recommend unless the customers are very gentle on their walls and never touch them. Washable mattes are okay, but most of them really are not that washable, not when compared to an eggshell at least.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 3:04PM
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We used Benjamin Moore eggshell on the walls, for durability/washability and low sheen. Flat on the ceiling, where the basset hound can't get to the paint with his smudgy nose and scratchy paws. Semi-gloss on the trim and woodwork for a bit of sheen and higher durability/washability, and high gloss on the black bannister because it looks fun.

Different brands and different lines within the brands have different sheen levels, but the ones we used on walls went like this, from flattest to shiniest: flat, matte, eggshell, pearl, semigloss, high gloss.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 12:18PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

PRETTY house, pretty colors NaRo! Thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 12:37AM
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Thanks! We had to rebuild after a tree crushed the house, and we're liking the new colors.

I just remembered my bathroom paints are BM pearl, not eggshell--this is the kind of sheen MJTX2 likes. I think it stands up to water splashes a little better, and I agree with MJTX2 that it's not too shiny.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 10:44AM
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