What is the best finish for my walls? This is a very common question we get here in the paint department at Kawer’s, although the answer is not always simple and there are many choices. Back in the 30’s and ’40’s when EVERYTHING was oil based, there were only two choices: Flat and Gloss. The in-between finishes were achieved by adding “Flatting oil” or rubbing the finish with pumice to reduce shine (Hand rubbed finish). Flash forward 80 years and the interior premium Benjamin Moore Line, (starting from dull to shiny) has : Flat, Matte, Eggshell, Satin, Pearl, Semi-gloss and High Gloss finishes. Exterior adds: Low Luster and Soft Gloss. So what do theses words mean exactly? The truth is, not a lot.
The easiest way to get our head around this is to think of Flat is a number 1, High Gloss is 100 and all the other finishes are in-between. So….Yeah there’s not a lot of info in those finish descriptions. To make matters worse, different brands will have different degrees of shine based on those descriptions….Restoration Hardware Eggshell finish is as shiny as Benjamin Moore Regal Semi-gloss, California’s Super Scrub Semi-gloss is just slightly shinier than Benjamin Moore’s Regal Eggshell. So if you’re planning on just touching up, getting the finish right is just as important as color.
The true specular gloss numbers DO exist but they’re not on the paint can and if you promise not to tell anybody, I’ll let you in on that little secret at the end of this blog.
So, back to the original question; what is the best finish for my walls?
Flat: The flat finish is great for ceilings and walls where there are imperfections. Flat is not-so-great for areas that will need maintenance or high traffic areas like busy family rooms, kitchens, full-baths and the like.
Matte: Matte is a great finish for people that need some durability but don’t want any kind of shine. Matte is very close to flat as far as shine goes, but the durability nearly doubles. This makes it appropriate for kids and family rooms where stains are easily wiped off as well as powder rooms and even small kitchens. Although the matte finish is durable and can even be scrubbed, it does tend to soil quicker than eggshell or glossy finishes. Benjamin Moore even makes a matte finish exclusively for the bathroom called Aura Bath and Spa.
Eggshell: Eggshell is probably the most popular and useful interior finish. It is not uncommon for entire houses to be painted in eggshell, no matter what the room. It is virtually bullet-proof and in the premium paints (Regal, Aura), it will hold up very well in full baths as well as kitchens and kids rooms.
Satin: Satin finish is used for trim, doors, furniture and walls alike. Advance Satin and Satin Impervo are top choices for doors and trim in the Benjamin Moore line and Kitchen & Bath is an excellent choice for a beautiful durable satin finish for any room where just a little shine is desired. Benjamin Moore also has a Pearl Finish that more or less meets the description of Satin Finish, although as you will see, the specular gloss number is closer to and eggshell finish.
Semi-Gloss: This is the go-to finish for trim, doors, bathrooms, kitchens, cabinets and furniture. The disadvantage of semi-gloss is that it will show more imperfections than satin if your walls and trim aren’t perfect or if there are many coats of paint underneath. Roller and brush marks are also more apparent as the shine of the paint increases.
High Gloss or Gloss: High gloss finish can make a dramatic difference in your room. This mirror like finish can really show off new wood trim, doors and furniture while adding durability. Again, the higher the shine, the more imperfections will show, so make sure the surface to be painted is as smooth as can be. A sandable underbody primer will go a long way toward making a high gloss look it’s best. And don’t forget a tack cloth to pick up any sanding dust!
Now I will reveal to you Benjamin Moore’s top-secret specular gloss data! All paints will show a range depending on the color. Deeper colors can reflect more light giving the finish (very slightly) more sheen
Benjamin Moore Regal Select Flat 547: 1 to 3.5
Benjamin Moore Regal Select Matte 548: 2 to 5.5
Benjamin Moore Regal Select Eggshell 549: 15 to 22
Benjamin Moore Regal Select Pearl 550: 15 to 25
Benjamin Moore Advance Satin 792: 25 to 35
Benjamin Moore Kitchen & Bath W322: 15 to 25
Benjamin Moore Regal Select Semi-Gloss 551: 50 to 60
Benjamin Moore Advance High Gloss 794: 85 to 90
There’s some interesting info up there. Notice how many of the finishes overlap others in terms of gloss and look at the big gap between flat/Matte and Eggshell. Also notice how the Kitchen and Bath specular gloss is the same as Pearl although the Kitchen & Bath is clearly labeled a Satin Finish. In conclusion, the rule of thumb is the higher the shine, the more durable the paint, but glossier finishes will show more imperfections and applicator marks. I hope this is helpful in your planning your future painting projects and if you have any questions please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.