Sherwin Williams has been sitting on the sidelines of the paint technology race for over 10 years, quietly riding out Duration, watching the competition ratchet up product capabilities and features to never before seen levels. And now that every one of its competitors has released next generation products,
SW finally laid its cards on the table with Emerald. Another styrene acrylic like Duration.
Granted, Emerald’s features appear to be ho-hum these days, but its record-breaking adhesion for the company has positioned Emerald as a solid solution when adhesion over questionable substrates is an absolute must-have. However, still a gamble.
It’s odd that Sherwin Williams specifically referred to the newcomer as “Zero. The number of paints that surpass Emerald”, Further siting a breakthrough, because nothing about Sherwin Williams Emerald fits that statement besides maybe faster adhesion. Benjamin Moore Advance has good adhesion, but requires much longer cure time to achieve it. Emerald’s adhesion is same day to overnight in comparison to a month or more with Advance. PPG Breakthrough has exceptional adhesion in less than 24 hours.
For example, it boasts exceptional durability, but our simple fingernail tests over satin produced easy markability, burnishing and little to no resistance to marring. We don’t mind so much because the satin sheen was almost flat in appearance and would not likely be used on trim, doors or kitchen cabinets. The satin would work fine like most other similar products in sheen for low traffic areas. As far as hide goes, SW simply brought hide up to where BEHR Premium Plus was years ago.
Just for kicks we compared Emerald Satin against BEHR Premium Plus Flat which is half the cost of Emerald. BEHR beat it in nearly every benchmark. The only exception was adhesion where Premium Plus couldn’t match when comparing both as self-priming products without help-along primers. If you apply a primer under BEHR Premium Plus, then Emerald does not appear to have any advantage over BEHR. As a bonus, Emerald’s stock white satin had exceptional hide as stated, but barely better than Premium Plus. It was hardly noticeable with white over dark blue, BEHR Cracked Pepper.
Adhesion is great, we all agreed on that, but the fact it costs twice the price of Premium Plus makes the buying decision for Emerald bitter sweet when extra adhesion is needed.
Adhesion is the most important thing when I review paint. It supercedes everything else.
It’s not like we have a great deal of choices when it comes to adhesion today. There is now only one other water-base product I know of that gives Emerald a run for the money on adhesion and it too recently came out. What the world doesn’t need more of is another cosmetic paint that simply looks pretty when applied. We’re glad SW chose not to follow in those footsteps with Emerald.
Emerald is fairly fluid, almost perfect. Although you can see in the photo above, there is a trace of accumulation on pass-through. A reduction of only 8 oz of water gets the product dialed-in a bit better for faster spread rates. Reduction also assists with leveling a bit, however stock product is used for our performance testing. I prefer my paints more like 3900.
Emerald’s coverage is as good as it gets. Have a look at stock Extra White above over dark blue ‘BEHR Cracked Pepper’. However, we did not see anything great with leveling. All our samples had minimal brush marks with stock product. I did however only give Emerald 3 stars (okay) for leveling. There are other acrylics on the market with far better leveling. Also in the photo above you can see noticeable marring from running my fingernail over the surface. BEHR Premium Plus Flat was used in comparison to Emerald Satin to match the sheen. It would not be fair to use a glossier product such as BEHR Premium Plus satin.
Sherwin Williams suggests 2 coats over bare wood or one coat of Sherwin Williams Premium Wall and Wood primer, and two coats of finish. As you can see above, one coat was not anywhere sufficient to establish a solid base coat. It took 3 coats of finish to produce something acceptable. Emerald lost too much of its film to the depths of the porousness of the wood whereas BEHR handled that situation like a true primer would.
The sanded portion of the BEHR sample above is solid and ready to be finished off beautifully in two coats.
10 mil is pushing it. We made this sample in a controlled environment and it had some give. Had the draw-down remained intact at 10 mil, the window reflection seen above would look like a mirror reflection, clear and sharp. The PDS calls for 4 mils wet, but who does that—right? Painters need to know where the boundaries are on millage. Double PDS spec and you’re good! Candy coat it.
As part of our standard testing we like to apply paints over surfaces someone would likely apply paint but might not necessarily be a surface for the products intended use. Things like ketchup, mustard, syrup come to mind. In this case, we applied 2 coats of Emerald over copper piping mounted to a basement wall. Emerald contains agents which inhibit the growth of microbes on the surface of this coating film. Also seen above is a piece of PVC and an unsanded kitchen cabinet drawer front. Surprisingly, Emerald adhered great after scuff sanding the surface with 240 Abranet. I spent no more than 2 minutes scuffing the surface.
0-20 units @ 85° That looks flat for a Satin. The similar sheen of BEHR Premium Plus is flat. BEHR’s sheen levels are Flat, Matte, Eggshell, Satin, Semi-Gloss (in that order).
Sherwin Williams Emerald is also available for exterior and must be a separate paint review. We will be reviewing Emerald with a series of performance tests with Benjamin Moore Aura and the new BEHR Marquee. We actually had to modify our testing for Marquee because that product adds a new performance test indicator.
Our performance testing includes 24 criteria. It’s unfortunate Emerald did not excel in other areas. Perhaps if it had, there would be more to talk about. We had a good idea of what to expect before we popped the lid based on paint contractor feedback online. It was disappointing not to be able to produce our classic fine hand brushed finish with Emerald as seen with Sherwin Williams Solo. Emerald squeaks in as a good buy despite its high price because that level of adhesion is hard to come by these days, even though situational as to where it sticks best.
I would definitely like to see improvements in how products are tested. Current testing methods are consistently producing results below expectations for “top dollar” paints. I can’t help but think about the tremendous amount of time and money spent on state of the art testing. The company is almost 150 years old. All it takes is an afternoon with a gallon of paint in the hands of someone capable enough to uncover where a product could be improved. It’s a good place to start. Knowing key areas a “top dollar”, self-priming paint should excel is half the battle.
I want my chocolate cake with peanut butter fudge toppings, and eat it too, plus seconds!
Sherwin Williams could have nailed it with Emerald, but I completely missed what they were trying to do. Improve adhesion? Yeah, did that. What about the rest? If BEHR decided to improve adhesion, they would have a product very hard to beat. BEHR levels like glass, applies easy with brush, roller and sprayer, long working time, and have exceptional hide in all three of their trim paints. I don’t know who the guy is over at BEHR deciding on a higher degree of “acceptability” but I’m one painter who certainly appreciates the attention to detail by producing full feature-rich product(s).
No question Emerald has great adhesion and you don’t have to wait 7, 14, 21 or 30 day cure times to get it. You get great adhesion now, and fast print and block resistance. We had good adhesion with a light scuff sanding on all our tests over surfaces you would typically apply a primer—skipping the middleman altogether. That could be used to your advantage in the right scenarios.
Considering BEHR Premium Plus costs $21.21 out the door with my PRO REWARDS discount… I would throw twenty-two bucks at Emerald for the trade-off in features when needed, but that is about forty bucks off Emerald’s shelf price. I suppose I would be more inclined to use a primer with PP to maximize adhesion when needed. Sherwin Williams is asking a bit much to compromise other features for ‘better’ adhesion at a premium price.
In our area, these would be my options Benjamin Moore Advance, BEHR Premium Plus (approx. $22), BEHR Premium Ultra, BEHR 3900 Waterborne-alkyd (approx. $26), PPG Breakthrough
This concludes the short-version of the Emerald Review, but there is much more. I try to consolidate paint reviews to 5 of the 24 performance criteria otherwise you would be reading about Emerald all day. I hope the review provides some general insight as to how I shop for paint products and compare options to qualify for use on a customer’s home. Feel free to ask questions.
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