- Open Time
Actually, you can technically call it a comeback
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 seem kind of 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 Emerald fits that statement besides maybe faster adhesion. Benjamin Moore Advance has good adhesion too but takes much longer cure time to achieve it. With Emerald, the adhesion is same day to overnight in comparison to a month or more with Advance. PPG Breakthrough also 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 be the likely sheen used on trim, doors or kitchen cabinets. 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 pitted Emerald Satin against BEHR Premium Plus Flat—(half the cost of Emerald) and 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 stick a primer under BEHR Premium Plus then Emerald does not have any advantage over BEHR. As a bonus, Emerald’s stock white satin had exceptional hide as stated but barely better than Premium Plus—hardly noticeable with white over dark blue, BEHR Cracked Pepper.
The adhesion kicks all kinds of ass, 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 you need extra adhesion.
Adhesion is most important when I review paint. It supercedes everything else.
It’s not like we have much of a choice when it comes to adhesion today. There is currently only one other water-base product I know of that gives Emerald a run for the money on adhesion and it too just came out recently. 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 and assists with leveling a bit, however stock product is used for our performance testing. I prefer my paints more like 3900.
Coverage and Leveling
Emerald’s coverage is as good as it gets, at least in stock Extra White seen above over a dark blue ‘BEHR Cracked Pepper’. We did not see anything great with leveling. All our samples had brush marks with stock product—although minimal. I did however only give Emerald 3 stars (okay) for leveling because 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 sheen. It would not be fair to use a glossier product such as BEHR Premium Plus satin.
Sherwin Williams suggests 2 coats of Emerald 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 of Emerald 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.
As you can see on the sanded portion of the BEHR sample above, its solid, and ready to be finished off beautifully in 2 coats.
10 mil is pushing it. We made this sample in a controlled environment and it had some give. Had the draw-down remained in tact 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 a 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 in 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 in exterior paint, not to be confused with this interior paint review. We will be reviewing Emerald with a series of performance tests with Benjamin Moore Aura and the new BEHR Marquee product soon. We actually had to change up our testing for Marquee because that product adds a new performance test indicator.
- Excellent coverage/hide
- Excellent fast adhesion
- Fast cure
- Acceptable open time
- Durable but can mar easily on lower sheens
- Low viscosity
- Good sag resistance
- Excellent block resistance
- Fairly easy application
- Anti-microbial coating
- Higher price range
- Unable to produce clean glass-like brushed finishes
- Adhesion can be hit-or-miss depending on substrate
- Self-priming use for bare wood seems counterproductive
- The plastic lids on the cans are terrible for sealing the paint. I would be willing to bet on a national level, those lids are costing the company money. Not efficient for employees at the store.
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 from a company almost 150 years old when 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).
What’s Emerald good for?
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.
What’s it worth?
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.
What are my options?
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
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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. I hope the review provides some general insight as to how I shop for paint products and weigh options to qualify for use on a customers home. Feel free to ask questions. More photos on Google+ 26 photos