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.
Emerald has faster adhesion than many paints. Benjamin Moore Advance has good adhesion too, 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 Break-through has exceptional adhesion in less than 24 hours.
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 so we were excited to see improvements there.
Just for kicks we compared Emerald Satin against BEHR Premium Plus 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 below, 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, but that is my preference.
Emerald’s coverage is as good as it gets. Have a look at stock Extra White below 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 below 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 below, 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. Wood samples were cut from the same stock. I took one piece of wood and chopped it in half.
The sanded portion (dull area) of the BEHR sample below 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 below 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.
In this next simple test I produced a drawdown sample of Emerald Satin and Behr Premium Plus Satin. On the samples I made a mark with a black dry erase marker (shown). Next I wiped the black marker off with a damp rag because I did not have a dry eraser. The black mark came off easily on the Behr sample (2nd photo) largely in part to “film tightness,” the optimized pigment spacing (film tightness) between the polymer and pigments (e.g., Titanium Dioxide). The tightness of film plays a role in how easily paints can be cleaned. At the time of this update: February 26, 2015 the cost of Behr Premium Plus Satin is around $23 with a ProRewards discount. Perhaps Emerald’s next sheen up from Satin will clean easier.
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 Marquee 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. 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!
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.
In our area, my options are Benjamin Moore Advance, BEHR Premium Plus (approx. $23), BEHR Premium Ultra, BEHR 3900 Waterborne-alkyd (approx. $26), and PPG Break-through.
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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