Delving deeper into the world of European finishes, we began to develop a much better understanding of why there is such a significant difference between performance paints and conventional domestic formulations.
Performance Standards for Paint
Premium paints sold in the EU are formulated with pride to comply with strict, self-imposed industry standards assuring maximum beauty and longevity – the longevity is a direct result of the beauty. By contrast, domestic paint manufacturers are primarily focused on producing paints of modest quality for a hypothetical American family which now moves every forty seven months! In the absence of performance standards, domestic paint manufacturers freely utilize inexpensive fillers and extenders aware that as long as they forego the use of lead and mercury they can put what they want in the can. The American paint marketplace is currently saturated with impermanent and mediocre coatings. We paint our fords and chevys with paints that cost $300 per gallon, we paint our yachts, rowboats and canoes with paint that costs $100 per gallon yet the average gallon of paint used on an American home in 2009 cost less than $20 and begin failing in less than twenty four months.
European homeowners have very high expectations of painted surfaces. Aware that ninety percent of the cost of painting is labor, they generally seek out the best coatings available. It requires little more effort to apply a long-lived performance finish properly rather than an inexpensive, temporary coating. Europeans have always viewed the process of painting as a capital investment. They consider a high quality paint to be a source of great pride and pleasure, and they are aware that the appearance of a finish reflects its true underlying quality.
Length of Resident
There is obviously a direct relationship between the average length of residency in a nation and the quality of available paint produced by that nation’s paint makers. In Western European nations, where the average term of residency is more than sixteen years, homeowners demand paints that last. In the U.S., our geographically mobile families relocate, on average, once every four years and expect to paint with each move. Unfortunately, those atypical American families who move infrequently are accustomed to using “lowest common denominator” paints which are formulated to last for no more than four years.
In the United States today, over eighty percent of the paints intended for consumer use are sold through discount stores and mass merchandisers. The orientation of these outlets is toward offering low prices, a fact reflected in the formulations sold at a typical “big box” and the quality of service offered. Although some domestic brands are “positioned” to create the illusion of higher quality, there is in fact little difference in the formulation of budget and most premium domestic brands. The inordinately high percentage of chalk fillers combined with universal colorants compromise the integrity of domestic paints. We take note of the cynical guarantees offered by some manufacturers. Of what value is a partial refund or replacement of paint when eighty-five percent of the cost of painting is your investment in labor, always excluded in the fine print?