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Dollar for dollar, paint can provide more of an impact within a space than almost any other element.
Of course, paint is more than merely decorative; it's also protective. As a starting point, it helps to know the differences between the types of paints available.
Several decades ago, oil-based paints were more common. Today, they largely have been phased out due to the ease of disposal and reduced application time that most latex paints can offer. In the paint world, latex refers to most water-based paints that use synthetic polymers, such as acrylic or vinyl acrylic, as binders.
Pure acrylic resins cost more than vinyl, but offer several benefits, including better washability and adhesion, along with resistance to water, cracking and blistering.
An all-acrylic paint is more flexible and less prone to brittleness. For exterior surfaces, acrylic paint does a better job of resisting UV-rays, and so won't fade as quickly as vinyl. That means that higher quality paints, which contain more acrylic, tend to cost more.
Along with its cost, facility managers who want to gauge the quality of a specific brand or type of paint can review the lists of products approved by the Master Painters Institute. These are available at the MPI's website, www.paintinfo.com, and are categorized by product type, such as latex interior flat finishes.
Another resource is ASTM International (www.astm.org), which develops international voluntary consensus standards.