Best One-Coat Paints for Your Home

Painting by Hand

Lee Wallender

Many homeowners who like the idea of painting may not like the reality of painting. The fun of selecting paint colors at the store moves onto the priming and preparation phase. Masking windows, putting down drop cloths, removing light fixtures and outlet and switch plates, as well as buying the paint, tools, and other materials, can take hours. Often, this blends into the task of painting because the painter goes directly from prepping to painting. Is there a way to get by with painting just one coat?

A type of interior paint called one-coat paint promises to end the time and labor commitment of applying two or three coats of paint. With one-coat paint, the idea is that, due to the paint's thicker consistency and high-build capabilities, you can fold multiple steps into one step. But does one-coat paint work? If so, is it guaranteed to work under all conditions?

One-Coat Paint Basics

  • One-coat paint is a term used by paint manufacturers for heavy, thick acrylic-latex interior and exterior paint that builds up high.
  • Up to 20-percent more paint solids give the paint more body.
  • Ordinary acrylic-latex paint usually requires two or more coats of paint. Only in limited conditions can you use one coat of ordinary acrylic-latex paint.
  • One-coat paint increases the possibility that you only need to use one coat but it is not an absolute since most one-coat paints come with a set of limitations.
  • With one-coat paint, you typically must stick to a color palette that is specifically geared toward that one-coat paint series.

Specialty vs. Decorative One-Coat Paints

One-coat paint is generally divided into two categories: specialty coatings and decorative coatings.

Specialty Coatings

A type of one-coat paint has existed for years that is more geared toward coverage of problem areas and disaster repairs. Paint brands such as Zinsser Perma-White and Kilz 2 have been coating thick paint on homes for decades in response to emergencies such as stained ceilings or water-flooded walls that have been dried out and put back into use. Usually, these specialty one-coat paints come only in a few variations of white, though some brands offer a limited number of tints.

Decorative Coatings

In recent years, a newer class of heavy-bodied paints has emerged that no longer aims to apply only to disaster repairs. One-coat paint is about reducing painting time for busy homeowners. Unlike the one-color-only whites of the specialty coating paints, one-coat paints offer a broad selection of colors. For example, Home Depot's house brand Behr advertises its Marquee line as "100% guaranteed one coat coverage," yet just over 1,000 colors are available. Pricier than other Home Depot offerings, Marquee is also Behr's heaviest paint. While a pound or two may not seem like much, it is significant where paint is concerned. Total paint weight usually means that the paint has more solids, and solids are the ingredients in the paint that remain on the wall after drying.

Weight (Pounds Per Gallon) Name Notes
10 - 12 Behr Marquee Marquee's closest competitor at Home Depot is Behr Premium Plus.
9.68 Glidden Duo Glidden products are also carried by Home Depot.
8.67 Behr Pro Behr Pro is positioned by Home Depot as a bulk paint to be purchased mainly by paint contractors.

One-Coat Paint Pros and Cons

Pros

  • While some brands have limited color offerings, other manufacturers of one-coat paints have palettes of hundreds, even thousands, of colors.
  • One-coat paint speeds up your painting project by eliminating the need to wait between coats.
  • With its thicker build, one-coat paint aids in hiding imperfections.

Cons

  • One-coat paints often have a specified range of colors that you must choose from.
  • One-coat paint's marketing may impart the false impression that one coat of paint is guaranteed in every instance.
  • Manufacturers' one-coat paint guarantees often exclude repaired surfaces, porous surfaces, surfaces that have previously been uncoated, surfaces that contain tannins (such as cedar), and surfaces with aggressive stains.

While one-coat paint offers advantages, there are a few aspects of laying down multiple coats of paint that one-coat products cannot duplicate. Multiple coats help to obliterate overlaps, smears, and lines. Extra coats deepen the color, making it richer and closer to the paint manufacturer's intended color register. Multiple layers also physically strengthen the paint. This is highly important for exterior painting. For door and window trim, you may want to lay down two coats or more because those areas experience heavy use and particularly need durable paint.

Professional painters tend to recommend rolling out two or more coats of paint. One point that professionals sometimes make to budget-conscious clients is that the bulk of the work is wrapped up on preparation. Clients would not save much money by using only one coat. While multiple coats always mean spending more money on paint, the professionals often thin down the second or third layers, thus reducing the need for more paint.

Best Brands of One-Coat Paints

  • Sherwin-Williams Infinity
  • Behr Marquee
  • Pittsburgh Paramount
  • Glidden One Coat
  • Wilko One Coat
  • Zinsser Perma-White
  • Dulux NeverMiss One Coat
  • Kilz 2

When Only One Coat of Paint Is Needed

It is always best, if conditions permit, to apply two or more coats of paint. However, sometimes time or budgetary limitations do not allow for more than one coat of paint. Conditions that make one-coat painting possible include:

  • When matching the existing color and that coat is still in good condition both physically and from a color standpoint, you can sometimes paint just one coat and achieve satisfactory results.
  • Similarly, when painting over pre-tinted primer that is close to or matching the eventual room color, you can often get by with just one coat of paint.
  • Interiors, especially clean, low-impact areas such as living rooms and dining rooms, are more forgiving environments for one-coat paint jobs than high-impact surfaces such as bathroom ceilings (due to mold and mildew), trim, hallways, and kitchens.
  • When painting a ceiling, unless the ceiling is especially stained, a single coat is often all that is needed.