Is There Really a One-Coat Paint (or Are Two Coats Required?)

Is It Ever Possible To Get By With Just One Coat?

Painting with One-Coat Paint?
Can You Stop Painting After Only One Coat?. JGI/Tom Grill / Getty Images

Most homeowners like the idea of painting but not the activity of painting so much.  It begins fun but quickly devolves into plain old grinding labor, especially when it comes to that second coat.

Once you have spent considerable time laying down that first coat of paint, it is easy to declare it done.  Putting down a second layer of paint seems all so laborious and, worse, redundant.  You begin to reason that these are interior walls, and how much wear and tear do they get?


Are there instances when you can get by with only one coat?  Do any paint companies offer a true one-coat paint?

Bottom Line

One coat paint is a marketing term for heavier, thicker acrylic-latex paint.
Up to 20% more paint solids give the paint more body.
Behr Marquee is at least a pound or two heavier than ordinary acrylic-latex paints.
Ordinary acrylic-latex can stop at one coat, but only under limited conditions.
It is always safest to lay down two coats, even with these heavier paints.

One-Coat Paint:  Heavier, Thicker, and With Limitations

One-coat paint has existed for years.  It was just called something different.

Brands such as Zinsser Perma-White and Kilz have been selling thicker paint to help homeowners deal with emergency situations such as stained ceilings or water-flooded walls that have been dried out and been put back into use.

Home Depot's house brand Behr touts its Marquee line as a "One-Coat Paint."

Marquee is definitely a fatter product than most other paints.  Compare sheer weight with other Home Depot offerings:

Weight (Pounds Per Gallon)NameNotes
10 - 12Behr MarqueeMarquee's closest competitor at Home Depot is Behr Premium Plus.
9.68Glidden DuoGlidden is a separate company.  Its products are also carried by Home Depot.
8.67Behr ProPositioned by Home Depot as a bulk paint to be purchased mainly by paint contractors.

While a pound or two may not seem like much, it means the world when paint is concerned.  That extra 1.33 to 3.33 pounds afforded by Marquee is one push that, Behr hopes, tips this product into the single coat-only zone.

The other push is product limitations.  The "One Coat Hide" guarantee does not apply to white paint or to uncoated, porous, or repaired surfaces, a blanket limitation which covers a lot of ground.

You also need to confine your color choices only to the Marquee Interior One-Coat Color Collection.

When You Do Not Need Two Coats

Outside of these one-coat paints and back into the realm of ordinary acrylic-latex:

If you are motivated not to paint that hated second coat, here are instances where you might get by with that:

  • When matching the existing color and that coat is still in good condition.
  • Interiors, not exteriors.
  • When painting over pre-tinted primer.
  • When painting ceilings.
  • On trim, such as crown molding, that never gets banged up.
  • On anything that matters less to you, such as a basement bathroom that rarely gets used or guest bedroom.

Why Painters Like Two Coats

After you lay down your first coat and admire it, there is one problem:  you are not seeing the finished product in its truest sense.

Lit by your can lights, table lamps, or floor lights, that color coat is only reflecting about half of its possible light. 

This is why professional painters use large, tripod-mounted lights to illuminate their work.  Light up your single-coated bedroom wall with such lights and you will be surprised at the painter roller track marks and brush smears.  Any wood filler or Spackle will show through one coat of paint.

Putting down a second coat

  1. Obliterates overlaps, smears, and lines.
  2. Deepens the color, making it richer and closer to the paint manufacturer's intended color register.
  3. Physically strengthens the paint.  This is highly important for exterior painting, less important, though still recommended, for interior walls.  For door and window trim, I recommend two coats or more because those areas experience heavy use and particularly need durable paint.

    How To Make That Second Coat Less Painful

    Most of the distress about laying down another coat stems from memories of prepping the area for the first coat.  Masking windows, putting down dropcloths, removing light fixtures and outlet/switch plates, as well as buying the paint, tools, and other materials, can take hours.  Often, this blends into the job of painting because the painter goes directly from prepping to painting.

    So, with your area already prepped, that second coat will take considerably less time than that first coat.  All of that difficult-to-apply masking tape stays in place.

    You can make it even easier to preserve the roller and brush you used in the first coat, saving clean up.  Put the bristles end of the brush in a Zip-Loc bag and then in a freezer.  Tightly wrap paint trays and the entire roller in a plastic garbage pan.  Vacate as much air as possible.  This method will keep the brush or roller wet long enough for the first coat to dry.