New Paint Products Address DIY “Reality”

The reality of paint projects—the preparation, the mess, the headaches—often differs greatly from the glossy television version of those “easy” faux finishes and perfect ceiling “touch-ups.”

Donovan Bezer is all too familiar with that harsh reality. The attorney from Jersey City, N.J., tried a project he saw on HGTV’s Web site, and excitement turned quickly into frustration.

“I was disappointed, because I’d been thinking about it for over a month,” Bezer explained. “I originally wanted to paint these squares, these overlapping squares—I got the idea off the [Web site]. But my wall was kind of bumpy…and it was going to take all of this measuring and leveling.”

Bezer said rather than deal with the trial of a high-design project, he just mixed the three cans of Behr paint he had purchased together and painted the walls in the resulting color. Luckily, he liked it, but he was surprised at the amount of work the online project would have taken.

At this year’s National Hardware Show, numerous new products were aimed at fixing the woes of the DIY interior paint job. Companies have cast an eye to consumers like Bezer who have been stymied in their pursuit of a finished product that looks as great on the wall as it did on television. Topics from choosing the right color, to priming, to doing ceilings, to spackling nail holes all were covered—so to speak—by companies at the NHS.

Why such a keen eye to helping the consumer decide, and eventually use, paint? According to research firm Yankelovich, consumers say they are more likely to do interior painting this year than any other DIY project. A full 51 percent of DIY consumers surveyed said they planned to paint, spending an average of $200 per project.

To help them choose, paint giant Sherwin-Williams launched under its Dutch Boy brand a new 17-inch by 22-inch paint chip. The goal, representatives said, was to let consumers put the poster-sized chips up in their homes and get comfortable with a color before committing. The chips are displayed as 8.5-inch by 11-inch sizes and are being rolled out at Menards stores this spring. Dutch Boy also launched a new clean laundry-scented incarnation of its “Ceiling Solution” paint—which goes on violet (and dries white) so painters can see whether they have missed a spot without straining.

At Valspar, the company launched a further sample program for its Cabot line of wood stains. An expanded color palette under the company’s Medallion line of paint was also on display, with new color magazines and room vignette cards to follow.

Paint companies weren’t the only segment capitalizing on the DIY paint experience. At eco-friendly cleaning products company Simple Green, a paint primer and cleaner was one of the company’s key new product launches.

“There’s this step, this very important step you do before you paint. We want to stress that,” explained Fred Waterfall, vp-promotions with Simple Green. “We decided to package it specifically for the paint industry, as a paint prep and clean-up formula.”

Elmer’s has launched a series of all-in-one home DIY kits, for projects ranging from mending damaged drywall to repairing rotten wood and fixing wallpaper.

“It’s easy to follow, and made for the novice or beginner DIYer,” said Ashley Sanders, a representative for Elmer’s. “Someone can just walk into Lowe’s, and they know what their problem is, but they don’t know where to look. This way, it takes the burden off both the consumer and the salesperson. They can just say, ‘Oh, I need to repair drywall, here’s the stuff I need.’ ”

In the same all-in-one vein, Canvas Home Basics launched the “Complete Paint System,” a DIY package of paint products including primer; interior matte latex wall paint; sample size cans; furniture, cabinet and trim paint; and latex wall putty.

Masco’s “Kilz” paint brand introduced a ceiling paint spray can that sprays upward in a constant blast, ostensibly to keep homeowners from the messy task of using ceiling brushes. The company also launched its Stain-blocking Ceiling Paint, a primer-based coating that blocks water stains—it also changes color, from pink to bright white.

For retailers, Michelle Henebry Finnigan, global product merchant in the paint category for True Value, said ease of operation is the key to today’s paint sales.

“Consumers are looking for time-saving processes that simplify their lives,” Finnigan said. “So, many of our suppliers are offering fast-drying products, such as DAP’s fast-drying caulk, and many are coming out with color-change paint products, which are big.”

Some Home Depot stores offer in-store clinics, with titles like “Create the Ultimate Kids Bedroom with Decorative Paint Ideas,” and paint clinics within the “Do-it-Herself Workshops” series.

Paint was one of largest areas of earnings growth in Ace Hardware’s first quarter. The company offers step-by-step painting advice to consumers on its Web site, from buying the right ladders, to finding the right rollers and estimating the amount of paint a project will require.

In the end, most new paint products have one goal in mind, whether it’s through adding scents and new colors or creating all-in-one ease. That goal is to make painting fun again, particularly for those 51 percent of DIYers who plan to paint this year.

“I moved all of that stuff out of the room because it took so long,” Bezer said, looking at the lighter side of his paint project. “I ended up liking the room better that way. I really like the way it looks now. It really was a lot of fun.”