When it comes to paint, ‘When in doubt, don’t throw it out!’


Accidents happen or minds change. You dent a wall or replace the windows or suffer water damage from a plumbing failure (or here in Michigan, ice dams) and you find a need to touch up your walls or ceilings or trim. What color did you use? You don’t remember? Let’s go down to the basement or out to the garage to find the old cans of paint…

Several years ago I was involved in the full renovation of a weekend home. Extensive work had taken place; new windows, new insulation, repairs in walls, trim and ceilings and the homeowner wanted the place painted the same color scheme as before but during the renovation process he had the garage cleaned out – including all the old paint cans! There were more than 20 colors that had to be matched from a paint job done a generation previous. The original decorator was long gone and so any record of the colors used – even of the company from which the paints were purchased – was now unavailable.

No two ceiling whites will match even within the same manufacture’s line. Benjamin Moore’s “White Dove” isn’t the same as Pittsburgh Paint’s and Cabot’s “Cape Cod Grey” will not be the same as Sherwin Williams’.

Using a Benjamin Moore fan-deck and a lot of sample mixes (and in one instance bringing an interior door to the paint store to match the color), we managed to achieve the impossible – but it came at a price. All those paint samples cost money and time and so several hundred dollars were spent on matching colors alone. Though that was a small portion of the overall $15,000+ job, it was a nuisance and a cost that could have been avoided through a little advanced planning.

[In the photo attached to this note, a homeowner had smartly saved an empty can of exterior stain so that when we went to repaint his home we were set with a perfect color match.]

The lesson here is this: After you paint or your professional paints, make sure to save an old can or the lid from the can. Barring that, write down and keep in your household records the color name and formula, even a cell phone picture will do. This makes the job easier for you, your professional and everyone involved!



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