SW Emerald Exterior House Paint Reviewed

Emerald Exterior, introduced just after 2011, continues to be Sherwin-Williams’s most expensive exterior paint line. However, multiple reformulations have altered its application characteristics and performance advantages. 

We have continued to use Emerald Exterior since its introduction, enabling us to experience every change. While it is still a premium paint, the reformulations have been drastic, changing how it performs and where it is best applied.

Emerald Exterior product retail prices range between $80 and $120 per gallon. So, evaluating enhancements is essential in determining if it’s worth the additional cost. 

Our Sherwin-Williams Emerald exterior review explains the pros and cons based on our experience and answers whether it’s worth the upgrade based on your needs and what you are painting.

Emerald Exterior Introduction and Formulation

When Emerald was introduced, it was in a class of its own, being the first exterior zero VOC paint provided by a major paint company. It was a thin exterior enamel with an exceptional combination of acrylic resins, binders, and pigment. It was an exterior paint we had never seen from SW. 

Emerald was a much-needed alternative away from the sticky paint that SW was known for at the time. It didn’t attract dirt, eliminated sticky front doors and unwanted brushed strokes, and covered like a dream. The only drawback was that it didn’t bridge hairline cracks on surfaces such as textured plywood and other microscopic cracks that painters cannot fill with exterior caulk. 

The initial formulation of Emerald sprayed and brushed uniformly, costing only $55-$60 for each gallon.

While we adopted Emerald into our exterior projects, others didn’t receive the new kid on the block. The pushback had little to do with performance. Painters didn’t want to pay the additional price.

Emeralds Reformulations

Since Emerald first landed on shelves, there have been at least four reformulations significant enough for us to notice. The first change was a thicker consistency, closely reminiscent of Duration Exterior at the time. 


Emeralds heavy consistency ignited internal product cannibalization, rivaling Duration Exterior. As a result, painters saw less reason to purchase Emerald. Therefore, sales and interest failed to meet expectations. Sherwin-Williams responded with a reformulation for Duration, resulting in thinner paint and a loss of coverage.

Emerald Exterior and its Consistency

Emerald is the heaviest non-elastomeric paint that Sherwin-Williams provides, becoming thicker than Duration when it was a 7 mil exterior coating. While Emerald contains heavy fillers that enable thicker paint applications, the coverage has not improved.

Additionally, due to its viscosity, Emerald is not an easy paint to use. Still, Emerald’s advancements include improved resistance to weather-related vulnerabilities and degradation.

How Emerald Brushes

Brushing Emerald is no easy task, requiring skill and a stiff-bristled paint brush that can manipulate the paint effectively. Since it has a thick consistency, it’s hard to spread and hide unwanted brush marks in hot conditions or when using dark colors.

If you are painting Emerald under summer temperatures exceeding 80 degrees, a paint extender such as Floetrol is needed to eliminate brush marks.  

This premium paint is best for exterior trim, doors, and windows. Emerald provides the thickest single-coat protection for exterior repaints.

Spraying Sherwin-Williams Emerald Exterior

Due to its thickness, Emerald requires professional paint sprayers to establish a consistent flow of paint and a uniform finish. Otherwise, it is one of the easiest exterior paints to spray. 

Spray Advantages:

  • Less Overspray
  • Dries Evenly
  • Minimal Lap Marks
  • Enables Heavy Applications
  • Limits Paint Sags and Drips

Price vs. Performance

A recurring issue is the lack of paint pigment in light colors. The paucity of titanium dioxide continues to limit paint coverage for many manufacturers and, like a broken record, is the most shared complaint among painters who understand this issue.

Emerald is a premium exterior paint, but falling into the trap of limiting coverage is an outplayed game that doesn’t sit well, considering the price. Falling short behind Benjamin Moore Aura Exterior in coverage is a significant drawback. It is the most considerable disappointment of the new formulation. 

Considering the cost and potential paint consumption due to lack of coverage, Emerald is costly to use.

Durability and Finish

With a nearly perfect balance between resin and application thickness, one department Emerald doesn’t suffer in is durability. It provides long-lasting protection in satin and gloss finishes. 

Loss of sheen is one of the first noticeable signs of paint wear. An exterior paint that holds its sheen is vital to retaining oxidation, moisture, and organic growth resistance. 

Emerald provides protection that excels in all categories.


  • Attracts Dirt. No Longer Provides a Non-Sticky Surface
  • Rain Refresh Needed to Resolve Dirt & Sticky Issues 
  • High Retail Cost
  • Average Paint Coverage in Light Colors
  • Excessive Paint Consumption When Paint Doesn’t Cover


  • Fills & Hides Hairline Cracks 
  • Reduces Surface Texture
  • Resistance to Paint Oxidation
  • Consistent Finish in Dark Colors
  • Increased Durability
  • Moisture Resistance
  • Thick Application
  • Protection Over Damaged Surfaces

Rain Refresh (Formally Known as Rain Go)

Having been in business using SW paints for over 20 years has enabled us to understand the trajectories of how products evolve. In our view, Rain Refresh is, in many ways, much like the original Emerald formulation, with a few enhancements relating to moisture and dirt collection. But boy, do these enhancements come at a hefty price.

Sherwin-Williams Rain Refresh retails for over $120 per gallon and continues to rise. While we appreciate how SW introduces solutions for all painting applications, knowing if your exterior painting requirements need an expensive product like Rain Refresh is essential. 

Unsurprisingly, the product doesn’t sell well, so most homeowners and painters are unlikely to pay retail for it. 


As more paint reformulations are all but inevitable in the future, Emerald could become our new standard as new exterior paints are introduced. But until then, it’s essential to know your budget and long-term goals before considering Emerald.

While paint prices continue to increase, many homeowners establish a false sense of expectation. Just because the paint is expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best and other paints are somehow inferior.

Paint durability is always critical if you paint your house’s exterior. However, unknowledgeable painter recommendations are often based on their preference or opinions instead of performance. Contacting a knowledgeable, professional house painter to evaluate surface conditions and determine whether Emerald is the best for your needs is best and could save you money.

Need exterior painting? Contact us if you live in Raleigh or around the Triangle area.

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