Paints and Coatings for Hawaii’s Tough Climate

Here in Hawaii, Mother Nature can be hard on paints and coatings. From rain and rot, to termites and earthquakes and volcanic gasses, Hawaii building supplies face a lot. And yet many people don’t know the characteristics of the various paints and how choosing the right one can make a big difference. If you pick the right paint or coating for your climate, you can enjoy long-term protection and low-maintenance, while saving money and time, too.

At HPM, we carry a complete line of quality paints, from commercial and industrial grade to owner-builder grade, as well as “green” options including low-VOC and zero-VOC paints. And our friendly Paint Department folks can answer your questions and help you choose the right paint for your project.

Best Paints for Wet Climate – Hilo, Hamakua, Puna

HPM Paint and Coatings

Jesse Shimabukuro helps HPM customers choose the right paints in Hilo.

“Mildew is a big challenge when building in East Hawaii,” said Jesse Shimabukuro, who manages HPM’s Paint Department in Hilo. No relation to the famous ukulele player, Jesse probably has more years with HPM than Jake does with an uke. All that experience is really helpful when a contractor or owner-builder is looking for paint.

“A quality paint job starts with preparation,” he said. “For an exterior job, you need to wash your house first with water, bleach and JoMax, which is an anti-mildew solution sold at HPM.” Jesse then recommends a latex or oil-based primer for a better finish. “You want to lock in a good foundation, preparing for the finish coat. A good primer seals the walls and other construction materials. To achieve an excellent paint job, we recommend one coat of primer, and two coats of finish paint.”

Interior paint projects also start with cleaning, preparation and priming. “With interior paints, you need to think about how the room will be lit and how much reflection you want from the walls,” Jesse says. “Rooms that need a lot of light, such as kitchens and bathrooms, often get painted with semi-gloss paint because of its high-reflection qualities.” Bedrooms and restaurants have more subtle lighting, so you might want a flat or egg-shell finish to the final coats. Ease of cleaning is another factor in choosing a paint. Gloss paints are great for kitchens and bathrooms because their smooth surfaces make clean-up a breeze.

“We always recommend our premium products, Benjamin Moore and Pratt & Lambert, first,” Jesse says. “They last a long time, usually six to eight years, but sometimes as long as 10 years before repainting is needed. “The real test of a paint is when you are painting a darker color,” he continues. “Cheaper paints will require three to five coats to get a true color. Quality paints need only one or two coats.”

HPM is a favorite with contractors, owner-builders and remodelers, Jesse says, because HPM carries a wide variety of paints for many different surfaces. “We recently taught a class in primers – we carry 10 different kinds, so we should be able to help anyone with a painting project.” And Jesse should know since he’s worked at HPM for more than 20 years.

Best Paints for a Dry Climate – Kohala, Kona, Ka’u

Diana Ancog has been helping people pick the best paints in Kona for years.

Diana Ancog has been helping people pick the best paints in Kona for years.

“You’d be surprised, but mildew is a big problem on the Kona side of Hawai’i Island,” says Diana Ancog, who has been with Kona HPM for more than six years. “People think of mildew on the east side of the island, but having a good mildewcide is important here, too.

“For example, people who live in Holualoa get sun in the morning, and rain in the afternoon. We recommend , Benjamin Moore or Pratt & Lambert for that application. And mildewcide can be added to any paint to help,” she adds.

For preserving the life of Hawaii’s beloved ohi’a posts, Diana suggests Sikkens, an oil-based application for wood, especially for decks and big beams. Many homes in Kuhio and Hulalalai have exposed wood in the home, and Sikkens works well to emphasize and bring out the beauty of the wood grain. “Lots of contractors also use Sikkens for doors, windows, and exterior trim,” she adds. For protecting against sun rot, Diana recommends a 2-part epoxy sealer. “This gets used a lot in condos and hotels.

“When it comes to exterior paint, we always suggest our top lines, which are most popular with contractors and professionals. But we also carry a wide variety of less expensive paints for the budget conscious owner-builder.

“And our customers tell us that they come to us over and over because we have such a large selection of Graco paint sprayers and accessories.”

Best Paints for a Wet-and-Dry Climate – Waimea

Janet Esparza can help you find the best paint in the Waimea HPM store.

Janet Esparza can help you find the best paint in the Waimea HPM store.

Kamuela/Waimea has both wet and dry climates. “We get the best of both worlds,” says Janet Asparza, who has been with HPM Waimea for 8½ years. Like Hilo and Kona, mold and mildew is a primary concern when choosing paints for the upland environment. “We recommend Zinsser PermaWhite, which has a 5-year guarantee. And customers swear that it really lasts, whether it’s inside or outside.”

The Best Paints for Hawaii’s Climate

Benjamin Moore & Co.

HPM is proud to be an exclusive distributor of Benjamin Moore interior and exterior paints and primers, preferred by the pros for its ease in handling and superior hide and coverage.  Drop by any HPM store, and discover Benjamin Moore interior and exterior house paints, primers and wood stains. Browse paint color palettes and color samples for design inspiration.


Pratt & Lambert Paints

Pratt & Lambert® is the industry’s prestige paint brand that provides confidence for retail customers, contractors, designers and architects to choose when striving to meet projects’ protection and decorative goals. Browse their color selection and learn more about the products they carry.


Rust-Oleum Corporation is a worldwide leader in protective paints and coatings for both home and industry. Offering a wide product range including decorative fashion paints, and, of course, the famous rust-fighting formula that started it all.  HPM carries Rust-Oleum enamels, spray paints, floor paints and cabinet & countertop transformations.

Sikkens Stains

Acclaimed aesthetics, exceptional translucency and durability are the hallmarks of the Cetol range.  Recognized as the premium brand throughout the world of professional woodcare, Cetol coatings provide maximum protection with an outstanding finish to enhance the natural appearance of exterior and interior timber.


Primers for every surface preparation. Zinsser products include high-performance primer-sealers, wallpaper installation and wallpaper removal products, interior wood finishes, concrete and masonry products, decorative finishes and products for the long-term prevention of mold and mildew. Learn more about their products and discover project inspiration.

Need More Help? Call Jesse. Call Diana. Call Janet.  

Even with the best web site in the world, you sometimes need to talk to a real person. Call Jesse, Diana or Janet, or anyone in the Paint Department at HPM, and we’ll be happy to help you. Better yet, come in person. We’d love to see you.

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