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Choosing Interior and Exterior Paint:


Oil-Based or Water-Based Latex? Consider Sheen and Adhesion

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The paint type for an exterior painting job or interior project depends on the existing surface, cleanability, and aesthetic requirements. Paint composition and the sheen are two of the primary things to consider.

Water-Based Latex or Oil-Based Paint?

Eventually we all need do some painting inside and outside the house. Color is important, but there are other things to decide on. For example, does is the existing surface oil-based or water-based latex paint? Also, the sheen is important.

These are just a couple of questions to answer when deciding on the type of paint for an interior or exterior face lift project. Each choice has pros and cons.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paint’s has the advantage of great adhesion. This is important when working with chalky surfaces. What is chalk? It’s that powdery matter that comes off when wiping a hand across the paint surface.

Oil-base should always be used when that is what the original paint is. Water-based just won’t perform correctly.

Also note that oil-base has its disadvantages, specifically when applied indoors. The most obvious characteristic is a strong odor when its drying which most people find offensive. This is often called off-gassing produced by VOCs.

Also,the time it takes to dry can take up to 24 hours. This makes it a lousy choice when a second coat must be applied.

Cleaning up paint brushes is more of a chore than when using latex paint. For one thing, paint thinner must be used and then properly disposed as local regulations dictate. Secondly, oil-based paint is becoming more difficult to find. Some businesses, like Marriott Hotels, are gradually eliminating it from their maintenance and remodeling tasks.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Water-Based Latex Paint

Paint in the Pan


Latex paint is the choice in the majority of DIY projects. It dries quickly, usually in less than 6 hours, and this means getting more done in less time. It’s much less likely to breed mildew because the water base, unlike oils, which can feed mildew in the case of low quality brands.

Cleaning brushes and rollers is easy with latex paint; soap and water does the trick. Disposing of the cleaning materials is no longer a problem.

Latex paint is also quite flexible. This quality is important when applied to surfaces that expand and contract when exposed to heat and cold, surfaces like aluminum siding and metal garage doors.

Paint Sheen: There are Choices

What is paint sheen? It is the extent of shine that the dried surface shows. The right one for the job is dictated by aesthetic needs, how cleanable the surface needs to be (think kitchens, bathrooms, and door jambs), and how many surface flaws are present.

A rule of thumb is that the shinier the paint, the more the flaws will stand out.

There are four basic paint sheen grades: gloss, semi-gloss, eggshell or satin, and flat.

  • Gloss — Gloss paint is the shiniest of all. It reflects more light and is very washable. It’s usually applied to door jambs, baseboards, and other wood trim, to set it off visually from the wall.
  • Semi-gloss — Semi-gloss is slightly less reflective and more subdued than gloss but is still a breeze to clean. It is also an excellent choice in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Eggshell and satin — This sheen is a slightly duller than semi-gloss. Visually, it lends a warmth to walls, so it works well on drywall walls as well as kitchen cabinets.
  • Flat — Flat sheen hardly reflects light. This makes it an ideal choice for ceilings. One drawback is that it is difficult to clean.

To summarize, consider the project and use paint characteristics to your advantage, to decide whether oil-base or water-based latex paint is correct and which sheen is most acceptable. Then, pick the color!


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