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A guide to picking the right paint for the job


When it comes to painting projects, it seems pretty easy. All you do is slap on some paint with a brush or roller, right? Well, depending on your project, it can become more difficult especially when it comes to the kind of paint you use. Not all paint is created the same. In general, there are two types of paint: oil-based and water-based. Oil-based paints contain mineral spirits and water-based, obviously, contains water. It evaporates as it dries, leaving behind the film of paint adhered to the surface. It all depends of what surface you are painting and where it is.

Exterior paint

You will see many cans of paint at the hardware store with many different names, one of which is exterior paint. This too can be oil-based or water-based, but it has different properties than interior paint. First of all, exterior paint needs withstand the changing weather and last over time. This is possible due to the quality of the resin helping to bind the pigment to the wall. The resin can be made of acrylic, silicone or epoxy. Be sure to check the label for how long the paint should last before you buy it. However, just because it’s made to last longer doesn’t mean it would work inside as well. That’s because exterior paint is softer and more prone to scuffing. You should also take care in choosing the colour for your exterior, as some pigments don’t hold up well to exposure.

Interior paint

Exterior and interior paint have a lot in common, but are best kept to their respective areas. Interior paint dries harder so that it is easier to clean and less prone to scuffing. Again, it comes available in oil-based and water-based, though there is a move towards using more water-based paints these days. That is because it dries faster, cleans up easier and releases fewer VOCs (volatile organic compounds). With oil-based paint you need to provide proper ventilation so that it doesn’t affect you as you paint. Both paints have their pros and cons, depending on your preferred result. Interior paints provide you with a variety of finishes, including matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and gloss. A certain finish will look best in a certain area of the home.

Bathroom and kitchen paint

The bathroom and kitchen are lumped together in this category because of a common issue: moisture. Certain finishes of paint can help resist moisture, such as semi-gloss and gloss. That is because it will allow the water to bead up on the surface, rather than absorbing it into the wall. Obviously, nobody wants mildew growing in their walls. However, not everyone likes the look of gloss and that is where a specific bathroom/kitchen paint comes in. This specially formulated paint allows for flatter finishes while inhibiting the growth of mildew. It also dries to a tougher finish to allow for better cleanup.

Ceiling paint

The special thing about ceiling paint is that it is made not to spatter so much. You’re already craning your neck just to roll the paint on and you don’t want to have to go to the hospital with paint in your eyes. Ceiling paint also contains a small amount of pigment, such as lamp black or tallow blue, to help you maintain proper coverage. The colour will disappear as it dries to white. Most often ceiling paint is flat so that it doesn’t reflect light from fixtures in garish way. By using matte, the light will scatter and give the appearance of space in the room.

Paints for other surfaces

Masonry paint is used for painting on cement, brick and stucco. It contains binders that contract and expand with the surface. Otherwise, regular paint will crack and peel on it. You can paint on metallic surfaces with acrylic paint, though there are specially formulated paints that will adhere to such a slick surface. Of course, any of these surfaces require cleaning and priming, so be sure to do that before painting.

By Meagan Dieroff

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