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Posted by McKenzie
on Dec 23rd 2018


The Difference Between Oil and Latex Paint

If you're considering painting or re-painting a room in your house you may be caught on a common snag of many homeowners: "Should I use oil- or latex- based paint?". If you don't know the pros and cons of the two it's difficult to make a solid decision. Here are some of the major differences between oil and latex paints, brought to you by Painter1's experts in painting services.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paint, or alkyd paint, is made by suspending pigments in a drying oil, customarily linseed oil or synthetic oils. Solvents and varnish are also added to modify the consistency and shine of the paint when dried. It is less popular today than it was in the past, but it still remains a favorite for some projects.

Pros: Oil-based is very durable and stain resistant, making it a good choice when painting exterior surfaces, trims, kitchens, bathrooms, metals, and woods. It can go on smoother than latex, and has less shrinkage once dried, because it has no water to lose. It also has a high level of viscosity, requiring less coats to get an opaque coverage.

Cons: Oil paint is much slower drying than latex, taking days to completely set. It's thicker, stickier, and can be harder to work with. Because it is made with oil and solvents instead of water, the cleanup is also difficult. You won't be able to use water to clean mistakes and/or brushes. Solvents like mineral spirits, paint thinner, or turpentine are needed to properly do the job. It also comes in high-gloss almost exclusively, which means it is less forgiving and will show imperfections easier, and will have a higher chance of cracking apart and yellowing with age. But the biggest drawback about oil-based paints for most is the overwhelming odor and high levels of VOCs. Thanks to enforced government regulations concerning VOCs in recent years, consumers have become more informed on the possibly toxic fumes and environmentally unfriendly details of the paint. Its demand in most home painting projects has taken a blow as a result.

Latex-Based (AKA Water-Based) Paints

Latex-based paint (also referred to as water-based paint or acrylic paint) uses water and glycols or glycol ether solvents instead of oil solvents to carry pigment. Though it was once considered a substandard replacement for oil paint, today it is the preferred paint for interior painters.

Pros: Latex paint is much easier to work with and dries within a few hours of application. It can also be easily thinned and cleaned using just soap and water. This is because it is made with water instead of solvents, making it considerably thinner than its oil-based competitor. Its ease-of-use isn't the only reason that it's become the popular paint for home interiors, though. Latex paints release significantly less amounts of VOCs when they dry, making it less harmful for both you and the environment. It's best for use on ceilings and walls inside the home.

Cons: The most noteworthy downside to latex paint is the chance that it will swell the grains in wood. If it does, you'll be forced to sand it down in between coats to keep the final product smooth. Metal surfaces, too, can experience issues if the water in the paint causes the metal to rust with time. It is also less durable overall than oil paint, making it best for surfaces that are less likely to get bumped and scuffed.

Both oil- and latex-based paints have their advantages and disadvantages. At the end of the day, which one you should use depends on the surface you're painting and your personal preference. And keep in mind that if you're painting an unfinished surface, applying a coat of primer before you begin will make the job easier. Use a latex-based primer if you plan to use a latex paint, and an oil-based primer if you choose an oil paint.

Do you have any questions? Contact one of our Painter1 professional house painters to discuss your paint selections today. We're happy to help!