Deciding Between Latex and Oil-Based Paints

by Lee Wyatt
(last updated December 5, 2016)

Have you ever noticed how there are really only two choices in paint when it comes to painting your home? Those two choices are latex and oil-based paints. Deciding between latex and oil-based paints do not need be particularly difficult or time consuming. All you really have to do is know your project, and what each type of paint is best used for. To that end, here is a bit more information that you can use to make that easy as possible.

Latex Paint

  • Application. In most, if not all, cases latex paint is extremely easy to work with. The reason for this is that it can be applied smoothly and evenly, usually with little clumping or thin spots. One of the biggest drawbacks to using this type of paint is that you will need multiple coats to not only cover any darker undercoats, but to just get the shade of color that you want. On the plus side, if you use latex paint you will only have to wait one to six hours before the paint is completely dried.
  • Durability. Latex paint is extremely resistant to fading, and can be used on most surfaces. The reason for this versatility in surfaces is that it can adhere to most surfaces without problems, and has a higher elasticity than oil based paints.
  • Odor. While latex paint has a bit of an odor it is typically fairly little when compared to other kinds of paints. This is not to say that you will not want to ensure that your work area is well ventilated, but you will typically not require any special breathing apparatuses when using it.
  • Cleanup. For the most part, latex paint is extremely easy to clean up, particularly when the paint is still wet. To clean up latex paint all you will usually need is water, maybe a little bit of soap, and a washcloth.

Oil-Based Paint

  • Application. Generally speaking oil-based paint is a heavier and thicker paint than latex. This makes it more difficult to apply in comparison to latex. This means that things like brush strokes and roller marks can often show up a little easier than other paints. However, since it is a heavier and thicker paint oftentimes a single coat is all that is needed to get the job done.
  • Durability. Oil based paint does have a tendency to fade over time, and can be used on practically all surfaces. Unlike with latex paints, oil-based paints can be used on surfaces that have a powdery residue on it, such as masonry, concrete, or even stucco. Additionally oil-based paint can also be used on surfaces that have already been painted without the need to remove that paint. It also takes a minimum of eight hours for oil based paint to dry completely, though it can also take up to 24 hours as well.
  • Odor. Unfortunately oil-based paint has an extremely strong odor when compared to other kinds of paint. In addition to only painting in a well-ventilated area it may be a good idea to get a ventilator to help reduce the amount of fumes that you are breathing in. Further, you will want to make sure that you do not have any open fames near the paint or in the area to help prevent any accidental fires.
  • Cleanup. If at all possible, do not make any mistakes when you are painting something with oil-based paints. The reason for this is that it will require a paint stripping agent, such as paint thinner or turpentine, in order to remove the paint.

As you can see, both types of paint have their benefits and drawbacks. In addition to all of this information there is one additional thing to consider before you make your final choice. Typically latex based paint is used indoors along walls and doors, while oil-based paint is used for exterior projects. That being said both types of paints can be used either interior or exterior—it just depends on the look you are going for.

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...


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