Paint Technology Oil vs Latex

Choosing the right kind of paint might be more important than the color. The question regarding paint choice most ask is oil or latex? Repainting for a failed color choice still requires hard work, but it is still a forgivable mistake. Using the wrong type of paint will commission you to a sentence of hard labor.

Oil paint is also known as alkyd paint. Oil paint adheres especially well to properly prepared bare wood and metal surfaces. Oil paint requires solvents for clean up and is not water based. As a result the drying times are longer and mistakes are far less forgiving. The chemical compounds in oil paint provide a lower surface tension. When the paint does finally dry it will result in a much smoother surface. A quality application of oil based (alkyd) paint can protect the exterior of a home for up to 30 years.

Consumer brand paints are now made from acrylic, not latex. Latex can be a generally used term for all water based paints. But, latex paint quality has improved continually over the years. Recent developments in paint technology include built-in primers and reduced odors. Because latex paint is water based, it is very easy to clean up and reuse rollers and brushes. Paint spills and mistakes are unavoidable. It is possible to clean latex paint from a rug if cared for immediately. But it’s extremely difficult to remove the evidence of spilled oil based paint. The ease of cleanup for latex paint is its most attractive feature.

Latex paint is generally the best paint choice for indoor applications. The paint inside of your house is not exposed to moisture, temperature changes or the other elements Mother Nature throws at your house. The interior surfaces of your home are probably all painted with latex paint. Latex paint is still the best choice. 

But the most laborious and tedious part of painting is the preparation. The paint finish quality will only look as good as the surface is before painting. If you are painting a house, the preparation for paint is the biggest challenge you will face. 

If you are repainting a house already covered in latex, then you are best off staying with a latex of acrylic. Puting oil paint over latex will effectively seal the porous latex paint, locking in moisture and cause tell-tale bubbles upon curing. Determining the type of paint used on a surface is easy. Fingernail polish remover or acetone will dissolve latex or acrylic paint. Acetone will not dissolve oil based paint. Applying the wrong type of paint would be disastrous.

Looking for lead paint is another consideration. Oil based paint once contained high quantities of lead. In 1977 the Environmental Protection Agency EPA mandated that lead be removed from consumer paint products. But lead paint can still be found inside of some older homes. The most likely locations for this dangerous lead based paint are old window casings, frames, sashes, painted woodwork and molding. Lead based oil paint can also be hidden under layers of old wall paper. 

Sometimes there is no easy answer to the question oil vs latex. Older homes covered in oil based paint can still be painted with latex paint. Removing the old paint and properly repairing and preparing the surfaces is always the best approach. But this is the most expensive and time-consuming approach. There are new acrylic paints and primers that can cover oil paint. Homeowners generally take the advice from the person selling the paint. Their knowledge and experience are unpredictable. There is no template for preparing oil paint surfaces for latex. It requires the eye of a professional painter. Identifying and removing lead based paint is important for your family’s safety. 

Let Premium Painting evaluate your job. We can recommend the best solution for your painting needs and help answer the question: oil or latex?