Comparing Different Types of Paint

  As you may know already, there are many types of paint out there meant for different uses. We’re not talking about colors here—there are unlimited amounts of those—we’re talking about the chemicals used to make different types of paint and the ingredients within them that make them especially useful in particular situations.

Different paints work best on different surfaces. The main division between the paint types is exterior versus interior. Exterior paints are obviously made to withstand the elements better than interior paint. Let’s look at the main types of paint for interior and exterior jobs, and examine which tasks they are most effective for.

Interior Paint Types

  • Acrylic flat—Ceilings and Walls—Because it has no sheen, it’s not as easy to wash and can have a slightly chalky finish
  • Acrylic eggshell—Ceilings and Walls—A slight sheen and a smooth, matte finish makes it easier to wash, but it is more prone to scratches than a paint with less sheen
  • Acrylic satin—Ceilings, Walls, Woodwork, or Trim—The satin finish is more durable than the eggshell or flat finishes, and it’s easier to wash
  • Acrylic semi-gloss—Walls, Woodwork, and Trim—Easy-to-wash and durable, the gloss finish usually reflects a slight glare
  • Acrylic gloss—Walls, Woodwork, and Trim—Durable and washable, reflects more glare than other paints, and can be used in some situations for ceilings
  • Alkyd flat—Commercial Interiors—Because this is an oil-based paint, it has a strong odor that isn’t ideal for residential homes; flat matte finish and durable
  • Alkyd semi-gloss—Woodwork, Trim, and Decorative Objects—Oil-based paint and subsequent strong odor; durable and washable, and usually available in eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss finish
  • Alkyd gloss—Woodwork, Trim, and Decorative Objects—Strong odor, durable and washable

Exterior Paint Types

  • Acrylic/Latex—All exterior surfaces except metal—Standard exterior paint; durable and flexible. Available in several different finishes, from flat to high gloss, usually it will adhere well to any surface and dry fast in the sun.
  • Oil Enamel—All exterior surfaces, especially ironwork and other metals—Usually has a slight sheen at minimum, up to a full oil gloss. Generally, more washable than water-based paints, not as durable on surfaces that expand and contract with temperature fluctuations (such as wood), but adheres particularly well to metal surfaces.

You Get What You Pay For

Paints are like any other product. You can pay extra for quality or try your luck with the rest. The more expensive paints usually are higher quality. Any paint labeled ‘Contractor Grade’ is the lowest quality. For exteriors, solid, 100% acrylic paints have been shown to be dependable, durable, and easy to apply. While you might get away with using an exterior paint indoors, you should never try to use interior paint outdoors if you want it to look good and avoid peeling.

The types of paint you use for interior or exterior jobs don’t matter if you don’t adequately prepare the surface by washing, sanding, scraping, and priming, especially for outdoor surfaces.

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