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Should I Use Oil or Latex to Paint my Home?

Should I Use Oil or Latex to Paint my Home?

When painting your home, one of the first considerations that you’ll have to make is what paint you want to use to do the job! Often that decision comes down to two major types: Latex (i.e. Waterbase) or Oil. Both kinds of paints have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. 

Oil based paints—which contain natural and synthetic resins—are rarely used for interior walls and trim these days. This is because they contain high levels of VOCS (volatile organic compounds) that can be unsafe indoors. VOCS are organic chemical compounds that can vaporize and become airborne under minimal pressure. One reason that oil based paint has such a strong smell is due to the VOCS evaporating into the air. It’s a bad idea to have paint that sometimes causes smog in the air to be on the inside of your home.  If you’re going to use them—use them on outside surfaces!

Besides the health hazards, oil based paint is famously difficult to clean up (requiring paint thinner) and dries incredibly slowly (8-24 hours). It’s also more likely to fade, crack, and turn yellow with age. So is oil good for anything you may ask? And the answer would be YES! For example, it’s ideal for painting exterior metal.  When applied to metal, it goes on smoother than latex, shrinks less, and it requires less coats. Oil based wood stains and primers are also a highly recommended coating for raw wood.

Latex paint, on the other hand, is better for the environment, less hazardous for your health, has milder odors, dries fast, is easy to clean up, and doesn’t discolor or turn yellow overtime.  Different kinds of waterborne paints are geared for different surfaces. For exterior/outdoor painting alkyd-modified latex is a good choice. But when it comes to interior/indoor jobs, acrylic is your best bet.

Despite Latex paints countless strengths, DO NOT use it on bare steel or on the grain of raw wood, without first priming the surfaces. These are jobs that are best reserved for oil based coatings. Oil based paint may be less popular than it was twenty years ago, but there are still particular jobs that it is best suited for: steel and raw wood are two of them.

MB Jessee is the premier painting outfit in the San Francisco Bay Area and we’re happy to help with all of your painting needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions related to any and all things painting related! 

Note: There are exceptions to the rules above about oil based paints. Sometimes oil finishes, inside, look amazing. So if you don't have children in the home or have breathing problems, oil finishes are beautiful.  

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