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Painting Tips & Tricks: General Rules for Paint Selection

Testing Paint TypeThe most important consideration is to purchase the very best quality paint you can afford. Inexpensive or “bargain” paints are just that, CHEAP; and their performance cannot match that of good-quality, name-brand paints. If you want the job to last, and if appearance is important, choose a good paint.

Once you’ve made the decision between oil based and acrylic, the next choice will be to choose the sheen of the paint. Many paints come in varying sheens or finishes such as: flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, high-gloss and others. Choose the one that best fits your particular project and usage. Here again, there are some basic rules or guidelines.

Generally speaking, flat paints hide surface imperfections and brush or roller marks better than gloss paints. Even those paints known as “egg shell,” a type of enamel often selected by homeowners and decorators for its “depth” or durability, show imperfections or “flashes” more so than pure flat paints. However, this is not to say that such paints should be avoided, just that surface preparation and application are much more critical when using these paints.

Depending upon the surface you’re painting, drywall, concrete block, interior trim, concrete, siding, exterior trim, furniture, or any of a dozen other surfaces, you’ll need to determine several factors: Will the surface be subject to wear or weather? Is there existing paint that must be covered? Is the surface smooth, clean, and ready for painting? Inexperienced painters can discuss these and other issues with the paint expert at their local paint store or home center. If in doubt, ask for help.

Most homeowners are confused by the issue of priming, the application of special preparatory finishes or “primers” prior to painting. Raw unfinished wood or drywall should always have a coat of primer before applying the finish coat. Primers helps to seal the surface, making for a more even final coat; and they also adhere better to “raw” surfaces than paint. Choosing the right primer is critical to having an attractive, long-lasting paint job.

There are numerous primers available, both oil based and latex, that are designed for a multitude of uses other than just for covering unfinished surfaces. Some are great at covering stains such as grease splatters, ink, or from roof or plumbing leaks. Others are used to cover previously painted surfaces to help the new finish adhere to the surface. Still others may be helpful when changing the finish from oil to latex. Here again, the store rep can be a great help in choosing the right material.

The drywall in most homes is painted with flat latex paint. This paint provides a soft, matte finish that hides surface imperfections and provides a softer look to a room. Latex flat paint is easy to use, can be washed with a damp sponge, and is a great choice for ceilings, bedrooms, dining and living rooms, and family rooms.

A paint chosen for its durability and excellent adhesion, alkyd based paints are often used in high traffic areas or areas subject to grease and water staining. Kitchens and bathrooms are often painted with alkyd paints.

For woodwork and interior trim, many choose gloss or semi-gloss paints which are available in both oil and latex. These paints are durable and provide a tough surface for high traffic areas.

For exterior painting on wood or composite siding, latex paint is generally the best choice. It is less subject to peeling, mildew, or chalking, and will generally last longer than oil or alkyd paint. Latex is also more flexible which allows it to move as the surface expands and contracts. A frequent choice by homeowners is to use a flat latex on siding and semi-gloss latex on trim, windows, and doors.


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