Painting is one of the easiest ways to change your house. In comparison to, say, new flooring or cupboards, paint is the fingersnap of home renovation. It’s inexpensive, quick, and even a total turkey-butt can do it. Picking a colour isn’t that hard. Picking what type of paint to use, however, can cause shivers in those who haven’t heard of VOCs before.
So here’s the first in an ongoing series about types of paint, a primer of sorts (bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! Pun so intended).
You can get two basic kinds of paint: interior and exterior. Let’s talk about interior paint today.
When it comes to interior paint, there are two different mixtures you can get — waterborne (often latex), or solventborne (oil based). In the past, you could categorise them as oil based being smelly to apply but good for high traffic areas (very scrubabble), and latex was easy to clean up after the paint job. Now you can get oil paints that don’t get you high when you roll them on, and latex paints that can handle the Crayola “art” left behind by your toddler.
But before you paint, take note. Although it adds to your project time, it’s usually a good idea to prime your walls first. Sand them lightly if they’re already painted, and wash them down with a damp cloth to get rid of the dust and grime. If you’re painting drywall, alwaysalwaysalways prime your wall with a high quality primer. Primer preps the surface for better paint adhesion, and helps the colour you chose stay true. Also invest time in taping off areas you don’t want painted, like trim, door handles, and strips of ceiling and floor against the wall. Any good painter will tell you that taping, while the most painstaking part of a paint job, always pays off in the end.
Okay. Let’s get going.
Solventborne paints contain a higher level of pigment and binders than waterborne paints, but because of the smell, the longer drying time, and difficult clean-up, they usually take a backseat for interior paint jobs. They are sometimes called “premium paint” because of the higher quality of colour and longevity in comparison to something like latex. You can get low VOC solventborne paints nowadays, too, which affect the environment less harshly than a regular paint and have far less of an odour.
Using a solventborne paint requires organization. You have to be ready for an extended drying time — so not using or closing off the room for a couple of days — while also ensuring that the room is well-ventilated with plenty of airflow. You have to be ready for a quick clean up, especially if you intend to use the brushes and paint trays again, or are the spilly type.
I had oilbased paint on a few walls and trim in my previous home, and I gotta say, it took scrubbing like a dream. The colour was fantastic, very rich and bright. It was great in my kitchen and hallway. However, when I went to paint over the oilbased walls in my home, I had to spend some coin and get a special latex paint that had a special primer in it specially made for adhesion to oilbased walls. If you put a regular latex paint over an oilbased wall, your paint will peel off. No joke. I’ve seen it happen (sob). Sanding the walls first will help make adhesion easier for latex over oil, too. If this is your situation, talk to your local paint store expert before you do anything.
Thinner and less persnickity than its oilbased buddy, waterborne paint is great for the novice, like me. Now, there aren’t as many solids in a waterborne paint like latex as there is in an oilbased or solventborne paint, but the colours are great, nonetheless. The big draw of this kind of paint is the availability of low to zero VOC products, making it far easier to work with in residential applications, like your main floor bathroom. It cleans up with soap and water, which also can save your flooring if you slop, and can also be handy for cleaning brushes, rollers, and trays so you can reuse them, thus saving yourself a little bit of money. It’s also generally less expensive than a solventborne paint.
The big drawback for latex or waterborne paint, though, was that if it got quite dirty or grimey, trying to clean it could be a bit tricky. I scrubbed a latex painted wall once because one of my kids had put a sticker on it and the glue wasn’t coming off. With only a few rounds of elbow grease, I managed to peel the paint off the wall and expose the the previous colour underneath. Whoops. Luckily, one of the other perks of waterborne paints is that they take touch-ups really well; you couldn’t even tell where I had my janitorial faux-pas. Just a note, though, for high traffic/dirtier areas like kitchens, bathrooms, and entry ways — talk to a paint expert to see if oil might be a better option.
That’s just a bare bones overview. There’s far more intricate stuff to consider when painting your home, if you want to do it properly. I highly recommend you talk to the paint folks at your local paint store; they can give you the lowdown on everything you need. From brushes to finishes (which we’ll talk about another time), they’ll get you set up.
Hope that helps!