Painting walls and ceilings and painting the outside of the home are a few of the most popular DIY fix-ups by homeowners. Although practically everyone paints on occasion, do we actually know what we’re doing? Just what do we need to know about all these paint options when we buy it? Does the $7 paint work as well as the $35? What about latex and oil-base paint? Primer?
As you start to compare products, it can be mind boggling; to the point that many of us resort to basing our purchase on price alone. The best bargain may not quite live up to the name however. The time and extra paint it may take to achieve the desired results might just make you wish you’d spent more.
It’s in your best interest to become familiar with the fundamentals of paint: what it is, what types there are, which type to utilize where and how to determine the appropriate finish for your project, before you go shopping. If you’re using a contractor, he should know what to choose, but an informed consumer makes informed decisions.
Paint is a combination of four basic components: pigments, resins, solvents and additives. Pigment would be the color, where resin is the binder, or glue. Solvent is the component that makes it all liquid and actually evaporates as the paint dries, leaving behind the pigment. Logically, the more solvents in the paint, the less pigment will be left behind. Additives are entered into some specialty paints, providing specific performance enhancements, such as stain-blocking or mold-killing characteristics.
You’ll find that the less expensive paints contain more solvent, consequently less pigment will be left behind when it dries. There can be up to 50% less pigment and resin in cheap paint.
This indicates that most of what you are applying with cheap paint is solvent (water or mineral spirits), which just evaporates, leaving little pigment behind. This is why you have to apply up to four times the paint with a low-quality product before enough pigment is left behind to effectively cover the surface with the expected color quality.
Take your queue from the professionals: buy the best paint your budget can handle and keep your painting to a minimum. Look for a brand with an excellent reputation, and carefully read the label to ensure your paint contains at least 45% pigment and resins per volume.
Paint falls into two solvent categories that define their type: Water and Oil based. Water-based paint, with water as its solvent, is called latex paint… even though it contains no latex. Some also contain acrylic and may be labeled “acrylic latex.” Oil based paint can be equally confusing as it contains no oil. It’s made with a solvent of mineral spirits, or paint thinner, or alkyd resin. Alkyd can be thinned with mineral spirits and latex paint is thinned with water. Confused? Don’t be. If you use the terms latex or alkyd or oil-based paint at the store, they’ll know what you’re talking about.
The most commonly used paint for home improvement projects is latex paint, for a number of reasons:
Water-based paint is appropriate for almost any home application, from interior to exterior, trim to woodwork.
Alkyd paint is no longer the standard for wet areas as it used to be. Compared to the early latex paints, they were easier to scrub, had a higher sheen, and were more durable, however that is no longer true. Many modern latex paints equal and even outperform alkyd paints.
Alkyd paints have their drawbacks. They are sometimes still used for heavy wear areas like trim, floors and cabinets. It has a longer drying time than latex, which will help disguise brush strokes, however the following disadvantages have many using latex even for those areas:
Paint sheen should also be considered when selecting paint for an area. Sheen is the degree of shiny your finished product exhibits. There are basically four different types of finish sheen:
Flat paints are the least shiny. They hide mistakes or imperfections very well and produce little glare. It’s not very washable though. The paint will probably come off if rubbed with a damp sponge. It’s mostly used on ceilings.
Eggshell carries a moderate sheen, so it will still hide imperfections and not too much glare like flat paints, however is fairly washable. It’s the typical choice for everywhere else in your home except the kitchen and bathroom, where you need more water resistance.
Satin has very similar properties to eggshell with perhaps a half-step more in glossiness.
Semi-gloss is recommended for areas requiring moisture-resistance, like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, even children’s rooms because of its washable properties. It’s glossier than Eggshell and Satin, and will protect from moisture more effectively.
Gloss paint is for trim, doors, and cabinets. It’s tough and very washable. Because it reflects a lot of light, it’ll make painted details in your home pop.
Now that you’re armed with the facts about paint, you’re fully prepared to either shop for your home improvement project or meet with your contractor and know what he’s talking about!
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