All you need to know about different types of paint

When it comes to paint, the different varieties that are available is something that is often overlooked. Instead, it is usually the colour that takes the priority, however this can be be a big mistake, as the type of paint has a huge effect on the finish and the overall feeling of the room. With options ranging over a matte to glossy spectrum, ensure that you do not make a costly mistake by not doing your research, as certain paints are also very difficult to apply over each other. In addition, you should also be cautious when selecting your paint, as although recent legislation has been put in place to minimise the number of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) in paint, some do contain more than others. These can be very hazardous for your heath, and can be present for up to two weeks after the job is complete when using paint that contains a high VOC level. For this reason, it is not usually convenient to use this type of paint for your home, or anywhere that you are going to sleep. If you do choose to do so, be aware and take the precaution of not staying in the house during this two week period.

Base coats

  • Primer

Primer, or undercoat, is a preparatory coating that should be used if you are painting a new, uncoated surface. Using primer is essential, as it will increase the durability of the top coat, and ensure better adhesion between the top coat and the surface. It will also protect the material that the paint is being applied to. Just like the final layer or paint, there are also a number of different primers to choose from. Although there are a few more specialised primers, the two key ones that you will be choosing from are oil based or acrylic primers. The one that you use will be dependant on the type of surface that you are painting, the type of paint that you are going to use for the top coat, and the condition that the surface is in.

  • First coat

If your decorative, finishing coat is of a light colour, your first coat should be as well, and vice versa if it is of a dark colour. This paint should be applied on top of the primer to optimise the colour on the top coat. At least one or two first coats should be applied before switching to the top coat.

Decorative top coats

After the primary steps are completed, its time to consider which type of decorative paint you want to use for the finishing layer of your wall.

  • Water based paints

Water based paints are very similar to oil based paints in that they are also made of oil, but have been watered down to reduce costs. This does not have a negative effect on the colour, which has contributed to them becoming incredibly popular for painting walls within the home. This is for a number of other reasons; they have relatively low VOC levels, can dry very quickly, spills can be cleaned with water, they have a stable colour that does not yellow over time, and are quite flexible so are resistant to cracking. However, you should be careful if you are choosing to switch to a water based paint where an oil based paint has previously been used. This is due to the fact that it will not adhere to the wall as it should, meaning that the water based paint will not stick to the glossy surface that is created by the oil based paint. If you do find yourself in this situation, it is possible to remove the glossy surface by washing the wall (being sure to not get any water in any cracks that may be present), then sanding it down after it is dry from the wash. This will dull the surface so that it is ready for the new coat. Under these circumstance, primer will also need to be used again for the best results. If you are thinking of preparing your wall in this way, you should also take precautions to ensure that no lead can be found in the oil based paint that you are removing. Although lead is now banned in paint, it used to be used regularly, so if you are repainting an old wall, it is advisable to get a professional in to check that the paint is lead free. If you do not, then using these methods to prepare the wall will create lead dust, which is incredibly bad for both your health and the environment.

  • Oil based paints

These types of paints are a lot more durable, so are often used for more demanding surfaces such as floors, but can also be used on a wall if you wish to. However, it takes quite a lot longer to dry, and is also harder to clean if it is split, as the clean up requires turpentine or paint thinner (mineral spirits).

Top coat finish

Matt paint:

  • is the least reflective sheen available
  • has a velvety texture
  • helps hides imperfections in walls and ceilings
  • offers great depth of color
  • is generally considered the standard sheen for walls
  • can sometimes be difficult to clean

Eggshell and satin paint (satin is slightly glossier than eggshell):

  • have some reflectivity
  • offer improved durability
  • are frequently used in demanding environments, like kitchens and bathrooms, where easy cleanup without a highly glossy finish is desired

Semi-gloss and gloss paint:

  • are the most reflective sheens
  • are highly durable and stand up to multiple cleanings
  • are traditionally used on baseboards, moldings, and doors
  • can make a statement, but also highlight imperfections