Home Renovations: Choosing Paint

General Article

Choosing the right paint

Each year sees the introduction of new, sophisticated paint finishes such as solid emulsion, one-step gloss, environmentally friendly 'green' paints, and tough sheens for kitchens and bathrooms. But which one is right for the job?

With all these distinct and confusing products available on the market, it may sometimes be a relief to know that you can find only two major types of house paint: water-based, and solvent-based, which is traditionally, if not accurately, known as oil-based paint.

Water-based paints consist of emulsion, quick-drying eggshell and water based gloss, solvent-based paints range from traditional eggshell and gloss to durable sheen finishes and specialist lacquers or paintings for metal. Some paints could have added ingredients such as vinyl acrylic or polyurethane to make them more durable or to increase coverage – but that does not alter their fundamental composition.

Water based paintings are perfect for walls and water-based eggshell or gloss can be employed for most interior woodwork, although solvent-based paints are perfect for areas of tough wear – exterior as well as interior wood, and metal.

Emulsion or Enamel / Gloss Based?
Find out if paint is water-based or solvent-based by reading the instructions given for thinning. If water is recommended, the paint will likely be water-based, if white spirit is advised then it's solvent-based.

Disposing of paint
Oil-based paint and solvents are considered hazardous waste supplies. They bought to never be disposed of inside the typical rubbish or poured down the sink. Consult your local waste collection department for advice.

Primer seals absorbent surfaces and provides a key for the consequent coats. Use it before painting bare timber, and when using gloss on bare metal.

Undercoat supplies a smooth, solid-colored base for liquid gloss. It's a solvent-based paint that looks attractive in its own right, though the range of colors is limited. It tends to chip so if using it with out the top coat of gloss then protect it with clear varnish.

Emulsion is the first choice for walls. It's a water-based paint, and usually contains vinyl, which makes it durable and easy to clean. It can be employed on most sound, already painted surfaces.

Gloss paint is the standard choice for wood and metalwork. All solvent-based gloss has a high shine but for a truly mirror-like finish, it's best to opt for thin liquid paint. Used over undercoat, a system preferred by professional decorators, specifically for outside use.

Eggshell paint
Eggshell is a versatile sheen finish typically used for indoor woodwork, although it can also be used on walls for a uniform look.

Wood stains and varnish
Wood stains designed for use indoors are a lot more decorative than protective external paints. Cover than with two or more coats of clear varnish.
Varnish gives a clear, protective coating for paints and stains. It's obtainable in matt, satin (mid-sheen) or high-gloss finishes and in liquid of non-drip consistency.

Environmentally friendly paints
These are produced from natural plant oils, resins and minerals so they're non-toxic, healthier to use and better for the environment. They are straightforward to apply, permit surfaces to breathe and are odor-free.

Painting safely
Solvent-based paint is flammable, so store it outside the house but protect it from frost and damp. Fumes from solvent-based gloss and eggshell are unsuitable so make sure the room is cool and well ventilated before you start painting.