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Oil Based Paint vs. Latex Paint

Painting is one of the few home improvement projects that can instantly transform a space. By simply adding a coat of fresh paint you can turn a distressed space into a clean and consistent finish or even turn a dark dreary space into a lively and bright one. Furthermore, by using a fresh coat of high-quality paint you are making your surfaces easier to wash and more abrasion-resistant. Also, high-quality paint on an exterior surface will provide protection to siding, trim and other painted finishes from weather damage.

When it comes to interior and exterior paint, there are two basic types which include oil-base (alkyd) and water-base (latex). Within these two types of paint are three main ingredients that significantly influence its quality and use. The ingredients include pigments and fillers, solvents and binders.

Pigment and Fillers:

Pigments and fillers perform fundamental functions within a coating formulation. Pigments are used to control the degree of opacity and colour of the finish. In simpler terms, it provides the texture, color and the hiding properties of the paint. The most important pigment is titanium dioxide, while other important inorganic pigments include carbon black and iron oxide. Titanium dioxide is substantially costly because it provides high quality paint. Clay and silica are pigments that are also used but they don't hold up as well. The role of fillers is to add cost-effective bulk to the paint product and enhance its performance.

Solvent:

Solvents give the paint the proper consistency. They are used to keep the ingredients in liquid form. They also act as a "carrier" for the binders and pigments. Oil-based paints use thinner (petrochemical distillate) as a solvent. They are the most hazardous because the solvents are toxic and flammable. Latex and acrylic paints use water as the primary solvent which make them much less hazardous.

Binders:

Binders are the one ingredient that is absolutely required. The binder is the part which eventually solidifies to form the dried paint film. Typical binders include synthetic or natural resins such as acrylics, polyurethanes, polyesters, melamines, oils, or latex. Linseed oil, tung oil or alkyd resins are the primary binders for oil-base paints and 100% acrylic or vinyl acrylic are the binders for water-base paint.

Now that you that you understand what goes into paint, you need to know whether you should you use oil or latex. Certain painting projects actually require you to use both. Generally, oil-base primers and finish coats are better used for interior doors and trim (windows, doors, crown, and base) because it provides a tough abrasion-resistant surface that can easily be cleaned. You can also use oil-based primers for raw metal rain gutters, ornamental iron fencing and furniture and bare wood. Keep in mind, its best to use a paintbrush made of natural bristles when working with oil-base paint.

Latex, on the other hand, is the best option for interior walls and ceilings and exterior siding and trim (wood or stucco). Water-base paints are easy to use, and also come clean easily with soap and water. Moreover, latex paints dry faster than oils and don't have the strong scent that is familiar with oil-base paints.

It was once recommended to only use oil-base primers and finish coats for areas that you expect to receive high levels of moisture, such as kitchens, bathrooms, basements and laundries. However, today's high-quality, 100% acrylic latex paints are exceptional at resisting moisture, dirt and stains. They withstand the elements just like oil-base, even after repeated washing or scrubbing.

Oil-Base Paint Qualities

  • Oil-base provides excellent adhesion. On heavily chalked surfaces it is has better adhesion then latex.
  • Oil-base is more likely to chalk and fade in sunny exposure compared to latex.
  • It is slightly difficult to apply because of it’s brush drag tendency. However, it does go on heavy for great one-coat hiding and coverage.
  • Its vegetable-oil base can provide nutrients for mildew growth, but most products contain mildewcide to minimize growth.
  • Oil-base can be used on most materials, but certain surfaces require a sealer or pre-treatment. It should not be applied directly to galvanized metal.
  • It has a stronger odor than latex.
  • It can be cleaned with turpentine, paint thinner or other solvent.
  • It takes about eight to 24 hours to dry.

Latex Paint Qualities

  • Latex has excellent adhesion and better elasticity than oil.
  • Its color holds up very well with superior resistance to chalking and fading, especially when exposed to bright sun.
  • High quality latex will go on smoothly and evenly, with little brush drag.
  • Latex is unlikely to grow mildew, but it still contains mildewcide additives to discourage mildew growth and help maintain a fresh appearance.
  • Latex can be used on wood, concrete, stucco, brick, galvanized metal, vinyl siding, aluminum siding, etc.
  • It has very little odor and it is non-combustible.
  • It can be cleaned with soap and water.
  • It takes one to six hours to dry which allows for a quick recoating.
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