Choosing The Right Interior Paint


Advantages: Usually cheaper, Fade Resistant, easier clean up environmentally friendlier, faster drying, requires no special thinners or solvents, requires stirring less often. Less dust pick-up. Preferred for walls, ceilings and primed woodwork.

Oil /Alkyd

Advantages: Better flow properties, allowing for a smoother finish. Harder more scrub able, stronger bond to many surfaces, slower set up time allowing more time to work a particular area.

Preferred for Wood trim, cabinets, metal surfaces (heat registers, metal doors ect.)

New Work

New Wood

Primer: new woodwork should first be primed with a suitable primer. Generally an oil\alkyd interior primer is preferred for several reasons. 1 it does NOT raise the grain of the wood in the same manner that latex would. 2 better results sanding for a good prep job. 3 it can easily be painted with oil or latex. 4 Some of the resinous vehicle can penetrate into some wood surfaces for a very strong bond.

Today however there are more latex or water born products available to be used as an interior wood primer, weather or not you can get as good results with these for woodwork is still debatable. Knots will have to be primed with pigmented shellac to prevent bleeding.

Finish paint  The latex & water born paints are becoming more popular for woodwork as new products become available. Many still prefer the flowed out surface & harder finish of the oil-based .If a high gloss is desired you will generally get better results with an oil paint, but most people agree that the advantages of latex make for an over all easier job.

New Sheetrock, New Plaster

Latex is the most popular choice for sheetrock and plastered surfaces today.

  Primer Latex finish paint can often be used as its own primer however; it is recommended that you use a quality latex drywall primer or primer-sealer for best results. This primer will penetrate somewhat into the surface for a good bond and creates a barrier for the finish coat to bond to for a more uniform appearance. It is probably best to stay away from the cheaper wallboard primers, as they have no surface properties and would not leave a suitable base for some finishes. There are oil-based primers that may be used for this purpose, but for the most part stick with the latex. New Plaster usually requires a cure time prior to painting check with the plaster manufacturers specifications.

Finish Paint: Latex Paint will bond to latex or oil primer. Oil finish paint will bond to the latex or oil primer, but may not always work out so well over the latex due to the higher flexibility of the latex.

New Hardboard

Primer: Unprimed hardboard may produce some bleed through with latex primer, its usually recommended to use an oil base /alkyd primer for these products. However with the wide array of materials available, it is wise to check with the manufacturer as with some of the newer cement composition siding products it is recommended to primed with latex

Finish Paint: Latex Paint will bond to latex or oil primer. Oil finish paint will bond to the latex or oil primer, but may not always work out so well over the latex due to the higher flexibility of the latex.

Previously Painted Surface

It’s not usually necessary to prime previously painted surfaces. Any bare wood or patched areas should be spot primed with appropriate primer as described a new surface.

Stains, knots and graffiti need to be sealed see section below.

Ceilings: Applying a quality latex primer sealer to ceilings prior to paining with the finish will often give better results, it eliminates the splotchy look. Some of these latex sealers dry glossy, but the flat will be easier to paint over with the ceiling paint.

Painting over flat latex finish paint with a glossier finish paint will probably leave splotchy results. To prevent this first apply a quality wallboard primer or latex primer sealer .However it will often work ok just to use two coats of the finish paint as the first coat acts as the sealer.

Finish: You should always consider the type of paint presently on the surfaces. If the surface has been painted with latex last time, then it may be best to stick with latex for the work. This is because the latex will expand and contract farther than the oil-based, in time oil over latex could lead to problems. If a surface has been previously painted with oil, latex may not bond to that surface as well as oil-based paint, especially if the surface is glossy .The gloss would at least have to be dulled down prior to painting. See Dulling Surfaces

Stains Knots Graffiti Discolored Ceilings

There are latex ,alkyd and alcohol based primer sealers. Water stains on ceilings and walls, ink, crayon, and knots will need to be sealed prior to painting. Generally you only need to spot prime these areas.

The alcohol based is usually most effective. The alkyd next and latex the least effective. However they are easiest to use in the reveres order .

 Knots will need the alcohol based sealer.

Water stains will usually cover with the alkyd or alcohol sealer

A discolored ceiling may not paint well with even two or more coats of ceiling paint. Using a good quality latex primer sealer prior to the finish ceiling paint give the best results.

Smoked up areas usually fair better using the oil or alcohol primer sealer

Possible situation: Prior to the 1950s some ceilings were painted with a white wash like product called calcimine. Using latex paint on a ceiling that has been painted with calcimine may cause blistering. This is not very common in most areas now, but painters still run into this occasionally. Sometimes the calcimine can be washed off, but it is otherwise necessary to use an oil/alkyd base ceiling paint to prevent the blistering.


Vinyl and older type non-vinyl wallpaper can be painted, often without a primer. However in many cases using the appropriate can reduce the chances of problems. A quality primer sealer is a good choice to insure a good bond to vinyl wallpaper and seal any color from bleeding. It is possible that the non-vinyl wallpapers can lift when painted with a latex paint or a latex primer sealer, therefore an oil based primer sealer would be recommended on older type wallpapers. Once the paper is primed it can be painted with oil or latex finish paint


Most new metal installations come pre-finished, or primed. Any bare un-oxidized ferrous metals should be primed with the proper type metal primer. Ferrous metals (steel, iron) can usually be primed with a standard gray or white metal primer. Oil Based

Galvanized metal should be primed with a product designed for that purpose. Galvanized Metal Primer. Usually White.

Aluminum can be primed with the galvanized metal primer, or the standard gray primer. Latex also bonds to aluminum and can be used for a primer under latex finish paint.

On slightly rusted surfaces use gray metal primer. Heavily rusted surfaces use a red (Iron Oxide) metal primer.

 In general; (but not a rule of thumb) the more rusted the surface, the darker the metal primer used should be. Other commercial grade primers are also available for certain exterior use.

Finish paint : Once properly primed, most metal interior metal surfaces can be painted with almost any quality paint. However metal door and heat registers usually fair better with an oil base/alkyd. Gloss Metal Enamels provide the most durability, but can sometimes be more difficult to work with, and the high gloss may be over bearing. Semi gloss or eggshell gloss trim paint is a good choice for steel doors.

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