The smell of fresh paint…the sight of bright clean walls freshly painted …. painting a room can make an old tired room look and feel new again. It has been rightly said that painting the inside of a house is the most economical and easiest way to improve the looks and value of your home. But for those that have little experience painting, the process of starting can be daunting. The fear of making a mess can also cause a certain amount of anxiety.  Personally, I once disliked painting. Over the years I have been forced to practice and seek better ways to make the job of painting more efficient and neater and have learned some things along the way. As my technique has improved I have come to realize I actually like to paint. So, if you are up for the challenge of doing it yourself, then I have some tips and techniques that I now use and that serve me well and I believe they will serve you well also. This first in a series of three posts on painting will cover the different types of paint.

Understanding paint: Basically there are two types of paint used in most homes. Oil based paint and latex (acrylic) paint. Let’s start with oil based paints. In older homes( 30 years or older) oil based paint was most often used on the painted wood surfaces…..doors, trim, shelves etc. It was often used on exterior wood as well. On exterior wood it has the added feature of being more weather resistant. But in general, oil based paint was used (and to some degree still is used) on wood because of the oil in it. It just goes on with a smoother finish. The paint job looks smoother and cleaner on the finished product than say compared to a latex paint.  That is the upside of oil based paint. It looks smoother and neater on the painted surface and protects wood better in weather. The downside of oil based paint is that it is simply more difficult to clean up. You will need a solvent like mineral spirits or paint thinner  to clean up your brushes, drips and spills. It is just messy.

The next point is important. Painting oil based paint over oil based paint works fine. Painting latex paint over oil based paint is a nightmare…. and one that you can’t ever seem to wake up from. You will have peeling paint until you scrape the whole surface and start over….or die …whichever comes first. The reason is that latex paint simply won’t stick to oil based paint. Rubber doesn’t stick to oil.( There is one way to make this work if you really want to use latex and I will cover that momentarily.) For now though, understand that you are best served avoiding painting latex based paint over oil based paint and visa versa.

So how do you tell if old paint is oil or latex? First, clean a small sample area with warm soapy water and towel dry. Then take a cotton Q-tip, dip it in rubbing alcohol and rub the cleaned area. If the paint comes off….it is latex paint…if it doesn’t come off….it’s oil paint.

Now that you have determined what type of paint you have to cover, you can choose your paint. But what if you don’t want to use oil based paint? I have run into this challenge myself. Personally, I prefer painting with latex paint. It is easy to clean up with water. The smell isn’t as offensive to me as oil.

I have painted over oil based paint with latex… after applying Kilz Original. Kilz is a paint/primer designed to hide stains. You will find it in any paint store or paint section of any home improvement store. There are two types of Kilz. If you want to paint latex paint over oil based paint you will need to buy the Kilz Original, which is oil based. It has a red and white label and it works. Click here to see an example. The other Kilz type is latex based and though it says it will allow you to paint over oil and then top coat with latex…. in my experience it just doesn’t work well. Save yourself a headache. Get the Original Kilz and you are guaranteed success. You may be wondering “Well if it is oil based then how can you paint latex over it?”

I wish I had a good answer to that question, I just don’t know why it works. But  I do know from experience that it works and works well.

We have talked a lot about oil based paint so lets take a minute and review briefly latex paint. Latex is by far the most popular and most widely used paint today. Look at any paint display in your hardware or home improvement store…..the majority of what is on the shelf is latex paint.  It is easy to work with, cleans up easily and looks good. What’s not to like? If you are a novice to painting I would definitely recommend starting with latex. Have any experiences with either oil-based on latex you’d like to share or have a questions? Post it in the comments below! In part two of this three part series of posts, we’ll look at choosing supplies.

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