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Published January 20, 2018

There is a time and a place for both latex paint and oil-based paint, and we want to show you when you would use one over the other. If you use the wrong one, you can end up with an unsightly finished product, so it’s important to make the best possible choice.

Latex paint is the go-to choice for most painting professionals these days. They recommend it for most residential jobs, both interior and exterior. That’s because latex paints that are used today dry fast, are easy to apply and don’t cost very much, comparatively speaking. You can slap a couple coats on a large area in the same day with enough drying time between the two coats, when you use latex paint.

Latex is especially useful for ceilings and walls, since it dries so quickly. That means there is little chance that it will pool or drip, if it has been evenly applied.

Oil based paints are used almost every time that oil paints were used in the past. So, if you are repainting a surface area that has been previously painted with oil paints, then you will usually have to use oil paints to cover that area. Latex paint usually does not stick very well to a surface that has been coated in oil paint previously, so it’s important to know which kind of paint was used before you start painting over something.

If you want to use a latex based paint anyway, when you are repainting something that was painted with oil, then you have to apply some oil. You’ll need to use an oil primer and an oil sealer. Otherwise, your paint job just won’t last.

For painting a residential area, though, oil based paints just aren’t very practical. They have to dry overnight, so you are always at the mercy of the weather and other factors that could prevent the paint from drying properly. If you want to clean them off the carpet, furniture or anywhere else you accidentally spread paint, then you have to use mineral spirits to do so.

On top of that, oil based paints tend to smell very strongly which could be an issue when performing an extensive redecoration of your home. They may not be a viable option for residential areas where it would be impossible for the residents to move out for the night while the painting is done. There will be plenty of paint jobs where using oil-based paints is mostly inappropriate because of their strong smell. In some cases, using them may be against applicable regulations.

Oil paint is ideal for wood, though, since it is incredibly resistant to staining and is very durable. It protects wood better and longer than latex paints do, making it the clear choice for commercial wood painting.

In most cases, latex-base paints will be the best choice, but there are some instances where oil-based paints are preferable for one reason or another. Be sure to choose carefully to get the best results.