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Oil Based Paint vs Water Based: Which is Best?

by | Nov 17, 2022 | Interior Painting

We often get asked what type of paint is best to use for interior painting oil based paint vs water based paint. We have oil-based products which were much more popular many years ago and we have water-based or acrylic paints.  Water and oil are the types of liquid they use in the paints that are the main component of the product.  

What Are the Differences Between Oil Based Paint vs Water Based?

Oil based paints are known for drying harder and have the ability to achieve a higher sheen than water based paints. Oil products were extremely popular for interior woodwork and cabinets in the past as they would clean easier and take more abuse.  

The down side of oil based paints was that they dried too hard and tended to crack over time.  They also changed color over time.  Often times people would paint cabinets or millwork white and it would turn yellow over time.  Oil based paints are much slower drying products in most cases so you may not be able to apply a second coat for many hours.    

Water based or latex paints have many advantages with all the new technology in paint over the past few years.  Latex paints have less odor and fewer VOCs or volatile organic compounds that are bad for the environment and our health.  Water based paints are easier to work with as they can be brushed and rolled very easily without causing problems.  Oil based paints are harder to work with as they are sticky and hard to brush on.  Latex paints are much easier to apply with a brush or roller application.  Latex paints clean up with soap and water and oil based paints need to be cleaned with mineral spirits which makes it more difficult.    

Oil Based Paint: Benefits and Best Uses

In some cases, we prefer to use oil based products as they can perform better.  You can use oil based paints on cabinets or millwork that have had oil based paint applied previously as the paint will adhere much better with less prep work.  Some metal surfaces can be painted with oil based paints on the interior and exterior of your home to achieve that high gloss look.  Oil based paints are used a lot in commercial and industrial applications but not as much in residential anymore.      

Water Based Paint: Benefits and Best Uses

In most cases, we tend to use water based paints for most applications when it comes to residential applications.  The odor is much less and the VOCs are much lower in latex paints.  Latex paints stay flexible longer so they don’t crack easily and tend to hold their color longer.  They are so much easier to apply and clean up when you are done if you are a homeowner doing your own project.  The new latex enamel paints we use are amazing and act like a latex paint when being applied but they dry like an oil and look great! 

Can You Use Water Based Paint Over Oil Based Primer?

Yes, you can use water based paint over oil based paint if you prepare the surface correctly.  We see lots of older homes in the Portland area where someone painted with latex over an oil based paint and it has terrible adhesion.  

If you want to use latex paint over oil you need to clean, scuff, and sand the surface. And maybe apply an oil based primer in some cases. It is more likely to have problems the glossier the old surface is.

What About Oil Based Paint Over Water Based Primer?

You can use oil based paint over water based and you will likely not have any problems.  We still recommend cleaning and light sanding to promote adhesion.  

Oil Based vs Water Based Paint Cost Breakdown

Water and oil based paints are usually fairly close in price but some oil based products have been harder to find in the last couple of years due to supply chain issues with the raw materials that make oil products.  

Your Portland Professional Painters

If you’re in the Portland area and have any questions regarding the best types of paint to use for your project, please contact Absolute Painting & Power Washing for help anytime!

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