Primers, Paints and Top Coats
Here's some basic info you can use before beginning a painting project.
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Latex paint is water-based and can be cleaned up with soap and water.
Alkyd is oil-based and must be cleaned with thinner.
Primers and sealers are similar in that they prepare the surface. Primers are used to prepare bare or previously painted walls; sealers are primarily used on bare wood.
Specialty paints are fast becoming the norm on the shelves of home-improvement stores. Usually water-based, they're only differentiated by the additives or application technique. Magnetic paint contains iron dust mixed with a primer, metallic paints contain mica and other particles and textured finishes are either created in a multi-step application process (e.g. Venetian plaster) or achieved via premixed additives.
Milk paint is a natural, nontoxic paint made of milk protein, clay, earth pigments and lime and is available as a water-soluble powder. Primarily for use on unfinished wood.
Top coats can be either water or solvent-based and are usually clear. Water-based coatings include polyurethane and polycrylic. Solvent-based coatings include natural (tung, linseed) and alkyd oils, shellac, lacquer and polyurethane. Top-coat finishes create a durable finish on wood floors, furniture, doors, railings, trim, cabinets or paneling. Also in this category are paste finishing waxes, which can be used on stained or painted wood surfaces for a deep, rich shine.
Latex and alkyd paints and some clear top coats are available in finishes with varying degrees of shine: flat, eggshell, satin, semigloss and gloss.
flat: no sheen; best on walls in low-use areas, like dining, living rooms and bedrooms; conceals minor surface imperfections; washable but not scrubbable
eggshell: smooth finish with a subtle sheen; also good for walls in family rooms and bedrooms; washable and scrubbable
satin: a step up from eggshell in sheen; an all-purpose, popular sheen suitable for almost any room; washable and scrubbable
semigloss: medium sheen; good for walls and trim in high abuse areas like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry and children's rooms; extremely durable; washable and scrubbable
gloss: high sheen; best for doors, trim and cabinets; washable and scrubbable
Tips and hints
- When painting walls and trim, use a lower sheen on the walls and a higher sheen on the trim.
- Don't use latex over oil and vice versa without properly preparing the surface. Sand the finish (wear a mask to prevent breathing in fumes and dust), wipe the walls with a tack cloth, then apply a primer of the same composition of the intended topcoat.
- Latex has a faster drying time and lower odor than alkyd.
- Oil-based paint dries harder than latex making it more resistant to wear and tear.
- Rely on primer. It seals the surface, blocks stains and ensures optimal coverage of the top coat. It's less expensive than paint and is available in both water and oil base. It's essential when changing colors and should be tinted for best results with deep paint colors like red, blue and green.
- Milk paint has been used for centuries--as far back as ancient Egypt. Depending on the proportion of powder mixed with water, it can be used as a wash, stain or opaque paint. Since it is made of a milk protein called casein, it cannot be stored because it will sour within a day of mixing it.
- Creating a lacquered finish on furniture involves applying several coats of clear or tinted lacquer paint and sanding between each coat.
Jazz up a plain concrete or wood floor by painting a geometric pattern that looks like an area rug.