Before you can choose paint, you need to ask yourself, "what do I expect out of this paint?" If you are painting your house for the purpose of selling it, your paint will not be the same as someone who has three children, a messy pet and no intention of moving.
There are many questions you might ask a paint retailer when you are buying paint. They may use words you are not familiar with so let's give you a quick education on some terms and definitions.
Oil and Water-Based Paints
Without getting too technical, oil based paints dry harder and need mineral turps to clean up. Water-based paints do not dry as hard but are more flexible, they clean up with water and are much easier to work with. Oil paints should be regulated for covering unwanted stains. Water-based paints are very developed and always being improved in formula so are now accepted as the best household paint option.
Let's Talk About Sheen
The easiest way to explain sheen is to simply substitute the word sheen with shine or gloss. In most cases the more sheen the more durability/washability the paint has. The scale of sheen usually goes as follows: Flat, Matt, Low Sheen, Semi-gloss and High Gloss. Paints with very low sheen tend to hide imperfections in walls, whereas glossier paints tend to reveal imperfections. That is why most ceilings are painted flat. Since the ceiling surface rarely gets touched, washability is not a concern and flat paint can help to hide plasterboard joints. Conversely, doors and trim get handled regularly so semi-gloss and high gloss paints are the norm. What about your walls? Take a look at your walls now - are they subject to a lot of wear and tear? If you live alone or just don't have any children or pets, you may enjoy the softness of flat or matt paint. However if you or your kids are 'hands on' when it comes to your walls, low sheen will probably make the most sense.
What is the big deal with 'green paints'? Here is the quick rundown. Non eco-friendly paints contain volatile organic compounds or VOC's which are emitted from the paint as it dries. Some health concerns include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Now you know why I couldn't wait to make the switch! So even if you’re not into saving the planet, think of yourself and others who may be in the house you are painting. The best thing about these 'green paints' is that there are lots to choose from, some have no VOCs and some have low VOCs.
Should I Shell out for the Best?
Generally if you pay more for your paint, you get certain better features. In general you should pay more for premium outside paint as it will last longer & internal paint should be more washable if it is more expensive. Budget paint may splatter more & cover less but most mid-range paints do all things well on average. In summary, suit the paint to the job. I.e. a hallway and living area need to be painted with a premium washable paint due to traffic, whereas the spare room can be done with a mid-range paint. If you’re on a budget, you can achieve great results with a mid-level paint and keep that extra money in your pocket.
1 or 2 Coats?
When doing new work and recoating for durability (i.e. external work or heavily used areas), you should always plan on doing two coats. Even the best paints, despite their claims, do not cover in one coat, unless the colour is the same or very close. Some ceiling paints are ‘one coat’ in nature. This means that over white they will cover in one coat, no problem. However, you must make sure that you cover the area you paint entirely or you will see where the ‘fresh’ paint is.
Whatever the case, each coat represents more paint and gives you more protection. Generally you will do one coat of primer/undercoat and two coats of top coat. See next section about primers and undercoats for further info.
What About Undercoats and Primers?
Primers and undercoats are used in situations where paint needs to have an intermediate coat that sticks to the surface and prepares it. E.g. if you are painting over new plasterboard, use a drywall undercoat; painting over steel, use a steel primer, etc. If you are covering a stain, use an oil or spirit based stain sealer/primer.
Undercoats help to prepare the surface and remove imperfections. Without an undercoat, painting bare plasterboard is a nightmare, as you will still see the joins and get a rough finish. In some cases, certain colours like bright red, yellow and orange will require a grey undercoat to help reduce the number of coats and get a great looking colour. If you are painting over dark colours with a lighter or brighter colour, you will need to undercoat also. If you are just re-painting to change the colour of your room slightly, you should not need a primer or undercoat! Two coats of regular paint is all you will need.
Simple Advice for Exterior Paints
If you are painting the exterior of your house, ALWAYS buy top of the line paint! When it comes to exterior paint, you get what you pay for. In general, top water-based exterior coatings will now last much longer than oil-based paints. This is because they are far more flexible than oil-based paints and can ‘move’ with the surface as it expands and contracts. Also, over the years water-based paints have been developed far more than oil-based paints which have not changed in technology much since the 1980’s. Thus the UV resistance in modern water-based exterior paints is excellent. We recommend that you use a primer/undercoat when painting any bare external surface unless retouching work in good condition.