Oil vs Latex Paints

One of the most frequently asked questions by new DIY painters is whether to use latex or oil-based paint for their project. And while it might seem trivial, the two have differences in their properties and composition, which can make them more or less ideal for your particular situation.

Essentially, latex paints are water-based. They are the most popular type of paint used today, generally preferred for painting home interiors and larger surfaces. On the other hand, oil-based paints are slower drying and are more commonly used on wood, paintings, or metals. But there is more to it than just that.

In this article, we shall break it all down. We will highlight the pros and cons of each to help you make a more informed choice.

red paint roller

Latex paint

One of the main things setting the two paints apart is their composition. As we mentioned, latex paints are water-based paint. They consist of an acrylic resin that is soluble, flexible, and non-toxic. And because of this, it can be applied in areas that are exposed to cold or heat.

Quality latex paint today are generally made durable and are often resistant to chipping or cracking. They also emit fewer odors, are easy to clean up using water, dry faster than oil-based paints, and are resistant to yellowing from exposure to sunlight.

It is important to note that the term latex does not mean that it contains the rubber plant. It just refers to the resin.

Pros of latex paints

  •         Durability
  •         It does not turn yellow over time
  •         Its drying time is fast
  •         Can be cleaned using just soap and water
  •         It adheres really well to exterior surfaces.
  •         Better for the environment
  •         Low odor or VOC emissions
  •         Latex paint is not combustible

Cons of latex paint

  •         Can sometimes swell up when painted on wood.
  •         Has a shorter open time (period after brushing before it sets)

Oil based paints

Oil-based paints are notably different from latex paints in both texture and composition. They are thicker, which means you won’t need a lot of coats to achieve a smooth finish. They adhere better to difficult surfaces, have more open time, and are more resistant to abrasion (which makes them durable).

However, its thickness also makes it more difficult to spread. For this reason, you might need a different set of brushes and rollers to get the job done. At the same time, oil-based paints produce more fumes which are considered harmful to the environment.

Pros of oil based paint

  •         They are resistant to moisture
  •         They possess great open time
  •         Great leveling and smooth finish
  •          Long-lasting

Cons of oil based paints

  •         Yellows with time
  •         Strong odor
  •         High VOCs
  •         Need solvent to clean up

Bottom line

As you’ve seen, both latex and oil-based paints have advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, as long as its good quality, you can pick either one based on your preference or the nature of your project. Also important to note is that you can’t paint one on top of another. If your wall already has oil-based paint, you can’t mix it with a latex layer (not without thoroughly preparing the surface, at least).

Of course, when in doubt, it is always better to consult a professional. For more information on all things paint, you can always contact us at Painter Bros and speak to one of our professionals.