Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Picking the Right Paint Finish

I get a lot of questions about paint finishes.  Flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, high-gloss and oil-based finishes can perplex a lot of people.  How do you know what finish to apply to your walls?

Let's go through each finish one at a time.

FlatFlat paint has no enamel in it.  There is no sheen to this finish.  A flat finish is typically what you find on most walls in homes.  It is also best for ceilings.  Flat paint is not scrubbable.  If you have children and pets, you want to stay away from flat paint.  A flat finish is not suitable for baths and kitchens; it can easily water stain.  I used a flat finish on my living room walls and the dark color looks velvety at night.

Eggshell:  Eggshell is a flat paint with a some enamel added to the mixture.  There is a slight sheen to this paint.  Eggshell can be used on all walls in your home.  An eggshell finish would be okay in baths and kitchens because this finish can be scrubbed without damaging the paint.

Satin and Semi-gloss:  For some paint manufacturers, satin and semi-gloss finishes are interchangeable.  A satin or semi-gloss finish has more enamel in it and you can definitely see a sheen in the finish. A satin or semi-gloss finish works well in baths and kitchens.  For a more dramatic look, you can paint a formal dining room and powder bath in satin or semi-gloss.  Using a satin or semi-gloss finish with a dark color brings light to the color. This is a very durable finish and clean be easily cleaned.  My neighbor used the same color of paint in her dining room that I painted my living room in but, she purchased the color in a satin finish.  The color looks totally different in her house than mine.  Because her finish has a sheen, the light bounces off the color.

High-gloss:  A high-gloss finish contains a lot of enamel.  It has a very high sheen.  It can be used on walls, but I do not recommend it for most rooms.  A high-gloss finish can add a lot of drama to a room.  Can you imagine a formal dining room painted in red or eggplant in a high-gloss finish?  A word of caution--your sheet rock needs to be practically perfect to use this finish.  
A high-gloss sheen will show all the imperfections in the sheet rock.  In California, high-gloss is used to paint woodwork instead of an oil-based finish.  Oil-based paints have been banned in California due to the chemicals in it.  Most green builders use high-gloss instead of oil-based paint--its better for the environment.

Oil-basedOil-based paints are typically used to paint woodwork (cabinets and trim).  The paint can come in a low-sheet or high-sheen.  It should never be used on walls.  It is a very sturdy paint.  One word of caution--oil-based paints are not water soluble.  Oil-based paint also has a very strong smell.  If you are going to paint a lot of woodwork in your home, you will want to purchase a respirator.  You will need mineral spirits to clean brushes.

The paint that I like to use is Behr.  Home Depot sells this brand.  It is a California-based paint.  I like Behr paint because it covers well.  Behr offers a paint with primer in it.  This provides ultimate coverage.  I have used this paint to cover dark walls and it works fantastic.  I like Sherwin William colors, but I take the Sherwin Williams paint swatch and let Home Depot mix it in Behr.

When I do a tone-on-tone stripe effect, I use a flat finish and a satin or semi-gloss finish for the stripes.  The result is subtle, but it adds a dimension to the walls.

I hope you find this helpful and will consider this for your next paint job!

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