Interior Paints


Interior paints can be used on almost any surface in your house, but care should be taken to use the right paint on the right material.
Interior paints can be used on almost any surface in your house, but care should be taken to use the right paint on the right material.

The wide variety of interior paints can be bewildering -- but they exist for a reason. The trick is to be knowledgeable about their respective uses and strengths. Because there are such differences between the many paints, it's important to know about each kind.

The previews at the bottom of this page will take you to articles that explain each kind of interior paint. You'll learn which surfaces are ideal for a given paint, which tools you should use to apply them, and the advantages and disadvantages associated with each one. You'll also receive instruction on buying the right amount for the work you have to do.

Although interior paints are available for every possible surface, there is no such thing as an all-surface paint. The wrong paint can damage a surface and often not adhere well, so it's crucial to know in advance what goes where and when. Fortunately, modern paint technology has taken a lot of the risk out of choosing the proper paint. Formulas for so-called "latex paints" have been improved to withstand dirt, moisture, and daily wear and tear, so these paints are no longer reserved exclusively for low-traffic areas. They are as washable and durable as the old oilbase paints, so you no longer have to think in terms of latex paints for walls and oilbase enamels for woodwork, windows, and doors.

Still, an important factor in interior paint selection -- aside from personal color preference -- is gloss. Regardless of the type of coating you choose, the gloss of the one you buy will affect both its appearance and its durability. High-gloss paints are the most durable because they contain more resin than either semigloss or flat paints. Resin is an ingredient that hardens as the paint dries. The more resin, the harder the surface.

Consequently, for kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms, doors, windows, and trim, high-gloss paints are ideal. Semigloss interior paints, with less resin and a reduced surface shine, are slightly less wear-resistant but still suitable for most woodwork.  Finally, flat paints are the coatings of choice for most interior walls and ceilings because they provide an attractive, low-glare finish for surfaces that take little abuse and require only infrequent washings.

Here are previews of our articles on interior paints:

Latex Paint

This common paint type is cheaper and easier to clean up with water.

Alkyd Resin Paint

Rubberbase Paint

The presence of rubber makes this paint highly durable.

Textured Paint

To get a finish with feeling, like stucco, this paint is the right choice.

Dripless Paint

One-Coat Paint

A greater amount of pigment helps you get more out of each brushful of this paint.

Acoustic Paint

Ideal for painting acoustic tiles, this paint won't deaden the sound-reflecting quality of your surface.

Primers

Uneven surfaces can be smoothed out with a layer of undercoat, which is where this paint type comes in.

Estimating Interior Paint

The room you're painting will tell you how much paint you're going to need. Learn to calculate the right amount of paint for the job at hand.

For more information on painting and on home improvement in general, see:

  • Painting Interiors: Brush up on methods for painting the inside of your home.
  • Exterior Paints: If you're turning your attention to the outside, see this guide to exterior paints.
  • House Painting: For all things related to improving your home with paint, visit this page.
  • Home Improvement: After you're done painting, learn how you can make other fixes in all parts of your home.

Latex Paint

The word "latex" originally referred to the use of rubber in one form or another as the resin, or solid, in paint. The solvent or thinner, called the "vehicle," was water. Today, many paints are made with water as the thinner but with resins that are not latex, and the industry is leaning toward such terms as "water-thinned" or "water-reducible." If the paints are called latex at all, the term often used is "acrylic latex" because they contain a plastic resin made of acrylics or polyvinyls rather than rubber.

In addition to the speed of drying, new opacity (the ability to completely cover one color with another), and washability of acrylic latex paints, the greatest advantage of water-thinned paints is you can clean up with water. The higher expense -- as well as the potential fire hazard -- of volatile thinners and brush cleaners is gone. If you wash the brush or roller immediately after the painting session is over, it comes clean in just a few minutes.

Latex paint works well on surfaces previously painted with latex or flat oilbase paints. It can even be used on unprimed drywall or unpainted masonry. However, latex usually does not adhere well to high-gloss finishes and, even though it can be used on wallpaper, there is a risk that the water in the paint may cause the paper to peel away from the wall. Because of its water content, latex will cause bare steel to rust and will raise the grain on raw wood.

Not what you're looking for? Try these helpful articles:

  • House Painting: Ready to tackle a house painting project? Gather helpful tips on both interior and exterior painting in this home improvement article.
  • House Painting Tools: Before taking on any painting project, make sure you have the tools you'll need to do the job well. This article will help.
  • Painting Interiors: Learn the essentials of painting walls, doors, and everything inside the house on this page.
  • How to Paint Safely: Learn tips in this article to ensure you don't put yourself in harm's way during a painting job.

Alkyd Resin Paint

The use of synthetic alkyd resin for solvent-thinned (oilbase) paints has brought several advantages. One of the most useful is a special formula that makes the paint yogurt-thick. A brush dipped in it carries more paint to the surface than previous versions. Yet, under the friction of application, the paint spreads and smooths readily.

In most gloss and semigloss (or satin) paints, alkyd materials are still preferred for trim, doors, and even heavy-traffic hallways. Many homeowners still like them best for bathrooms and kitchens, where they feel more confident of washability despite the availability of water-thinned enamels in satin or gloss that can be safely cleaned with standard household cleaners.

The opacity of alkyd paints has improved with the addition of a material that diffuses and evaporates, which leaves minute bubbles that reflect and scatter light and makes the paint look thicker than it really is. With paints of this formula, one coat of white will completely cover black or bright yellow.

While alkyds should not be used on unprimed drywall (they can raise the nap of its paper coating) or unprimed masonry, they are suitable for raw wood and almost any previously painted or papered surface. The most durable of interior paints, alkyds are dry enough for a second coat within four to six hours. Solvents must be used for thinning and cleanup. Check the label to find which solvent is recommended by the manufacturer. And, while the solvents may be almost odorless, they're still toxic and flammable, so you should work in a well-ventilated room.

Not what you're looking for? Try these helpful articles:

  • House Painting: Ready to tackle a house painting project? Gather helpful tips on both interior and exterior painting in this home improvement article.
  • House Painting Tools: Before taking on any painting project, make sure you have the tools you'll need to do the job well. This article will help.
  • Painting Interiors: Learn the essentials of painting walls, doors, and everything inside the house on this page.
  • How to Paint Safely: Learn tips in this article to ensure you don't put yourself in harm's way during a painting job.
  • Painting Trim, Baseboards, and Wainscoting: Brush up on techniques for painting all the potential "extras" in a room, including trim, baseboards, and wainscoting.

Rubberbase Paint

Available only in a limited number of colors and in flat or low-gloss finishes, this paint contains a liquefied rubber. It is expensive and has a potent aroma, but, because rubberbase paint is waterproof and durable, it's an excellent coating for concrete. It can be applied directly to unprimed masonry.

When used on brick, rubberbase paint should be preceded by a sealing coat of clear varnish. Before putting it on new concrete, wash the concrete with a 10 percent solution of muriatic acid, rinse thoroughly, and let dry completely. (Wear goggles and gloves when working with muriatic acid, and work in a well-ventilated space.) Like alkyds, rubberbase paints require special solvents; check the label for specifications.

Not what you're looking for? Try these helpful articles:

  • House Painting: Ready to tackle a house painting project? Gather helpful tips on both interior and exterior painting in this home improvement article.
  • House Painting Tools: Before taking on any painting project, make sure you have the tools you'll need to do the job well. This article will help.
  • Painting Interiors: Learn the essentials of painting walls, doors, and everything inside the house on this page.
  • How to Paint Safely: Learn tips in this article to ensure you don't put yourself in harm's way during a painting job.

Textured Paint

If you're after a finish that looks like stucco, or if you want an effective cover-up for flawed surfaces, textured-surface paint will do the job. Some varieties come premixed with sandlike particles suspended in the paint. Because of their grittiness, these paints are usually used on ceilings. With other varieties, you have to add the particles and stir thoroughly. Another form of textured paint has no granules. Thick and smooth, it's applied to the surface and then textured with special tools.

Textured paints are available in either flat-finish latex or alkyd formulations. Latex versions are frequently used on bare drywall ceilings because they can be used without a primer and they help to camouflage the seams between sheets of drywall.

One of the problems with textured paint becomes evident when the time comes to paint over it. All those peaks and valleys created by the texturing actually increase the surface area of the wall. The rough surface will require 15 to 25 percent more paint the second time around.

Not what you're looking for? Try these helpful articles:

  • House Painting: Ready to tackle a house painting project? Gather helpful tips on both interior and exterior painting in this home improvement article.
  • House Painting Tools: Before taking on any painting project, make sure you have the tools you'll need to do the job well. This article will help.
  • Painting Interiors: Learn the essentials of painting walls, doors, and everything inside the house on this page.
  • Latex Paint: Find out which painting jobs are best suited for latex paint in this article.

Dripless Paint

Quite a bit more expensive than conventional alkyd paint, dripless paint is ideal for ceilings because it's so thick it won't run off a roller or brush. It will usually cover any surface in a single coat, but, because it's so dense, it won't go as far as its more spreadable relatives.

Not what you're looking for? Try these helpful articles:

  • House Painting: Ready to tackle a house painting project? Gather helpful tips on both interior and exterior painting in this home improvement article.
  • House Painting Tools: Before taking on any painting project, make sure you have the tools you'll need to do the job well. This article will help.
  • Painting Interiors: Learn the essentials of painting walls, doors, and everything inside the house on this page.
  • Alkyd Resin Paint: Learn when to choose alkyd resin paint for a particular home improvement project in this article.

One-Coat Paint

With additional pigment to improve their covering capabilities, true one-coat paints are otherwise just more expensive versions of ordinary latex or alkyd paints. For best results, reserve them for use on flawless, same-color surfaces that have been previously sealed.

Tip: Not all paints advertised as "one-coat" really are. Read the warranty.

Not what you're looking for? Try these helpful articles:

  • House Painting: Ready to tackle a house painting project? Gather helpful tips on both interior and exterior painting in this home improvement article.
  • House Painting Tools: Before taking on any painting project, make sure you have the tools you'll need to do the job well. This article will help.
  • Painting Interiors: Learn the essentials of painting walls, doors, and everything inside the house on this page.
  • Latex Paint: Find out which painting jobs are best suited for latex paint in this article.

Acoustic Paint

Designed for use on acoustic ceiling tile, this paint covers without impairing the tile's acoustic qualities. It can be applied with a roller, but a paint sprayer is more efficient and less likely to affect the sound-deadening properties of the tile.

Not what you're looking for? Try these helpful articles:

  • House Painting: Ready to tackle a house painting project? Gather helpful tips on both interior and exterior painting in this home improvement article.
  • House Painting Tools: Before taking on any painting project, make sure you have the tools you'll need to do the job well. This article will help.
  • Painting Interiors: Learn the essentials of painting walls, doors, and everything inside the house on this page.
  • How to Use an Airless Sprayer: This article offers tips on how to use a paint sprayer, as well as which home improvement projects are best suited for the tool.

Primers

Primers are inexpensive undercoatings that smooth out uneven surfaces, provide a barrier between porous surfaces and certain finishing coats, and allow you to use an otherwise incompatible paint on a bare or previously painted surface. For flat paint finishes, the primer can be a thinned-out version of the paint itself. But that's often more expensive than using a premixed primer, which contains less-expensive pigment, dries quickly, and provides a firm foundation or "tooth" for the final coat of paint.

Latex primer has all the advantages of latex paint -- almost odor-free, quick drying, and easy to clean up -- and is the best undercoat for drywall, plaster, and concrete. Don't use it on bare wood, though, because the water in it may raise the grain. For raw wood, it's best to use an alkyd primer.

Not what you're looking for? Try these helpful articles:

  • House Painting: Ready to tackle a house painting project? Gather helpful tips on both interior and exterior painting in this home improvement article.
  • House Painting Tools: Before taking on any painting project, make sure you have the tools you'll need to do the job well. This article will help.
  • Painting Interiors: Learn the essentials of painting walls, doors, and everything inside the house on this page.
  • Latex Paint: Find out which painting jobs are best suited for latex paint in this article. 
  • Alkyd Resin Paint: Learn when to choose alkyd resin paint for a particular home improvement project in this article.

Estimating Interior Paint

Estimating the paint you'll need for a job is easy. Take a few minutes at home to measure the area to be painted. A gallon of paint will typically cover 450 square feet according to the manufacturer's calculations. It's safer to figure 400 square feet of coverage per gallon of paint. If you're buying 2 or more gallons of the same color, it's a good idea to mix them all together at home so color variations don't show up in the middle of a wall.

To determine the amount of paint required to cover a wall, multiply the height of the wall by its length, then divide by 400. This means a gallon of paint will cover a 10 X 15-foot room (two 10-foot walls and two 15-foot walls, 8 feet high) with one coat. Two coats will take 2 gallons. However, there are other factors you should consider when calculating coverage:

  • Textured walls. When a wall is textured or rough-troweled, it will require more paint than if it were a smooth wall. This is because the texture represents added surface to be covered, even though it does not contribute to the size of the area. Just how much more surface area there is depends on just how textured the surface is, but for medium-rough, porous, or previously unpainted walls, you can safely estimate 300 to 350 square feet of coverage from a gallon of paint.
  • Doors and windows. Most walls have doors or windows or other areas that are not painted. If the nonpainted area is a single window or door, ignore it in your calculations. Two or three windows, a door and a window, multiple sliding doors, or a fireplace reduce the paint you'll need. By how much? Multiply the lengths by the widths of these nonpainted areas to get the total square footage that you can subtract from your overall surface figures, or you can subtract about 15 square feet for typical windows and 21 square feet for typical doors. (These figures also can be used to estimate the paint you'll need for each if you plan to use a different color or surface finish.) If you're painting the ceiling, figure its square foot area at width times length, too.
  • Speed factor. Estimating the time you'll have to put in on any given paint project is less precise. Some people work faster than others, so there's no way to estimate individual differences in speed. On the average, you should be able to cover about 120 square feet of flat surface in about an hour. For bare wood or plaster, figure about 100 square feet. In a typical 12 X 15-foot room, you're likely to spend four or five hours on the job, including trim work, for the first coat. The second coat, if it's necessary, will go faster, but you'll have to wait for the first coat to dry, anywhere from 2 to 36 hours.

Not what you're looking for? Try these helpful articles:

  • House Painting: Ready to tackle a house painting project? Gather helpful tips on both interior and exterior painting in this home improvement article.
  • House Painting Tools: Before taking on any painting project, make sure you have the tools you'll need to do the job well. This article will help.
  • Painting Interiors: Learn the essentials of painting walls, doors, and everything inside the house on this page.
  • Paint Rollers: Find out when a paint roller is the best tool for the job on this page.