All paints basically fall under two categories; mineral spirit based or water based.  These paints are commonly referred to as oil based paint (alkyd resin base thinned with mineral spirits) or latex based paint (water thinned).
Latex paint is the most common and environmentally responsible providing for soap and water clean up. These paints also dry faster and have less odor from VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).  Water based latex paints have come a long way in the last 15 years and are extremely high performing paints.
Latex Paint is the most common type of paint for home use for a few reasons.

  • It has soap and water clean up;
  • Environmentally responsible;
  • Excellent performance;
  • Flexible so it withstands movement;
  • Can prevent mildew and moisture;
  • Fast drying;
  • Extensive color selections and paint sheens.

You can use water based latex paint in almost any application in the home, from exterior paint and trim, to interior walls and woodwork.
Alkyd paint is not commonly used in home painting applications. In the past these paints were the standard for bathrooms and other “wet” areas since they were easy to scrub, had a higher sheen and were more durable than the early latex paints.  That is no longer true and now many latex paints equal or even outperform alkyd based paints because of the other benefits of latex paint. Alkyd paints, when used in the home, are most commonly used in areas having high wear or prone to impact. These include trim, floors and sometimes cabinets.  Another benefit to alkyd is it’s longer drying time.  Aylkd also cures harder than latex paint, an advantage when painting trim, woodwork and cabinetry.
Some disadvantages of alkyd paint include:

  • It is more expensive than latex paint
  • Odor intensive when drying and gives off VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) Requires chemical solvent clean up using mineral spirits (paint thinner)

Another consideration in selecting the proper paint is a factor called paint sheen. Paint sheen refers to how shiny the dried paint surface becomes. Sheens fall into three basic categories:

  • Flat/Low Sheen
  • Satin/Eggshell
  • Semi-Gloss/Gloss

Flat/Low Sheen paints have the least amount of sheen. As a result, these paints are the most forgiving in terms of showing minor wall imperfections. Think of a car with bad bodywork. If it were painted glossy black, you would see every flaw. If it were painted a flat white, the flaws would not be as obvious.  A flat paint is helpful in hiding imperfections in drywall tape joints or repaired walls. Flat paint is most commonly used in the ceilings in the home.  Whereas Satin/Eggshell are generally used on walls where more shine is preferred.   Semi-Gloss/Gloss is most commonly used in rooms requiring more frequent scrubbing such as the kitchen or baths.  Gloss paint is rarely used in the home except for some woodwork and trim, or special areas where a highly reflective sheen is desired.