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What are the Different Types of House Paint?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 16, 2024
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Despite the fact that there are many different types of house paint, most fall into one of two categories: oil and water. Oil-based house paint is referred to as alkyd, while the water-based type is commonly called latex or acrylic. The main differences between the two are their drying processes, their finishes, and the ease or difficulty of clean up.

Oil-based house paint takes longer to dry than the water-based variety, but it contains additives to help speed up the drying process. Oil paints also create a harder, glossier finish, and require special chemicals for clean up. Water based paints, on the other hand, dry quickly as moisture evaporates. Their finish is not as shiny or as durable, but the ease of clean up makes them a popular choice. They can be cleaned up with warm water and a bit of mild detergent.

Within these categories are many different types, starting with primer. While primer may not technically be considered paint, it is a necessary step in most painting projects. Primer is also available in oil-based and water-based formulas. It is wise to select an oil-based primer when using alkyd house paints, and a water-based primer when using latex.

Specialty house paints include anti-condensation or mold and mildew resistant options. These are generally used in kitchens, baths, basements, and any other area that may be damp. While this type cannot completely prevent condensation, mold, or mildew, it can greatly lessen their effects.

Another specialty variety is heat resistant or fire-retardant house paint. While these cannot completely prevent fire, they do withstand much higher temperatures and slow the spread of fire. They are often used for radiators and fireplace surrounds.

Other classifications for house paint include interior and exterior. Water-based options are generally used indoors. While water-based paints can also be used for exterior painting projects, oil-based ones create a tougher finish that is better able to resist the elements.

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Discussion Comments
By anon319334 — On Feb 12, 2013

What is the average cost of paint by the gallon?

By Oceana — On Oct 28, 2012

@healthy4life – I think it's good to have several different types of paint in your home. Variety is nice, and walls should be no exception.

I have textured paint in my living room and bedroom, but I didn't want to have it throughout my entire house. I felt like that would have just been too excessive. Just having it in a couple of rooms makes it have more impact, I think.

I had a friend who is knowledgeable about painting houses help me. He used spackling compound and a shade of earthy brown paint that I had picked out to make the wall look like a painted gravel road.

By healthy4life — On Oct 28, 2012

I have only ever used acrylic paint on my walls. I tend to make a mess, so I need something that I can clean up easily.

I like using high gloss paint, because I prefer a shiny wall to one with a flat finish. My sister is the opposite, and she lives with me, so we got a matte paint for her room. For the living room and kitchen, we compromised and got a semi-gloss paint.

By lighth0se33 — On Oct 27, 2012

I never thought about it until reading this article, but I suppose it would be a bad idea for exterior paint to be water-based. I wonder if heavy rain could affect it after it had totally dried, though?

Even if it wouldn't wash off, I know that it wouldn't be as long lasting as oil-based paint. It would be subjected to hail stones, pressure washing, and extreme temperatures in my area. It might not hold up so well to the humidity and heat in the summer and the subsequent freezing in winter.

The climate where I live is very unpredictable. We can literally have a difference in temperature of over 20 degrees from one day to the next. This would have to be hard on water-based paint.

By OeKc05 — On Oct 27, 2012

I wish I had known that there was such a thing as mildew resistant interior paint when I was painting my bathroom. I just used the same type of water-based paint that I used in other rooms, and now I have mildew on the wall behind my towel rack and beside the bathtub.

By anon285690 — On Aug 17, 2012

Does anyone have any info on Hybrid Paints? I have been offered a trial with some and would appreciate any input.

By TomKinley — On Apr 11, 2012

Two properties to be consider: how much wear and tear will the surface get, and it is a sheen or gloss? If you are painting a storage room or other area which will be subjected to hard use and frequent washings, go with the highest gloss.

By anon57539 — On Dec 24, 2009

is there any significant difference between a primer and a white, flat paint, water based?

By deesus — On Oct 30, 2009

they have new latex paints that have nano particals in them that help keep the paint new looking and very long lasting. ask for this type of paint at home depot. i restore 200 year old houses in the shenandoah valley of virginia and have switched to these hybrid latex paints with great success. life time oil paint user, deesus

By anon47806 — On Oct 07, 2009

what are the technical differences for different types of paint?

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