Easily find the correct paint for any surface

July 28, 2015

For both aesthetic and practical reasons, it's important to choose the correct paint for the job. This guide will help you determine which paint is right for you.

Easily find the correct paint for any surface

Choosing the proper paint

Most paints now come in versions that are low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and are less polluting than traditional paints. You can also buy quick-drying, water-based undercoat and topcoat paints which are generally solvent-based. Here's a list of common surfaces and the appropriate paint for each:

  • Bare wood/metal: The surface should first be clean and dry, and then painted with primer. An undercoat should be applied as soon as possible.
  • Bare plaster: Newly plastered interior walls can be painted with latex as long as the surface is good. If the surface is old or slightly damaged, paper it with thick lining paper and then paint it with emulsion.
  • Bathroom walls: Use an anti-condensation paint in bathrooms and steamy kitchens. It doesn't "cure" condensation, but it inhibits the buildup of water droplets on the painted surface and it won't peel away when exposed to high levels of moisture.
  • Primed wood/metal: One or two coats of undercoat should be applied when painting primed wood or metal.
  • Bricks, pebbledash, and other coarse surfaces: Specially formulated masonry paint should be used on the outsides of houses. Two main types are available: textured and smooth. Textured masonry paint is good for concealing minor blemishes like hairline cracks, whereas smooth paint goes a lot further.
  • Floors: Ordinary paint isn't hard-wearing enough for wooden floorboards. Use a dedicated floor paint, or varnish and thin down the first coat.
  • Windows and doors: Interior wooden surfaces, including window frames, doors, door jambs, skirting, and banisters, should be finished with a single topcoat in the desired colour. Gloss is shiny, semi-gloss is slightly more understated. The same topcoat can be used on undercoated metal.
  • Children's toys and furniture: Use non-toxic enamel paint on metallic or wooden toys or furniture. No primer or undercoat required.

No matter what you're painting, there's a paint for the task. Use this guide to sort through the endless varieties of paints, primers, undercoats, and glosses to find the right tool for the job.

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