Okay, we are to the point in this blog series where we get to talk about something other than budgets and research!  Yay!  As I’ve been known to state many, many times in the past (and will continue to do so in the future) there is no better, quicker way to freshen up a space and make it feel new again quite like a fresh coat of paint.  This also applies to furniture, not just walls!  A new finish can make an old, tired piece of furniture look brand new.  It can add character to an otherwise boring piece.  It has a lot going for it but sometimes when we go to do this, we aren’t even sure where to start.  There are so many types of painting and finishing products out there, how do we know what to use for what purpose?

Well, this quick reference guide will list some of the most common finishes and paint types and what their most common uses are.  Without further delay, here we go!

Paint Types:

1.       Enamel or Oil-based Paints:  This type of paint is used when you need a durable, washable, hard shell-like finish.  Usually comes in a semi-gloss or gloss finish.  It works well outside or inside wherever something may get a lot of use and need to wiped down a lot like cabinets, baseboard and trim.  Things to be aware of with this paint type are that is has a strong odor so good ventilation is a must if using this.  It will take a longer time to dry than a latex or water-based paint.  It is a fairly sticky product and has a fairly thick consistency when it’s applied.  You will need a good brush cleaning fluid for cleanup, just soap and water won’t do it.

***Make sure you are following the state code in your area for use of oil-based paints in certain rooms of your home, like your kitchen.  Some states don’t allow this type of paint in certain rooms and some don’t allow it at all so be sure you check before you paint.

2.       Latex, Acrylic or Water-based Paints:  This type of paint is generally used on walls or furniture that won’t take much abuse or be subject to constant cleaning or scrubbing.  This paint comes in flat (no gloss), satin (barely glossed), semi-gloss (medium gloss), and gloss (high gloss) finishes.  You will want to use flat or satin on your walls and semi-gloss or gloss on your trim, cabinets, and doors. You can get it mixed to virtually any color you can ever imagine.  Very low odor compared to enamel and also very quick drying times.  Cleanup is a snap with just soap and water needed to get it off your tools as well as you!

3.       Oil and Water-Based Stains:  Comes in multiple wood tones and colors.  Used generally on bare wood and will soak in to help protect and color the wood.  Oil stains, like oil paints, provide a longer lasting finish that will require less maintenance.  They also require good ventilation when applying them and have more odor than the water-based products.  They require a longer drying time than the water-based stains and also are a little tougher to clean up than their water-based counterparts.  Do a little online research or ask at your home improvement center if you are unsure of what type of finish you need for a particular product.  What you choose will depend on if the wood has been painted or stained previously, if it will be inside or outside, if you will varnish it or wax it to seal it, etc.

4.       Chalk Paints:  These are basically latex paints that have plaster added to them.  They give a nice, flat, almost thick looking finish to your finished pieces.  The beauty of chalk paint is that it will cover virtually any other finish without having to sand or strip first.  It’s also very easy to distress and give your newly finished piece lots of character!  It’s super affordable if you make your own.  Here is my favorite recipe:  1 ½ C. paint, ½ C. Plaster of Paris, 2 tbsp. water.  Mix Plaster of Paris and water to smooth paste (add more or less water as needed) and then mix this into your paint.  Come out nice and smooth and goes on for a nice chalky finish!

5.       Polyurethane, Varnish and Wax:  These are designed to protect your piece.  Whether it goes onto bare wood or wood that has been painted or stained, it’s purpose is basically to seal that finish and protect the wood underneath.  Like most other finishes, there are several types of each of these sealers available, and yes, the poly and the varnish also come in water and oil-based.  Just like the paint and stain before them, the oil-based have stronger odors, take longer to dry, and are harder to clean up. Make sure you do your research or ask a paint expert at your local home improvement center to make sure you are getting the best sealer for your particular product.

There obviously are many more options when it comes to finishing wood or painting a wall than the five I have listed here.  I chose these because they are among the most common options used right now. 

TIP:  If you are unsure of exactly what you would like to do for a finish, do a little testing either on a scrap of wood or a scrap of drywall so that you can experiment without fear of ruining something you might not be able to fix later. 

TIP:  There are a many great blogs and tutorials online that cover about any technique that you can ever imagine so if you have a look you love in mind, go to your favorite search engine and plug it in!  You can check out the process and results before you ever even pick up a paintbrush or roller!

Now, what will you do next to love where you live?