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Choosing the right paint is very important. You don't want to invest a lot of time and money into a project just to find you did it wrong and have to do it all over again.

Latex (water-based) or alkyd (oil-based) paint?

Traditionally, alkyd paints have been preferred for woodwork, trim, some interior and most exterior surfaces. However, the times are changing. New state and federal regulations are clamping down on the use of alkyd paints. The reason is that the solvents found in these paints evaporate into the air as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and they cause pollution. New alkyd paints have been developed that comply with the guidelines that have been set, however many professionals note that these new paints don't really have any advantages over latex paints. "They dry slower and are more difficult to apply. And they cost more," says Lane Blackburn, Vice President of Architectural Marketing at Sherwin-Williams. Also, because of the changing regulations, there have been significant advances in the quality of latex paint. So for most situations, you're better off to go with a high-quality latex paint. Only use alkyd for your trim, front door, or on surfaces that are flaking or have an old coat of alkyd.

What kind of latex paint should I use?

When using latex paint, you also need to determine what kind you are going to use. You have three options - 100% acrylic, vinyl-acrylic, or alkyd-modified. Vinyl-acrylic latex is the least expensive and is good enough for most interior walls, but it also has the least quality. If you want a high quality paint for your interior, you should go with 100% acrylic latex. They have better adhesion, better color retention, and when using enamels, better gloss than vinyl-acrylics. For your exterior, you should use either 100% acrylic or alkyd-modified latex. If the exterior has been previously painted with an alkyd or is chalking, you should probably use an alkyd-modified latex. Otherwise, just go with the 100% acrylic.

What sheen should I use?

The luster of paints vary significantly. The term for the level of luster in a paint is called "sheen." From dullest to shiniest, the different sheens are: flat, eggshell, pearl, satin, semi-gloss and gloss. If you live in Canada, however, please note that satin falls between flat and eggshell. So what are the differences between the sheens besides the way they look? The duller the finish, the better it is at hiding irregularities and surface imperfections. The glossier the finish, the more durable and washable it is. The middle sheens are a compromise. They partially hide imperfections and are more washable than flat paints. So what should you use then? For interiors, your best bet is to use a flat for the ceiling, an eggshell for the walls and a semi-gloss or gloss on the doors and trim. For exteriors, you may want to use satin for the walls and semi-gloss on the trim. The reason you would use satin on the walls is because it's not too shiny but it cleans much easier than a flat.

One-coat hiding and scrubbability

Some paints have the characteristic of "one-coat hiding". This means that your job will be complete after applying just one coat, and you won't have to go back and apply more. You will pay more for these paints upfront but will save on time and money in the long run. If the label claims that the paint offers one-coat hiding though, be sure to check the fine print. If the label guarantees it, without exceptions, you're most likely safe. However, some paints utilize cheap fillers in order to achieve high levels of hiding, but doing this compromises the other qualities of the paint, such as its scrubbability. The scrubbability factor of a paint is how well it cleans without ruining the finish. All interior paints have a scrubbability rating, though it may not always be on the label. Ask the retailer of the paint for this information, and they should have it. Some examples of high-quality paints with a high scrubbability rating are Sherwin Williams' Everclean, Dutch Boy Kid's Room Paint, Benjamin Moore & Company's Regal AquaVelvet and Sears Best Easy Living Satin.

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