Painting Contractors do-it-your-selfer’s select latex for its good performance and ease of use. Latex moved from 30% to 35% of paint sold in the 1970’s to over 80% of building coatings sold today.
While the pigments in latex and oil-based paints are often the same, different carriers and binders give latex and oil-based paints different characteristics. The vehicle or carrier is the volatile part of the paint that evaporates as the paint dries. The carrier in latex paints can be water with some solvent, typically glycols and glycol ethers are used as coalescing agents. In oil based paint organic solvents almost always from oil based chemicals are used with mineral spirits being prevalent.
The carrier keeps the pigments and the binders in suspension until the paint is put on a surface. The binder is the body of the paint, the permanent part of the paint that remains when the paint dries. As the name implies, binders help the paint to stick to a surface.
In oil-based paint, binders can be synthetic resins, from petroleum, including alkyds, polyurethanes, and silicones. Natural oils include linseed, soybean, safflower, tung, and cottonseed oils.
In oil and latex paints titanium dioxide is the primary pigment used for its hiding properties. Pigment extenders include: silica, calcium carbonate, dolomite, talc, clay, mica, barite, and gypsum. Pigment extenders lowers the settling of the paint solids and impart gloss. Extender pigments are also bulking agents that influence scrub, stain and chalking resistance. Paints other than white also contain color pigments.
Most home owners buy latex paint because painting projects using latex omit less odor and cleanup with soap and water, but latex has many other positive attributes. If the wood your painting is damp latex is preferred because it can be painted over a damp surface. Oil is a non breathable surface sealer while latex breathes allowing moisture to escape. The peeling and cracking that occurs when moisture is trying to escape from a surface coated with oil based paint is circumvented with latex paint.
Latex paint, especially acrylic latex, is less prone to fading or yellowing than there counterpart. Chalking is one of the characteristic of oil based paint. Oil based paint loses much of its color intensity due to chalking.
Even after oil based paint feels dry to the touch it continues to dry until the paint starts to crystallize and crack. Latex paint remains flexible. Because latex paint is not as sensitive to alkali as oil based paint it can be used over cement and plaster.
Latex paint can be applied at a lower temperature than oil based paint. Latex can be applied at 32 degrees Fahrenheit minimum temperature but oil paint will never dry in high humidity. Latex paint is dry to the touch in minutes and ready for a second coat in about 4 hours. Oil based paints are dry to the touch in 6 to eight hours but need 24 hours before recoating. The greater the drying time the greater the chance of insects and dust penetrating the wet surface.
Latex paint is also easier to apply as it flows off of the brush or roller. Oil based paint is sticky and must be stretched out and worked into the surface. The main advantage of using oil based paint rather than latex is that the oil based paint requires less surface preparation and adheres to dirtier, shinier, or more weathered surfaces than latex paint. It is also more resistant to abrasion.
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