DIY Projects

How to Choose Oil or Latex Paint

Submitted by: Woody Wall on October 14, 2011

Oil Based Paints (Alkyds)

Oil based products are ideal for use in high wear areas such as floors or in areas subject to chemical exposure. Also, because of their leveling properties, they are ideal when a smooth-as-glass finish is desired. Oil based stains, especially for exterior use, are generally preferred as they actually penetrate the wood surface for superior adhesion.


  • Soaks into surface
  • Good abrasion resistance
  • Cures quickly*
  • Excellent leveling properties


  • Becomes brittle with age
  • Yellows with age
  • Chalks with age
  • Slow to dry*
  • Strong odor
  • Paint thinner needed for cleanup

*When a product is dry, the solvent has completely evaporated from the coating (1 to 4 hours for latex, about 12 hours for oil/alkyd). A product is cured when it has reached its optimum hardness and chemical resistance (5-7 days for oil, 30 days for latex).

Latex Paints
Latex is perfect for interior projects; it has very little odor and it dries quickly so projects can be completed in a relatively short period of time. It is also good for exterior paint projects as it stays flexible and will move with the substrate.


  • Dries quickly
  • Low odor
  • Stays flexible
  • Non-yellowing
  • Excellent color and gloss retention
  • Easy clean-up


  • Less temperature tolerant
  • less abrasion resistant
  • Cures Slowly*

Creates surface tension as it dries. This means it will "shrink away" from edges. This is also what causes oil paint to crack when latex paint is applied over top.