Exterior Painting Pointers – Different Types of House Paint Explained

With so many brands and types of house paint on the market today, it can be confusing to know where to start when choose paint for a household project. Despite the hundreds of paint cans lining the wall at your home improvement store, there are essentially two kinds of paint: Oil based and water based. But you will also find primers, enamels, acrylics and many others. Here are descriptions of seven different house paints you will commonly find on the shelf.

Oil Based vs. Water Based House Paint

Each of these two types of paint differs and each has paint varieties under them. Oil-based house paint takes more time to dry than water based house paint. There are drying additives added to oil based paints to aid in shorter drying times. The finish of oil-based paints is also glossier and harder. In order to clean oil-based paint you need to use harsh chemicals like paint thinner. The water-based paints dry as fast as moisture can evaporate. Water-based paint is not as durable as oil based nor is it as shiny. A small amount of detergent and water will allow you to clean water-based paint.


This is not usually considered paint but it is needed in many painting projects and is found in the paint aisle. Primer can be oil-based or water-based. When you are painting and need to use a primer always use one that matches the house paint you are using. If painting with oil based paint, you would use oil-based primer.

Interior and Exterior Paint

You will see paint labeled interior and exterior paint. Due to having to withstand the elements you would use water based paint on the interior. Exterior paint is best left to oil based paints.

Specialty Paints

Each paint type can have paints with additives included in the paint. These paints can include anti-mold and anti-mildew properties as well as fire retardant. There are also paints that have anti-condensation additives added to them which make this paint popular in kitchens.

Latex Paint

This is a term used to describe water-based house paint. There is actually no latex in the paint.


This is just another term for water based house paint. The binding ingredient in the paint is acrylic. Acrylic paint can be found in several varieties including acrylic latex, acrylic enamel or acrylic latex enamel. This paint will not yellow. Acrylic enamel house paint is considered as such due to its durability. It is not a mixture of oil- and water-based paint. Always consult the labels of the paint as not all paints contain latex or acrylic despite the name. Remember that the higher the shine the more imperfections the paint will show.

Enamel Paint

Oil-based paint is given the term “enamel” due to the hardness and durability of the paint. These paints will also include gloss and semi-gloss paint finishes. This house paint is mostly used around windows, doors and trim. Over time this paint can discolor.