Painting is easy and an inexpensive way to change the look of a room, especially if the walls and ceilings are already in good shape, and you just want to change the color. In this chapter we’ll discuss painting inside the home.


There are two main kinds of paint: water-based latex paint and oil-based (or alkyd-based) paint. My favorite kind is latex. Why? Because it’s easy to clean up with soap and water, it’s easy to clean and rinse the brushes, and it dries faster. Many professional painters, however, like the oil-based paints. They say that they go on smoother and are more for giving since they take longer to dry. They are a good option if you are planning to do detailed faux-finishing work, but I’ve even used latex for that application as well. Also, sometimes there are local building codes and restrictions about using oil-based paints, so check with your local building inspector before using them.

Paints also come in a variety of finishes, ranging from flat to high gloss. For a detailed list of paint finishes, see below…


Oil Based/Enamel Pigment mixed with an oil base. Walls Slow drying, so good to use for faux painting. Long lasting and more resistant to fading. Once on a wall, easy to keep clean. Works well on rough services. Slow drying, hard to clean up or dilute. Must use paint thinner or turpentine. They are usually more expensive. More difficult to use.
Water-based/Latex Pigment mixed with a water and latex base. Walls Dries quickly. Easy to clean up, easy to wash (and reuse) brushes. Easy to use. Less expensive than oil-based. Perhaps only that it is quick drying, so not good for faux uses.
Wood Stain Very thin type of paint that penetrates the surface (instead of typical paint that stays on top of the surface). It contains pigment. Wood Enhances wood, doesn’t cover wood. If you want to cover the wood completely, this won’t work.
Varnish or Shellac Paint without pigment. Usually oil-based. Glossy finish. Wood Provides a protective finish without adding color. Slow drying.
Lacquer Glossy varnish. Wood Provides a protective and durable finish. Hard to remove later.
Polyurethane Water-based clear coating. Wood Provides a protective and durable finish. Dries quickly. None.


Flat A flat finish gives no shine or luster to a wall, Bedrooms, family room. Any room where you want a warm, flat feeling. Don’t use it in a room that requires a lot of cleaning, as it is difficult to clean up if it gets dirty. Looks good in any color. It’s a great way to cover up imperfections in the wall, as there is no reflection to emphasize it.
Eggshell Actually, it is lust like it sounds— like the surface of an egg. It is mainly flat, but has a tiny bit of luster. Same as flat.
Satin A step up in luster from the eggshell finish. This finish will give you a little shine, without any glare. This finish is easier to clean, but you have to be careful not to scrub too much, as you will take off the finish. Use in most rooms of the home (bedrooms, office, hallway, family room). Where you use it depends a lot on personal preference.
Semi-gloss A step up in shine from the satin finish. This finish gives a little more shine and tiny bit of glare. Same as satin.
Gloss (or High-gloss) A glossy finish provides shine, luster, and reflection, making the room appear brighter. Use in bathrooms and kitchens. This does not absorb kitchen greases or bathroom condensation as much as other finishes. Also use in playrooms. This is the easiest finish to keep clean, as you can just wipe off anything. Not good for rooms that you want to appear warm.

TIP: Always read the label on paints. The label will give you a lot of useful information and keep up with the changing elements of paint. It will usually give you drying time, surface preparation information, average area of coverage, and warning information. The label is your friend!