Many homeowners wonder and ask the question “can you use latex paint over oil based primer ?“. Read this article to find out if it’s a good idea to use the two together!
When renovating their current house or moving into a new one, many homeowners struggle in terms of choosing the right kind of paint for the walls and different wooden objects.
The confusion often stems from the confusion that surrounds using different types of paints, such as water-based and oil-based, in combination.
It is a commonly held belief that oil-based paints don’t mix well with other types of paints; however, at the same time, it is also said that it is perfectly okay to use latex paint over an oil-based primer. Interestingly, though, on the other hand, you can’t use oil-based paints over latex paint.
This may sound even more confusing, so to help you understand better, here is a thorough breakdown of the difference between the two types of paints, and the reasons why using latex paint over an oil primer is a good idea.
Table of Contents
What is Latex Paint?
First things first, the reason why it’s called ‘Latex’ is that initially, these paints were made with a rubber base. They used rubber in different forms, which basically served as the ‘resin’ part of the paint.
However, after some time, the rubber base was replaced by a water-soluble base. This makes them ideal for general painting projects like ceilings and walls.
There are three main types or varieties of latex paint, namely: 100% acrylic, vinyl-acrylic, and alkyd-modified latex.
The 100% acrylic latex is best known as the highest-performing variety of this type of paint because it adheres extremely well and also retains great color.
On the other hand, vinyl-acrylic is the least expensive type and is ideally used for interior walls while alkyd modified latex is well-suited for exterior painting projects.
What is Oil Based Primer?
A primer is a unique kind of paint that you are supposed to apply before you layer the finish or the top coat of paint.
You can think of a primer as the base or the foundation of your final paint that helps provide it with a uniform, even, and smooth texture. This ensures that the end result greatly adheres to the painted object and doesn’t flake off easily.
There are three main types of primers, out of which, oil-based primers are the most popular type. They have been the standard in the painting industry for decades and are the most commonly preferred choice of primer.
One of the main reasons for their popularity is their increased versatility that allows them to be used on a variety of different surfaces. They are also equally compatible and work really well with both oil paints and latex paints.
Oil-based primers are ideally used for both exterior and interior painting projects, with one basic requirement that the object, be it a wall or a wooden surface, should be bare and unfinished.
Why Oil Paints Don’t Mix
Oil paints have been around for decades, and despite multiple innovations and upgrades in their making, there’s one fact that remains true about them even today: Oil paints don’t mix.
The main reason why they don’t mix is that they take an exceptionally long time to dry. When compared to acrylic or latex paints, they dry at a very slow rate. And because they don’t mix with other paints, it is a bad idea to use over other types of paint.
For instance, if you were to use an oil-based paint over latex paint, the result will be cracked paint because the bottom layer will dry at a different rate than the top oil paint layer.
On the other hand, even using latex paint over an oil-based primer is tricky, but if done right, the results are absolutely worth it!
Reasons to Use Latex Paint over an Oil Primer
When using latex paint over an oil-based primer, it is important to note that if you apply it directly without preparing the surface, the latex paint is likely to crack and not stick properly.
With the right preparation, using latex paint on an oil base will give you exceptional results with a very strong, lasting painted surface. This includes lightly sanding the oil primer with the help of sandpaper in order to create a smooth surface where both the paints can blend with each other.
Here’s why using latex paint over an oil-based primer is a good idea.
- Oil-based primers, especially when used on unfinished surfaces, provide a proper seal that allows the top latex paint layer to cover the surface better.
- When used on wooden surfaces, oil-based primers prevent the wood from releasing tannins and bleeding through the surface of the latex coat.
- One drawback of latex paints is that they can end up swelling the grains of wood. However, when you use it over an oil-based primer, the latter prevents it from ruining the surface, given that you sand it properly.
When using latex paint over an oil-based primer, always remember to prepare the surface well in order to have a smooth and lasting finish!
Types of Painting Primers
Oil-based primers work nicely with both oil and latex paints (as we have seen in this article) and this versatility has made it an industry standard.
It’s suitable for both interior and exterior application, but in terms of preferred building material, contractors almost always use it for bare wood due to its ability to seal porous surfaces so effectively. Once encapsulated, woods like redwood and cedar stop releasing harmful tannins into the atmosphere.
Oil-based primers are excellent at dealing with stains, ink, nicotine and water and they can slow or prevent future peeling, cracking and blistering.
But, because they dry so slowly (24-hours+), these primers can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxic agents that may be harmful to people subjected to high concentrations of, or prolonged exposure to, these products.
Further, you must use harsh thinners and solvents to clean your tools, but you can expect an extremely smooth, long-lasting finish once your oil-based primer dries and you’re ready to paint.
If you’re prepping drywall for painting, latex is the ideal product to use because it dries fast (3 to 4 hours), isn’t as brittle as oil-based primers and it also does a decent job on soft woods like pine, leaving surfaces less likely to peel or crack.
Use latex to prime brick, concrete and galvanized metals in addition to that drywall, and latex is known for its ability to even out wallboard and joint compounds used to patch or repair damage.
If your wall is stained by smoke, crayon, cosmetics, etc., latex can do an adequate job of hiding stains, but not as good as oil- or shellac-based primers.
Because latex is water-soluble, tools are easy to clean and you won’t have a hard time locating low- or no-VOC products, so this option is the healthiest one of all.
Known also as acrylic primer, latex is especially useful if you are dealing with woods that retain dampness. Economical and easy to use, latex resists blistering, flaking, peeling and yellowing, too.
For historians, shellac primers are part of the story of architecture. They’ve been around for centuries and no other primer can compete when it comes to stains that run the gamut from water and smoke damage to rust.
Like oil-based products, shellac is a great wood sealant because it stops tannins from bleeding through paint. Because it is extremely elastic, you can use shellac primers for plaster, metal and even plastic.
This fast-drying primer—often under an hour—can help you prime surfaces in record time compared to latex, but the trade-off is that you must use denatured alcohol to thin the primer and clean your tools.
For sensitive noses, fumes given off by this alcohol can be disagreeable. Professionals say that shellac isn’t as versatile as latex- and oil-based primers, but if you’re sealing or trimming wood, door frames, plaster or wallpaper, shellac remains a favorite among folks in the painting trade.
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