Pick the right paint

Choosing paint used to come down to a single decision: oil or water. Then the minor details: eggshell, matte, glossy–oh, the drama. But painting, as with DIY in general, has become more complex. Now we want paint with few volatile organic compounds (VOCs)–who knew that new-paint-job smell wasn’t good for us?–or paint that fights off mould and mildew. Recycled, magnetic, chalkboard-like paint: where do you begin? And once you pick your paint, what should you add to your shopping cart to make application easier?

In the can

“The No. 1 rule for any DIYer ready to get painting: go to places that sell to professional painters,” says Bruce Mac-Kinnon, who’s been painting professionally for more than 25 years. Premium paint can cost a bundle–“I think the retailers take lessons in saying, ‘That’ll be $55 a gallon,’” MacKinnon says–but the extra cash is worth it. A little more at the register means fewer coats, less priming, more vibrant colour and a stronger finish.

So once in a paint store, how does the average DIYer choose among the myriad cans available on the shelves? Luckily, we’ve done the legwork for you by picking the most innovative paints to help colour your world.

Tools of the trade

Painting can be fun; dress up in grubby clothes, lay down a drop cloth, turn up the tunes and get rolling. Good moods abound, until your cheap brushes start to look like horse combs and that $2 roller starts shedding like a cat in July.

Investing in quality tools is the way to go for all home improvement, including painting. “Saving $5 here or there is a false economy when you end up spending 20 minutes fixing a cheaply made brush,” MacKinnon says. After three or four uses, poorly made brushes, trays and rollers fall apart. What’s more, MacKinnon adds, “The better the quality, the quicker the cleanup.”

Choosing top-knotch painting tools is more than buying brushes; you also require something to wipe down walls, dispense paint and open up that pesky paint can.

With these tasks in mind, check out CHW’s list of time-saving tools to get you geared up for your next paint job.

You can’t believe the old painters’ tales about the shortcomings of latex and superiority of alkyds (or oils). Paint companies have invested heavily to improve their latex products, especially since alkyd paints will likely be vanishing in Canada within the next decade.

Latex can’t be painted over alkyd

Latex sometimes has a problem adhering to glossy surfaces, but not alkyd paint specifically. Latex has no problem adhering to low-sheen alkyds, and super-adherent latex primers will always stick to a clean and sanded surface–alkyd-coated or otherwise.

Latex isn’t as durable or washable as alkyd paint

Thanks to years of R&D by paint manufacturers, many latex products are now even more durable than alkyds.

You should use only alkyd paint on exterior surfaces

Latex isn’t as brittle as alkyd, and so outperforms alkyd on many surfaces, including wood, because it remains flexible, resisting cracking as the wood expands or contracts. Alkyds continue to cure and harden over time, eventually becoming so brittle that they crack, allowing moisture to penetrate behind what should be a vapour barrier, and lifting the paint film.

Alkyd paints are better in bathrooms

All major manufacturers have latex products with added fungicides in specifically designed to resist mould and mildew growth in high-moisture areas. There are no alkyd equivalents.

–Anna Simmons

These days, green paint is more than just a blend of blue and yellow sold under a flowery name such as subtle sage. Thanks to new paint technology and environmental programs, it’s becoming much easier to go eco with your painting projects.


Be accurate with your measurements and only buy as much paint as you need. Before going to the paint store, measure the perimeter of your room and multiply that by the height of the ceiling to get the total wall area. Then subtract the area of any windows and doors to get the total paintable area. So in a 12' x 10' room with an 8' ceiling and a 32-sq.-ft. window and a 20-sq.-ft. door opening, there is a total paintable area of 300 sq. ft. Double this measurement if two coats are required. While the average gallon of paint covers 400 sq. ft., there can be quite a bit of variability depending on the paint product, with a range of 350 to 550 sq. ft. of coverage per gallon. Most paint stores are happy to help calculate the amount of paint you’ll need based on your measurements and the product specifications.

Also ask if a self-priming product is suitable for your project. Several companies now offer paints that you can apply directly to bare wood, drywall or bright colours–saving you both material and time.


Properly stored paint can be reused in the future for touch-ups or small household projects. Ensure the lid is sealed securely, and store the container at room temperature. If the can is less than half-full, transfer the paint into a smaller container, such as a mason jar, to help extend its usability. Paint thinner can also be reused after cleaning brushes coated with alkyd-based (also known as oil-based) paint. Just allow the thinner to settle afterwards. The alkyd paint resins will sink to the bottom of the container and you can reuse the “clean” paint thinner at the top.


If you have extra paint that you can’t use, consider donating it. Those leftovers could be put to good use by community organizations, churches and other groups. Many municipalities have specialized waste depots where you can bring unwanted paint, and some offer paint recycling programs. Check with your local recycling centre to see if they will accept empty latex paint cans in the blue box collection. Many will as long as the cans are clean or any paint residue has dried up.

–Anna Simmons

Export date: Sun May 22 19:19:11 2022 / +0000 GMT

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