Oil vs. Latex……

Oil vs. Latex……

Perhaps the longest running technical debate that I have come across in my almost 25 years in business is the discussion of which is “better” oil or latex when it comes to exterior & interior home paint and stain products.


This is probably a subject that I could literally write a book on as I believe it really has many different answers.

One of the things to keep in mind while speaking on the subject is that the paint manufacturers over the past few decades have had to navigate through increasingly stringent laws regarding what they are able to put and not put into oil-based primers, paints, and stains.

Most notably the management

of their VOC

(Volatile Organic Compounds)


To read more about VOC – Click Here!

While doing all of this, I have noticed more so now than ever before, exterior oil-based finish coatings seem to encourage the growth of mildew and I do believe there is a direct correlation with a lot of the tweaking that has been done to their chemical makeups.

With all that being said, in a nutshell, if someone were to ask me at the time of my writing this, which situations would I recommend for “oil” and which situations would I recommend for “latex”, here is what my very short, abbreviated list would break down as…

  • Priming new bare wood
  • Priming with the intention of neutralizing tannin bleed
  • Any natural wood stain that will be top-coated with a polyurethane
  • Polyurethane in certain situations
  • Certain types of deck/natural exterior stain coatings (with the expectation that mildew growth may be apt to happen sooner than you might like, even with mildew inhibitors added in, and the expectation that the surfaces will have to be washed to get rid of the mildew every so often)

(I am also including acrylic & waterborne formulated-based products in this category without getting into a deep, technical discussion into the differences of them all):


  • Exterior & Interior general finish coating
  • Polyurethane in certain situations
  • Specialty primers aimed at neutralizing specific types of exterior & interior peeling situations
  • As a primer over the aforementioned specialty primers (to serve as a “bridge” primer to the finish coat)
  • In place of more traditional oil-based enamels as an interior trim finish
  • As a clear, water protectant

Regarding polyurethanes, there are certain situations I would recommend using oil-based polyurethanes and other situations where I would recommend using latex/acrylic-based polyurethanes. Oil polyurethanes will “yellow-out” on you over a period of time, the latex/acrylic-based ones should not.

This is meant to be my brief, humble opinion on this subject.

It is definitely one of my most asked questions though and I thought it would be nice to provide the overview.

Please feel free to message me with any questions regarding this debatable area as I love having conversations about it!!



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