How Can I Tell If Interior Were Painted With Latex Or Oil Paints?

How can I tell if my Bellevue interior walls were painted with latex (waterborne) or oil paints?

Leftover Paint
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Kitchen Painting
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February 17, 2017

It’s difficult to tell for absolutely sure, at least if all you are doing is looking at it. I would recommend, if at all possible, to take a sample of the paintwork to your local paint supply store and ask them to do a test on it. Many highly experienced painters can tell what type a paint is simply by looking at it and touching it. I suppose, the real question is, why would you want to know? Perhaps you are considering doing some new painting right over it, and you need to know what type of paint will go over what existing surface. Your other option is to simply consult a painting contracting company. They will be able to tell you want kind of paint will work over what kind of surface, especially if you plan to hire that very company to do the work. In any event, here are some of the considerations:

Make sure every surface is clean and dry before any new paint goes on

This might seem an obvious consideration but most bathrooms and kitchens have a layer of something or other on the walls. In kitchens, it might be an almost unnoticeable film of food grease and even moisture. You know when you’re cooking up a stew, the walls of your kitchen can be quite wet with condensation from all the steam coming from the stew. And if the walls are poorly insulated, they will be substantially colder than the air in the kitchen, increasing the chances of moisture even more.

Many homeowners will begin a kitchen painting project without cleaning the surfaces first. A quality paint will, in some instances, cope with a certain amount of ‘stuff’ on a wall, but this will always result in an inferior finish and a job that will not last as long. All that moisture under the paint – and indeed now mixed with the paint – will impact the longevity of the job, and you’ll be back looking to paint it again in a few years. Wash thoroughly the walls, and make sure they are bone dry, and 100% grease-free before you open that first can of paint. That means doing the paintwork before you cook up another batch of that steamy stew and have to start the process from the beginning.

Bathrooms collect a different type of residue. If you’ve ever washed just a small section of a bathroom wall with say washing up liquid (which one of the simplest ways of cleaning a bathroom wall) you’ll quickly see a difference between the clean area and the non clean area. You didn’t think there was so much to be cleaned, but now you see it.

Some bathrooms – especially in big family homes with a single bathroom – never get a chance to truly dry out. And so, the damp and moisture has a chance to really take a hold. If you have more than one bathroom, lock one off while you complete the painting project preparation. You will need to thoroughly clean every surface, remove any residue from whatever you used to do the cleaning, then let the room dry completely. If you are doing this project in the middle of winter, it will take longer. One way to speed it up is to open the windows of course and let nature help. Another is to use fans to keep the air moving fast through the room, and leave the extractor fan on to push the air out. You’ll know when it’s dry enough to paint.

Choosing high quality paint is money well spent

Paint, like most product made by humans, come in a variety of qualities. You can buy cheap paint, and it might save you a few dollars in the short term, but it’s rarely a good economy. High quality paint goes on better, usually with fewer coats required, and is easier to use. Most interior home painting companies will apply two coats of paint. Cheaper paint products may require a third coat of paint to achieve the same result. Even if you are “flipping a house” or planning to sell your house soon, cheap paint is a false economy. It takes longer to do the work, and the result can be expected to be inferior. And besides, the cost of the paint is a fraction of the complete cost of painting. The labor is by far the bulk of the cost. And even if you are doing the work yourself, how much is your time worth?

Keep it safe. Remove or completely insulate food and utensils

With the exception of the food in your your refrigerator and freezer, paint vapors will affect food that is not completely insulated from the paint as you progress through your project. We all know about the dangers of insecticides in our fruit and vegetables – absorbed through the food’s skin – but paint vapors are also a danger, even in this age of tough regulation regarding additives. Keep your food far away from the paint project. All utensils, from forks to spatulas to coffee cups, need to be removed from the kitchen for the duration of the kitchen painting project. An alternative is to leave everything where it is, but sealed in zip-lock type bags, and for the duration of the project.

Wash everything after the paint project is done

Even after you have completed the job, and believe all cooking and eating utensils were protected, run everything through the dishwasher again to be sure. It’s an easy step and costs little.

Be sure to air out every room when the painting is finished. Even though the walls feel bone dry after the painting project is a few hours old, drying is only the first step in the ‘setting’ of new paint. From the moment the first can of paint is opened, a number of chemical process begin with the mere exposure to the air. When on the wall, the departure (evaporation) of vapors from with the paint do let the wall feel dry, but the setting process takes days if not weeks. You know this because if you ever get a part or all of your car resprayed, they ask you not to put it through a car wash for several weeks. That’s because the paint ‘setting’ process takes that long. While that’s happening, it is best for your kitchen or bathroom or whatever room to be well ventilated. Paint is a lot safer these days, but whay risk what you can’t be 100% sure about.

More next week!

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