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Exterior Paint vs. Interior Paint: Which Is Best For My Home?

exterior paint vs interior paint

As painting novices, most of us would think that there really isn’t much difference between interior and exterior paint – except maybe that exterior paint needs to be resistant to wet weather.

But anyone who has made the mistake of accidentally using interior paint on the exterior of their home, will soon learn that their mistake has led to cracking, peeling, and general failure of the paint job.

So what exactly is the difference between them, and what paint types should we choose for different areas of our home? It’s time to find out…

Properties Of Paint: The Basics

All paints have the same general ingredients – a mixture of solvent/mineral spirits, additives, resin and pigments.

When the paint dries, the solvent or mineral spirit will evaporate, and leave behind the pigments and resins which serve to bind the mixture together, giving the paint its longstanding flexibility and colour.

Additives are used depending on the surface it will be used on – these offer certain properties such as: faster drying time, low odour, conditioning or mark resistance. It is the ratio of these ingredients that forms the main difference between interior and exterior paint.

exterior paint vs interior paint

Many interior paints are 100% water based, making them quick and easy to clean; an essential feature for inexperienced painters!

Interior Paint: An Overview

You may be tempted to use exterior paint inside your home. While in many cases this might work ok, you will find that there are some aspects of interior paint that are incredibly useful in the home environment.

You will find the following benefits of interior paint that set it apart from exterior paint.

● Interior paint contains a mix of additives that are designed to provide consistent coverage. This makes it easier to paint with.
● It is easier to remove interior paint.
● Interior paint is designed to be durable; consequently, it can easily be wiped clean.
● Interior paint blends easily; it is possible to patch sections of the wall without it being too obvious.
● Many interior paints are water based, making cleaning up after painting much easier. They are also incredibly low odour, with minimal VOC emissions.

There are six main types of paint that are suitable to be used indoors:

Interior Paint Type No.1: Matte Paint:

The lack of shine on this paint makes it perfect for inside where you want a flat finish. It is easy to apply, and comes in a huge range of colours. It is usually best to apply this paint with a roller for a streak free finish, and it may need 2-3 coats for full coverage.

It is possible to easily touch up matte paint without leaving obvious patches. You can also simply paint over it to freshen it up.

Interior Paint Type No.2: Matte Enamel:

This is a more durable version of matte paint, and is ideal for use in a kitchen, where wipes and spills need to be cleaned up.

It can be applied with a roller, and is easy to use – although thicker in consistency.

exterior paint vs interior paint

From matte paint, to semi-gloss and satin, the interior paint options on offer are endless. They also blend easily as well, enabling you to patch up poor paint jobs with relative ease

Interior Paint Type No.3: Satin:

The finish on satin paint is somewhere between matte and gloss and it has a low sheen.

It is great for walls that need to be wiped down regularly such as kitchens; however, it will make imperfections on the walls more obvious.

Interior Paint Type No.4: Eggshell:

With a subtle sheen, this smooth paint gives a good finish, but does not show imperfections as readily. It often covers well with just one coat.

Despite what the name may suggest, this does not dry with a cracked eggshell finish – the name is more the finish you might expect on a smooth unbroken egg.

Interior Paint Type No.5: Semi-Gloss:

Often used on trim such as windowsills and cornicing, semi-gloss is easier to work with than full gloss and is easily cleaned.

You can usually get a good coverage with one coat and the shine is less than full gloss.

Interior Paint Type No.6: Gloss:

This is the most common type of paint aside from matte. It is used on interior doors, window frames, skirtings and banisters; in fact, anywhere that needs extra protection from knocks.

It can be tricky to use gloss paint as imperfections, and brush marks usually show through. A professional can get a good finish.

exterior paint vs interior paint

In contrast to interior paints, exterior paints are designed to be far more flexible, due to the contraction that occurs under certain weather conditions

Exterior Paint: An Overview

One of the main things you need to check for when choosing your exterior paint is that it is both waterproof and long lasting. The following are some of the differences you will find from interior paint:

● Exterior paint will stand up to weather and moisture issues more readily than indoor paint.
● Most exterior paints have UV protection to prevent undue fading.
● Many contain fungicides and pesticides to prevent mildew and mould.
● Exterior paints are usually more highly pigmented due to the way it is exposed to the weather conditions.
● These paints often have higher levels of VOCs and are not safe to be used indoors.
● Exterior paints are designed to be more flexible due to the contraction that occurs under certain weather conditions.

There are a number of different exterior paint types for you to choose from:

Exterior Paint Type No.1: Woodcare Paint:

Suitable for decking, wooden cladding, sheds, fences and all other wooden structures. Within this category you can choose from a varnish, stains, oil coatings and standard paint. This depends on the look that you want.

Stains and varnishes will allow the good looks of the wood to come through, while still offering protection from the elements. Paint will change the colour, while providing the same protection.

Exterior Paint Type No.2: Masonry Paint:

This paint type is ideal for bricks, pebbledash, concrete, stone and render. You can buy it in either a smooth or textured finish, and in a variety of colours. This paint may need to be reapplied often to keep your home looking fresh.

You may also prefer to find a clear masonry coating, to allow the brick finish to show through.

Exterior Paint Type No.3: Metal Paint:

Perfect for metal downpipes, railings, gates, storage areas and sheds.The aim of this paint is to provide protection from rusting.

You will need to buy a different paint if there is already rust on the metal surface; however, with the right paint, you may not need to remove the rust and use a primer.

exterior paint vs interior paint

Still seeking 'the best of both worlds' with regards to your paint? You'll be pleased to know that hybrid paints are available-and work perfectly in practice as well!

Can I Use Interior Paints On Exterior Surfaces?

One common question asked by the cost-conscious is whether interior paints can also be used on house exteriors. However, contrary to popular belief, not all paints are made equal, and when you throw some inclement weather into the mix, such differences become more pronounced.

The majority of interior paints contain a variety of organic pigments; put simply, these are what give the paint its particular hue and colour. Although such colours appear new and vibrant inside, outside depicts a different story.

If used on exteriors, the paint is likely to fade-and with it its vibrant colour. This is because exterior and interior paint types have been formulated with differing purposes in mind; with the former prioritising richness of colour, and the latter making weatherproofing its ultimate aim.

But what about the other way round? Can exterior paints be re-appropriated for interior use?

In short, absolutely not-and with good reason!  Unlike interior paints, which have been formulated to meet low VOC (volatile organic compounds) requirements, exterior paints are a completely different kettle of fish.

When applying exterior paint outside, strong fumes and VOCs can quickly disperse into the air, unlike inside where you can breathe them in. Consequently, such paint types aren't always low VOC, making them inadvisable for inside use.

If you're still seeking 'the best of both worlds' in regards to your paint then you'll be pleased to know that hybrid paints are available!

Despite sounding a little more Frankenstein than functional in principle, this option works perfectly in practice. 

exterior paint vs interior paint

Thinking of upgrading your exterior? Hydrophobic paints can help you achieve a fresh and flawless finish for longer-up to 15 years in most cases!

Weatherproofing Your Home: How Hydrophobic Paints Can Help

In all cases of exterior paints, you need to choose ones that will protect your home from the elements. Hydrophobic paints do a better job at this than any other. They are designed to prevent issues that result from water that is either already inside your walls or from the weather conditions.

The paint is both waterproof and breathable, allowing excess moisture to leach from the walls, without damaging the paint, and forming a barrier against future water getting in. Hydrophobic paints are therefore unique in that way.

There are many advantages in choosing a waterproof exterior paint, including the fact that your paint job will stay looking fresh for longer, as dirt simply runs off the surface.

Additionally, they prevent any wall defects and cracks from getting worse, should water gain access. You will also appreciate the fact that these paints last an extraordinary amount of time. They can last around 15 years, compared to just a few years with other exterior paints.

You should always choose the very best paints for the job you’re doing, and never mix and match interior and exterior paints. As you can see, the differences are important and each paint type is designed with a special job in mind.

Prime your property for perfection by giving it a fresh lick of paint. Take the first step to transforming your property for the long-term today, by calling 0800 1700 636, or, alternatively, by simply clicking the button below!