In what situations should oil paint be used, instead of latex paint?

3 Answers 3


Oil paint has gone the way for the dinosaur and 45 record. Many manufactures have already stopped all production and the rest are not far behind. This is mostly due to VOC laws and the vast improvements of latex products. Not knowing the application, I know of very few circumstances where an oil based paint would offer any advantage. Also keep in mind that oil based paint cannot be applied over any latex primer or paint. Unless you could convince me of the need for the harder finish of an oil paint, Guess I would say stick to latex. If you tell me the application, I may be able to suggest the best type of latex for your job.

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    Generally speaking oil used to be much more durable, washable etc. Since lead was removed, now the VOC laws have limited the solvents. If you select a heavy grade latex enamel in gloss or semi gloss, you will see similar durability and coverage. Jan 30, 2011 at 14:52
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    This answer says latex won't bond to metal, and that's why you'd use oil. Worth discussing/amending answer? (Note, I don't know enough to weight in on the topic, just pointing out the conflict)
    – gregmac
    Nov 10, 2011 at 18:44
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    Good observation about latex on metal. On metals, a good primer is necessary before any paint can be applied, oil or latex. A good metal primer can be lacquer or cromate based usually. Nov 22, 2011 at 10:37
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    Maybe I'm just a cranky old fart, but I've never observed the "vast improvements of latex". IME, it still dries too fast, remains slightly sticky forever and peels if you look at it the wrong way. Maybe I haven't found the right brand/quality of latex? Sep 23, 2012 at 23:49
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    There are definitely still significant differences in water-based vs. oil-based varnishes. Again, the water-based have improved a lot... but if you can deal with the solvents and want a classic look it's hard to beat oil-based.
    – keshlam
    Oct 16, 2015 at 2:00

Oil has a lot of advantages for other reasons.

One is it looks better. Many of my customers have spent a lot of money on "high-end" latex paints, and once it was up and they saw another friend's house with oil, they still wanted the oil. Not all people obviously. But the solid heavy body feel is an issue.

Another issue I run into is, being a painter, you realize when you do a lot of homes over time that people are all transient, especially in Florida. So I do a lot of condos and houses that once people get into they do not know what was there. I run tests on the older paint and often in rentals there is a mixture of paint so I cannot estimate within the budget and re-prime or strip the whole house trim.

So oil is a great solution, it looks solid and it will always adhere, so it looks good and no one calls me back when the latex peels.

You cannot make these ridiculous promises with latex when most often any problems with latex are that it's cheap looking within a year or two, and the people notice the thin layer, and it scratches and peels with not much hardening - it is soft.

When you get to the unit or project fresh I would start with primer and latex when I'm in control of whats there, but often in my projects with re-paints you got to work with what is there and within a budget.

Sometimes owners will give me a thumbs up to re-prime, sand, and re-work all the doors and trim. That takes time, and I'm still not convinced all primer and latex systems over old paint will adhere well, not without stripping it down or heavy sanding and a thorough cleaning.

Most often, I see problems with painting, it is poor prep or latex involved. Very rarely will you see oil-based fail in adhesion. It is always reliable as a solid authentic painted finish, it just goes with the craftsmanship of an old fashioned real painter. When someone gets a painter in their home, they are not looking for a pre-painted factory Wal Mart painted in China pre-fab finish. I mean, you can order vinyl pre-painted baseboards or something similar like that - they sell temporal items like fake wood or synthetic furniture that mimic wood or sprayed pieces, mimic the original look of an item/piece. With a hand painter they want that feel and appeal, it just is real and better. They still want that certain look.

Latex has gotten way better but it still lacks a certain quality. Latex is good as well for painting two coats in the same day, but I can totally tell the difference on many types of surfaces in its body and the touch.

And years later when you go back to a home that has had oil it looks solid still, maybe yellows some but it is solid - any paint will need to be re-painted years later anyway (Porter Glyptex oils most often earliest in my experience).

Oil is superior by far for many reasons. The problem comes in when people that have painted over it never prepped it right, or failed in converting.

Oil in and of itself, when done right, the best. IF you do a home a oil, follow up the next time with oil again, have your painter touch it up with the same product. That is another major key, not to mix and match too much, you need to keep good records and use the same paint if possible, it can save you a lot of headaches and a lot of painters in the future will differ on opinion and may sway you. Just be consistent and you will have painting bliss. And if you have a situation where there is a mix and match oil will save the burden and a bundle on tripping and re-doing. Some may have the money and not mind and can afford to rebuild and redo everything, then just renovate the whole unit in question if you are that wealthy.

You see oil has practical use, a solid traditional solution, a hard core absolute thing. There are even more good pro's to oil, I can think of more but this is enough to chew on for now.

Latex is finer but I was reading here on this page someone saying they had no idea why oil these days and I believe I come across a lot of situation where its a win-win for me and my customers if I can save them some time and money. Of course sometimes thinking of others and being honest leaves me not so wealthy , but there is a higher calling to this as well.

Just saying, but my customers are always happy with extra money in their pockets and accounts, so I did the right thing than, "I hope".


Most heavy equipment uses oil base for durability. Oil base is thicker and harder.

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