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General Paint Type Recommendations

Based on the assumption that the exterior wood has been painted with oil paint many times in the past and the existing top coat is therefore also an oil paint, (7) it is recommended that for Class I and Class II paint surface conditions, a top coat of high-quality oil paint be applied when repainting.

The reason for recommending oil rather than latex paints is that a coat of latex paint applied directly over old oil paint is more apt to fail. The considerations are twofold.

  1. First, because oil paints continue to harden with age, the old surface is sensitive to the added stress of shrinkage which occurs as a new coat of paint dries. Oil paints shrink less upon drying than latex paints and thus do not have as great a tendency to pull the old paint loose.
  2. Second, when exterior oil paints age, the binder releases pigment particles, causing a chalky surface. Although for best results, the chalk (or dirt, etc.) should always be cleaned off prior to repainting, a coat of new oil paint is more able to penetrate a chalky residue and adhere than is latex paint. Therefore, unless it is possible to thoroughly clean a heavily chalked surface, oil paints — on balance — give better adhesion.

If however, a latex top coat is going to be applied over several layers of old oil paint, an oil primer should be applied first (the oil primer creates a flat, porous surface to which the latex can adhere). After the primer has thoroughly dried, a latex top coat may be applied. In the long run, changing paint types is more time consuming and expensive. An application of a new oil-type top coat on the old oil paint is, thus, the preferred course of action.

If Class III conditions have necessitated total paint removal, there are two options, both of which assure protection of the exterior wood:

  1. an oil primer may be applied followed by an oil-type top coat, preferably by the same manufacturer; or
  2. an oil primer may be applied followed by a latex top coat, again using the same brand of paint. It should also be noted that primers were never intended to withstand the effects of weathering; therefore, the top coat should be applied as soon as possible after the primer has dried.

(7) If the top coat is latex paint (when viewed by the naked eye or preferably, with a magnifying glass, it looks like a series of tiny craters) it may either be repainted with new latex paint or with oil paint. Normal surface preparation should precede any repainting.