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Though all of the interior paints discussed in this report are latex paints, alkyd (oil-based) paints are also available. These have excellent adhesion characteristics and are a good choice for heavily chalked surfaces and areas with several layers of old oil-based paint. However, oil-based interior paints can fade, chip, chalk and crack over time. Oil-based paint is more difficult to apply, and it has a stronger odor than latex paint. It also takes longer to dry (24 hours or more), leaving your newly painted room out of service for some time. Cleanup requires the use of solvents, which means that extra care must be taken in the handling and disposing of rags. Those are just some of the reasons why experts recommend regular latex interior paint for nearly all situations.

Most homeowners don't realize that "latex" paint actually contains no latex at all. Instead, manufacturers use synthetic acrylic, vinyl and other polymers. Paints labeled 100 percent acrylic have the highest durability of all latex interior paints and stand up better to washing, making them an especially good choice for families or high-traffic areas. However, they are also more expensive than paints that use a blend of acrylic, vinyl and other polymers.

Interior paints come in a variety of finishes. Reviews say you should choose based on the type of room and your decorating style (formal, informal, rustic).

Gloss: This type of paint finish is shiny, with an almost reflective quality that looks similar to enamel or plastic. Gloss finish is typically used on cabinets, banisters, railings, shelves and trims, because it gives a dramatic look to formal and contemporary rooms, while being easy to clean. Be aware that a gloss finish will magnify any surface imperfections, so sanding will be required prior to painting for the best results.

Semi-gloss: A semi-gloss paint finish has a subtle shine and is used to accentuate cabinets, banisters and trims without being too glitzy. As with gloss finishes, semi-gloss finishes are easy to clean and will magnify surface imperfections.

Satin: This finish has a velvety, smooth look with just a hint of gloss. Satin-finish paint can be used as wall paint, although professional painters say it is better used for windows, doors and trim in high-traffic areas like hallways, kitchens, bathrooms and children's rooms. Satin paint easily withstands cleaning and light scrubbing.

Eggshell: Another easy-to-clean paint, eggshell has a very low sheen with just a hint of gloss. Eggshell is mostly used for walls in high-traffic areas like hallways, kitchens, baths and children's rooms.

Matte or Flat: A matte (or flat) finish offers muted, low reflection and is best suited for ceilings, walls and areas with surface imperfections. Matte paint is a good choice for uneven walls. This paint works best in low-traffic areas, because it's not very easy to clean. Washable flat paints now on the market do make cleanup easier. However, a matte finish will show scratches and scuff marks, so keep some extra paint on hand for touch-ups.


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