Water-based vs oil-based enamel paints

Water-based vs oil-based enamel paintsPainting is one of Australia’s favourite DIY home-improvement projects. Unfortunately, when paints aren’t treated properly, surfaces aren’t prepared, and the wrong materials are purchased, painting projects can end in total disaster.

Difference between water-based and oil-based enamels

The problem is, most DIY painters don’t understand the nitty-gritty of the paints they are using, especially when it comes to enamel paints. Both water-based (also known as acrylic enamels) and solvent-based (oil- or turps-based alkyds) enamel paints are known for their longevity and attractive sheen. But which is right for your project?

In this article, we’ll take a close look at the two – it’s water-based vs oil-based enamel paint. Let’s get started.

Application & handling of water- and oil-based enamels

Here’s a direct comparison of the application and handling qualities of water- and oil-based enamel paints.

Water-based enamel paint Oil-based enamel paint
Not flammable Contains flammable chemicals
Can be removed with water Can only be removed with mineral turps
Contains a reduced level of volatile organic compounds (VOC) Contains a high level of VOCs
Has little odour Has a strong odour
Touch dry in about 30 minutes Touch dry in about 8 hours
Second coat can be applied in 2 hours Second coat can be applied in 16 hours

Is water based enamel as good as oil based enamel?

It’s clear that, when it comes to the application and handling of enamel paints, water-based formulas have the edge. Because of the water content, acrylics dry faster, have a lesser odour, and don’t contain as many VOCs – nasty chemicals that can be a health hazard.

Water- and oil-based enamels and their interior uses

Now, let’s take a look at how water- and oil-based enamels perform when used on the interior of your home.

Water-based enamel paint Oil-based enamel paint
Does not yellow over time Will yellow with the absence of UV light (sunlight)
Offers a full range of colours Offers a limited range of colours
Not always suitable for areas subject to harsh treatment Great resistance to harsh wear and tear, as oil-based paints are harder and abrasion-resistant
Comes in gloss and semi-gloss finishes Comes in gloss and semi-gloss finishes
Not able to produce a brilliant gloss Able to produce a brilliant gloss and extremely smooth finish
Not suitable for all window frames, as it can stick Suitable on all window frames, as it will not stick

Here’s where some of oil-based enamel paint’s advantageous qualities come in. Yes, it does tend to yellow and you won’t have access to a full spectrum of colours. But, with an oil-based paint, you can enjoy a full gloss, perfectly smooth finish and excellent resistance to wear and tear.

Water- and oil-based enamels and their exterior uses

Finally, here’s how these two enamel paint formulas stack up when used outside.

Water-based enamel paint Oil-based enamel paint
Retains its sheen level over an extended period of time despite UV exposure Will not retains its original level of sheen
Greater flexibility, meaning it’s more capable of accommodating to the expansion and contraction of exterior surfaces Less flexible and becomes brittle with age, meaning it can crack over time
High level of UV resistance, with greater resistance to chalking and fading Low level of UV resistance and can become chalky and faded over time

Evidently, water-based enamel paint is the best option for painting exteriors, especially when painting timber. It’s less like to crack and fade, even in the harsh Queensland climate.

Leave it up to the professionals

Painting isn’t as straightforward as it may seem at first. In fact, we rely on years of experience and in-depth training to ensure perfect results every time. Don’t risk it – leave your next residential or commercial painting project to the pros. Call today on 07 3829 5735 or fill out the form on this page, and we’ll be in touch soon.

Avatar for Louise Kraudelt

About Louise Kraudelt

Meet Louise Kraudelt, a knowledgeable and insightful author in the field of house painting. With a passion for sharing her expertise, Louise provides valuable information and tips on all aspects of commercial and house painting in this blog.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar for Nancy McClain Nancy McClain on 04/17/2023 at 5:08 pm

    Please help,

    I am painting a wood dining table with a laminate table top. What is the very best primer to use
    and the very best durable top paint. I want it very durable so paint will not pop off. But, I do not want it to Turn yellow over time.

    Also, do I use a clear top coat of either poly acrylic or polyurethane .

    Nancy McClain

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