Wall and ceiling paint buying guide
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton59 guides
What are wall and ceiling paints made up of?
Wall and ceiling paints consist of resins or binding agents, pigments, fillers, solvents and additives.
Resins or binding agents add texture to the paint and set in contact with the air. They ensure adhesion to the painted surface, the cohesion of other components and a durable finish. Basically, they bind!
Wall and ceiling paint: what's oil-based paint?
Oil-based (or glycerophthalic) paints
Oil-based paints are diluted and cleaned with a white spirit-type solvent. They offer strong opacity, very good surface tautness and are highly durable to boot!
These days, however, oil-based paints are giving way to acrylic and alkyd paints because of their high volatile solvent content. Their application requires good ventilation of the room both during and afterwards.
Consider using respiratory protection when applying oil-based house paint.
Wall and ceiling paint: what's acrylic paint?
Acrylic or water-based paint
Acrylic paints are the most common type of water-based paints.
In their favour: a reduced level of solvents and a considerably shorter drying time - 30 minutes to touch-dry.
The most environmentally friendly acrylic paints are awarded the European Ecolabel certifying low VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions.
Your brushes and rollers can be cleaned with water - highly convenient and non-polluting. Acrylic paints can be applied in every room of the house.
Wall and ceiling paint: what's alkyd paint?
To understand where alkyds fit in, let's, first of all, compare the different types of paint we've already seen.
Alkyd paints are also less toxic and have a lower VOC emission rate than the oil-based alternatives.
Wall and ceiling paint: gloss, matt or satin finish?
Matte paints are the most fragile. Since they reflect little light, however, they hide flaws particularly well. Matte is an excellent choice for an old ceiling whose dinches and dings would be too visible with more light reflection.
For repainting walls, use satin paints for their increased durability. A satin finish will work in every room of the house and gives an attractive silky appearance.
Gloss paints are even more durable and are recommended for door frames and woodwork. Gloss gives a more spacious appearance to small rooms and brightens darker spaces. A gloss finish will, however, reveal flaws in the painted surface.
Wall and ceiling paint: what's a VOC?
VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals present in paints that readily diffuse into the surrounding air when the paint is applied.
These products are thought to be toxic and carcinogenic, so avoid using paints with a high VOC content.
Paints are classified from A+ - for the lowest VOC content - to C for the highest.
In any case, you should keep the space well ventilated during and after application of paint and always wear a protective mask.
Wall and ceiling paint: what's an undercoat?
Undercoat: a definition
An undercoat is a specific type of paint. It's designed to prepare the ground for evening the surface to be painted and filling in the pores. Although you don't directly see it, the undercoat affects the final finish and must be chosen according to the surface being painted (the substrate).
Type of undercoat
An undercoat should be chosen according to the surface in question and can be:
- Universal for plaster, concrete or wood;
- Specialised undercoat to protect plasterboard;
- Hardener to strengthen fragile or friable substrates;
- Bonding primer, specific to contexts where bonding with the substrate is required.
Why choose a special single-coat ceiling paint?
Ceilings are substrates with quite specific properties, unlikely to receive shocks but liable to crack with age. Working at height is impractical and tiring, making a single-coat paint a good solution for quick yet slick results!
You can get paints which have a colour marker that disappears when dry.
The colour marker gives you a clear idea of where you've already painted so you don't miss a bit out - especially useful if you're repainting in the same colour.
Bear in mind that a matt appearance hides defects while gloss gives improved light diffusion and enlarges your room.
What quality of paint to choose for your walls and ceilings?
There's paint and there's paint - they're not all are the same quality.
While it's true you can get hold of basic stuff for a few pounds a litre, you might have to fork out a bit more for good quality paint. You start to see a really obvious difference when you triple the price per litre!
Good quality in a paint means improved adhesion to the substrate, reduced VOC emissions and better coverage for hiding the dings and unevenness in a surface.
Basically, if you're on your fourth coat of white and you can still see the old paint underneath, change brand!
Wall and ceiling paint: how many coats and how many litres will I need?
Number of coats
Most paints require two coats with drying time in between. There are single-coat paints that just need the one, as the name suggests. Be careful, however - the more porous the surface, the more coats you'll need, even for so-called "single-coat" paints.
Number of litres
Easy - just refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations. A litre/area ratio is always given.
Paint is available in a range of pot sizes, from 0.5L to 10L. Buy exactly the quantity you think you'll need, allowing a little extra. Note that the price per litre goes down the larger you go, and the values given on the pot are for optimum application - add say 15% to be safe!
A final tip for choosing
In recent years, many unusual products have appeared. You can readily find specialised blackboard paint and even magnetic paint to turn a flat surface into a handy noticeboard. Colour ranges have been hugely expanded, with colour charts full of whimsical names. It's up to you to decide if you prefer "Sahara" or "Sand Dune"!
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton 59 guides écrits
From a very young age, I was always fascinated by manual and technical work, especially woodworking. When I got my very first flat, it became my own personal DIY playground. I rewired some of the electricity (remember, safety first!) to better supply all my computers and gadgets. I also built partition walls and did some decorating with my wife. We worked on some made-to-measure furniture and came up with little tricks to optimise the space, keeping the original charm of the building in mind. When the little one arrived, I started building bits and pieces for him as well.
We don't have a lot of space, so I don't have a permanent workshop or certain tools I've always dreamed of owning. But with my IT background, I already know a lot about DIY, and I love helping others troubleshoot their ideas!