How To: Paint With Oil-Based Paint

By Scott Sidler December 10, 2012

How To Paint With Oil-Based Paint
Image credit: janpietruszk / 123RF Stock Photo

As I write this post about oil-based paint, I realize that the information is quickly disappearing from both common knowledge and usefulness today. If you live in California, I don’t even think you’re allowed to buy oil-based paint anymore (at least not in any significant quantities).

The landscape of house painting has been changing ever since water-based paints were first introduced by Sherwin-Williams in 1941. Kem-Tone, as it was called proved that water-based paints were a possibility. And it’s no secret that water-based, or latex paints, are easier to work with, better for the environment, and longer lasting than most oil-based paints. But there is still a place for oil-based paint today. And if you live in an old house, knowing how to work with oil-based paint is almost a requirement.

What You Need To Know About Oil-Based Paint

  1. Slow-Drying – Oil-based paint is notoriously slow drying and the reason we have the saying “It’s like waiting for paint to dry.” Most oil-based paint takes about 8 hrs to dry enough to recoat, as opposed to latex paint which takes around 4 hrs to recoat. This may sound like a problem at first, as it definitely slows down the whole process. But this slow drying allows oil-based paint to flow out better and provide a smoother finish than latex paint. This slow process allows brush marks to level out remarkably well.
  2. Good Ventilation – If you’re working with oil-based paint you need better ventilation than you do with latex paint. Make sure to open windows and put a fan in the doorway to pull in fresh air. Oil-based paints usually have a much higher VOC content than latex paints, which is why the extra ventilation is needed.
  3. Yellows in Dark Areas – If you have old oil-based paint on your closet’s baseboards, chances are it’s pretty yellow. Light colored oil-based paints are notorious for yellowing with age and in dark areas. The more sunlight it gets, the less it yellows. If exposed to more sunlight, the yellowing will fade away though, and though today’s oil-based paints have gotten better about holding their color, it’s still a problem.
  4. Purdy China Bristle Brush
    A China Bristle Brush is one of the best for oil-based paint

    Can Be Mildew Prone – When used outside, oil-based paint has a tendency to mildew. This is especially prevalent in varieties that contain larger quantities of linseed oil.


  5. You Need A Specific Brush – Oil-based paints require a different brush from latex paints. There are some brushes that work with both latex and oil, but natural bristle brushes work much better with oil-based paints. They are readily available wherever you can buy paint brushes. They will usually say “For Oil-based Paints” on the brush holder.
  6. Hard Finish – One of the qualities of oil-based paints that manufacturers have struggled to create with latex paint is a hard durable finish on enamel paints. For doors, trim and moldings nothing beats the hard, durable finish of an oil-based enamel paint. And that hard finish makes it an excellent choice for doors and windows because that hard finish eliminates the sticking that often happens with latex paints. The hard finish also unfortunately prevents the paint from being as flexible as latex, which is why old oil-based paints begin to crack and chip off. Temperature swings and expansion of the surface eventually breaks the harder paint film of an oil-based paint.
  7. Odorless Mineral Spirits
    I use this type of thinner since it has less fumes and is a greener option.

    Difficult Clean Up – If you’re painting with an oil-based paint, the clean up is a bit more involved. Oil-based paint is pretty much impervious to water, so you’ll have to use paint thinner or mineral spirits to clean your brushes. Here’s some tips for using mineral spirits:

    • Make sure the area is well-ventilated.
    • Pour some into a bowl and vigorously mix your brush for about a minute.
    • Pour the used portion into a sealable metal container.
    • Repeat this process until the mineral spirits comes out clear and the brush is clean.
    • Dispose of the used thinner or mineral spirits at your landfill’s hazardous waste drop off.

And there is one last thing you need to know about oil vs water based paints . . .They don’t mix! I would think it’s obvious to most people that mixing a can of oil-based paint with a can of water-based paint wouldn’t be a good idea, but I’m talking about something else here.

If you are painting oil-based paint on top of latex paint then you have to prime the latex first. Latex paint and oil-based paint expand and contract at two different rates. So, if you paint oil-based paint on top of a latex paint without priming first, the latex will flex so much underneath that the oil-paint will quickly fail.

You can get away with painting a latex paint on top of an oil-based paint without primer, but just to be safe, it’s always a good idea to prime first when you are switching from one type of paint to the other.

Hopefully this has been a good “primer” (<—Sorry, I couldn’t resist the painter humor) for working with oil-based paint. If you have any tips I may have forgotten, please share them in the comments below.

Share Away!

239 thoughts on “How To: Paint With Oil-Based Paint”

  1. We peimed ome of our imterior doors with kilz. Can we use oil based paint over this or do we meed to prime again with pil nased primer? We also purchased primed doors for the rest of the house. Is it ok to paint these without priming again? I have no odea what kind of primer they use?

  2. Scott, really need an advice. We bought a cast iron coffee table that weighs a ton!! During transportation the paint on the sides got scratched. I assume I need to use oil paint to repair the scratches. I would hate to lose the cast iron texture under layers of oil paint. I was wondering if I can use one of those trendy techniques usually used with latex paint, but with oil paint – like paint and rub, or layer.
    Thanks in advance!!

  3. This has been a huge help for me to understand a problem we had at my previous house, and now I’m starting to see it in my current home. The last house was over 40 years old (built in the mid-70’s), and we hired a professional painter to paint several of the rooms. It cost ALOT of money, so when the paint continued to peel in large chunks we were naturally befuddled and ticked off. We had the painters come back a few times and they continued to argue that they had never seen anything like it, but I always found that unlikely. The problem was clearly to do with the fact that there were several layers of paint in a couple of the rooms. One of them, I counted 5 colors on top of the drywall/primer. Apparently, one or two of the older layers (not the original) had become very chalky, so it wasn’t holding to the wall with any real strength. This had probably been a problem for years, but was never noticed until the painters we hired came in with their over-priced “zero VOC” Sherwin Williams paint. The new layer of latex paint was sticky, so anything that touched it, like furniture or wall-hangings, would hold onto the paint stronger than the paint held the wall. So when you moved a chair away from a wall or took a picture down to dust it, you’d get a chunk of paint with it the size of a half dollar or more. The real problem was that this stickiness never went away, after 2 years. We finally touched up all the dead spots, made a house rule that NOTHING could touch the walls, and then sold the house. Now we’re seeing some of the same issues in our new house (built in the mid-80’s), but to a smaller degree. I’m going to look into using oil-based for our larger well-ventilated trim, but never using that contractor again.

  4. I would never impugn your motives, but I think a lot of misinformation has been dished out by paint companies in cahoots with professional painters regarding oil paint. The fact is, if you want gloss or semi-gloss, oil is better for all trim, doors, shelving, and furniture – period. It looks 10X better. It is harder. It is more durable. There is no latex that can compete with top oils.

  5. I am painting kitchen cabinets. The doors are solid wood but the boxes are laminant over fiberboard. I sanded all the surfaces with 120 grit orbital sander. I want to use oil based paint for the hardness. Do I have to prime? If I prime does it have to be oil based? Can I glaze oil based paint?

          1. Hi Scott, I’m tackling the same task in painting the kitchen cabinets.
            I have sanded, undercoated in oil based twice. Both times drying for 2-3 days between and then went on with my first top coat of oil based eggshell. It’s had over 24 hours to dry (26/27) and is still tacky! I have started a second top coat yet.
            It’s not overly hot/cold weather wise. So I don’t think that has affected it.
            Any ideas what’s causing it? Do I continue with the second coat and hope that doesn’t dry tacky?
            Each time I touch the paint, the blue colour is coming away on my fingers, so we can’t live with it and hope it disappears over time.

  6. If we had our window frames painted with oil based paint, how soon is it safe to be in the house? 24 hours after the paint was painted, we can still smell the paint.. does that mean the fines are still in the air?

    1. Caroline, oil-based paint fumes in your situation aren’t dangerous but merely a nuisance. The fumes should greatly decrease within the first 48 hrs and be completely gone within a couple weeks.

  7. Hi Scott – Painting some big flat wood columns, I made a mistake and rolled on Zinsser oil primer with a 1/2″ nap roller. In a rush to get them covered before end of the day. The nap made some thick stipple marks, I planned to sand afterwards so wasn’t too concerned and just carried on to get a coat on and start the tedious dry time. I noticed it wasn’t covering the bondo, and raw wood that well, and didn’t want bleeding on finish coat. So I did a second coat after about an hour. 24 hours later it’s still not ready to sand.. I plan to topcoat with latex, but need to sand first. Anyone else run into trouble with this stuff not drying enough to sand? I’ve been here before and I feel like it took 3 days… Any advice is appreciated. I’m only a carpenter !!!

    1. If you have trouble sanding the primer, but you really want it to be smooth, it may actually be less work to skim coat it with drywall mud (I like USG all-purpose), then sand it smooth until you’re happy with the surface, and just paint over that. You will probably need at least two coats depending on what paint you use, because the mud does soak up the first coat.

    2. Just went through this experience with z-prime. Had the paint store shake well six hours before use. Sprayed on door and took a week to dry. Second time used a power drill with a mixing tool and found globs at the bottom. Took almost 20 minutes mixing before it was all smooth. Sprayed again this time had to thin with mineral spirits. dried to touch in hours and sanded after 18 hours. This stuff has to be mixed really well before use.

  8. “You can get away with painting a latex paint on top of an oil-based paint without primer,” I have found this first part to not be true, LATEX WILL PEEL OFF, with out your next part which should be a must not a choice, ”but just to be safe, it’s always a good idea to prime first when you are switching from one type of paint to the other.”

    I am having to remove the latex from all the wood work so that can prep the oil based painted trim in a 3000 sq ft home.

    1. This is true if the oil paint was glossy. you will still need to sand it before painting with latex, or it will peel off. but this is true of any glossy surface

  9. Do thin oil based paint when n painting over old oil based paint? I cleaned and sanded and the new paint did not go on smoothly like not sricking.

  10. Hi! I am having tons of anxiety, as I hired a painter who is using oil based paint to repaint the molding in the house we just bought and plan to move into next week. He has already painted the first room, which just happens to be the nursery room for my two-year-old … which is where my anxiety now falls! If I could go back and use latex based paint, I would, but the damage is done. The fumes are out! I am planning to buy a VOC reader so that I know when it is safe to move into the house. I assume it will not be safe, fume free and ready for a two-year-old to live there in a week. we are going to check with our landlord to see if we can stay in our rental an extra month. But I am wondering if you have any idea or advice on about how long it will take for the rooms to be safe for us to move into the house . Somethings I read online say that oil based paint will let off gas and fumes for up to two or three years !! We plan to open the windows at night time and use box fans to get the air out of the house as much as possible. I don’t know what else to do.

  11. Morning, I purchased 3 barstools from a used furniture store, one of them was painted red,the other green, and the other gold. I want to change the color to maybe a white gloss, or semi, I was told i could use rustoleum oil base paint. After reading the clean up (brushes), and the ventilation( i live in an apartment), i really don’t want to go that route, especially if it takes 8 hours to dry, but, I already had a can, and didn’t see the purpose of buying a new can.
    Any other recommendations as far as paints i coudl use, or should I just use the oil base paint ( i can probably take it somewhere outdoors to be painted).

      1. Hey Scott, can you paint with oil based paint OVER existing oil based paint. I want to paint white over black :/ the door is lovely in black, the trim not so much.

    1. Just from my own (bad) personal experience, if it’s going to receive regular contact (shelves, stools, doors – they touch the frame) stick with oil. I’ve had a paint store employee even tell me that new latex is OK for shelving, but it is absolutely not…I’ve got boxes with latex paint stuck to them now, and I’ve got a door with its edges stripped off after opening the first time.
      Only thing I can say on the downsides is that you can get away with painting layers every 4 hours, with the final layer getting the 8 hour (I prefer a full 24 cure) dry. I typically paint 3-4 door layers at a time and then find something else to work on (NOT sanding) for a while, and when the paint isn’t tacky any more on the last piece, I paint another layer.
      And I do less layers with oil (3-4) than with latex/acrylic (6 *minimum*)
      Having used both extensively, I prefer oil on anything but walls, no contest.

      1. Hello again! I painted my wood bathroom cabinets with oil based paint after reading and inquiring on this page a couple years ago. I LOVE it! I have had NO problems with chipping, peeling or dirt. It works like a charkm I slightly sanded the area, liked with an oil based primer, then let dry. Went over it with an oil based paint and wow! What a beautiful turn out! Recently I started another projected using the same technique with my papasan chairs. So far, so good. They look brand new! Using both oil based products are definitely the way to go! Thanks again!!!

  12. My husband just built a free standing pantry for the kitchen. It’s made from birch with a little pine and and has been patched and sanded. Is there a primer that is better for new wood? The rest of the cabinets have been painted with Behr’s best semi gloss enamel latex paint. I’m not thrilled with how they turned out. What would you suggest?

  13. I screwed up last weekend and painted several doors with acrylic. The stuff is too tacky against the door jam, so I’m having to redo it with oil. I didn’t know I could prime over the acrylic, so I sanded all of the paint off…quite a chore. I’m really kicking myself for getting the wrong paint and making so much extra work for myself.

  14. Scott, I noticed that you said that it’s fine to put latex paint over oil based paint. Yet I’ve always heard, ad nauseum, that you should NEVER put latex over oil — apparently the latex paint won’t adhere and will peel right off? It seems like you know what you’re talking about, so now I’m TOTALLY confused. Please help!

    1. I believe that on interior surfaces, never put latex over oil without using a bonding primer 1st. Oil over latex is fine . Exterior is a different story due to severe temperature changes. If a gard brittle oil paint is over latex, the latex underneath expands and contracts which can crack the oil paint on top, latex over oil is ok because it’s usually going over a well worn weathered surface and should bond just fine. And the latex on top of the oil can exoabdvand contract without causing a problem.
      These are my opinions based on my experiences.

    2. My dad has always used latex paint over oil based primer. No issues whatsoever. I’m 35 and he painted the house before I was born. Washes it down every year and hasn’t had to repaint. He uses the same method inside the house every time my mom changes colors

  15. Hi! We are getting the brown trim in our 5 year old house painted white. The painters originally were using water based on the main level but informed us they were going to switch to oil based when they started upstairs, I think because they were having a hard time getting the water based to apply perfectly and stick and have had to redo some of the windowsills a couple times because of it. They sanded and primed prior. Now reading about oil based I’m concerned about the yellowing. Should I ask them to stick with the water based or just let them do their thing? Is it normal for water based to no apply as well or is it just a time saver to switch to oil? Thank you!

    1. Oil yellows very minimally over many years, but IMHO it is a much better paint for trim. Harder finish and longer lasting. They should be doing the same prep whether it is oil or latex (sand and prime first). You will likely get a smoother coat of paint with oil since it levels out better. I think you’re good to switch unless there is some other reason they are trying to hide like cost of paint or other wise.

  16. Our kitchen island cabinet was painted with latex over the original oil based paint and the latex is starting to chip and peel and also has a tacky feel. We want to strip the cabinet and repaint with an oil enamel. I was wondering if it’s possible to strip just the latex off and if so what stripper and/or method would do this or do you recommend completely stripping both layers? We’ve tested with rubbing alcohol and the top latex layer (which is black) comes off pretty easily revealing the original white oil enamel below.

  17. How long does an oil-based primer need to dry and/or cure before you can paint over it with a latex paint? Also, you’ve mentioned that you should “tip off ” paint before letting it dry. What does that mean and is that only for oil-based paint?

    1. Each paint is different so it’s hard to say exactly but usually an hour or two unless it’s a slow dry wood primer. Tipping off is gently running the brush tip over the paint surface to even out all your strokes. It creates a smoother finish.

  18. Hi Scott,
    thanks for all the great information!

    We have a house built in 1879 with plaster walls. We are stripping the walls down to bare plaster. Some will get new wallpaper. Some paint. We are trying to decide between linseed oil and milk paint for our interior walls. We are using linseed oil paint from Allbeck for our exterior surfaces and their shellac and boiled linseed oil for our interior wood work. We have milk paint on the interior of our windows. If anyone has experience between the two on plaster walls we could really use some input. Thanks!

  19. Hi, some great information to be read here but i’am lost, i know Penetrol is stated for use in mineral turps based paint but has any one actually tried it in Thinners based paint with any success? I dont wont to add it to the thinners based paint if its going to waste it.

  20. Hi Scott, if I use an oil base primer “zinsser” and bought Behr paint and primer and used the Behr as the top coat would that be a problem the behr is a semi gloss

  21. Hi Scott,

    Used white oil-based enamel on some window sashes a few months ago. Finally wrapped up the trim work and noticed that the sashes looked to have “yellowed” by comparison.

    Is there anything that I can do in the future to prevent the yellowing? Or it is just a by-product of spreading the work out so far apart?

    Note: Your Penetrol recommendation for oil-based paint made a huge different in how these sashes turned out! Just wish that I had taken some photos to compare.

      1. Hi Guys
        Ive had 30 years experience in restoring historic homes. I too love oil base instead of latex and your information in this article is excellent.
        Ive been using Benjamin Moores Advance ” waterborne oil based paint.” I must say I enjoy using it because of all the good qualities of oil based paints. Yet easier to use. Ive used it in closets and other dark areas with no yellowing. Of course its only been about 4-5 years. But one of the main reasons alkyd(oil) paints yellow is the evaporating and curing of the oil byproducts. At first the voc etc. comes out because theyre thinner bit the actual oil takes a bit of time to truly harden. When it does its not clear or even white.
        If youve ever noticed an old jar of petoleum jelly has a very yellow almost amber hue to the product inside. The yellow jar is intended to have the newer product look yellower because the makers knows the petroleum yellows quickly since there are no piqments and other paint ingredients to get past before making it to the surface. ( One reason it usually takes a bit of time for this to happen. )
        There are other factors but this is why oil yellows but thats a short explanation.
        So back to the BEn Moore Advance. Many DIY’s like it too because they get the look and feel of oil with the convenience of latex. Its great for cabinets. I just painted some new Pella Archetectural series wood windows and it really flows nicely cutting in all the grids. Flows out very well too.
        As far as yellowing, like I said in the closet i put it in 4-5 years ago, its still looking very white. But this is because its not the traditional alkyd as its water clean up. So you can imagine if its water clean up you can see how the “petroleum jelly” analogy doesn’t happen with Bens Advance Alkyd.
        This is just the experience of one guy but I hope it helps.

  22. I painted my daughters room 6 years ago. Two walls are pink and two walls are black. I paint the black walls with rustoleum oil base paint that was already black. Well a few years ago I noticed bubbles on the wall with black paint. I rubbed them and they popped. Water came out of them. I went back and looked where the bubbles were and they were gone! Well I just went looked and there’s some more bubbles and when I rub on them they pop and water comes out! Can u tell me if its the kind of paint causing this or do I have a problem?

    1. Keisha, if there is water behind those bubbles then there is likely a leak somewhere. It’s possible that it’s due to vapor drive issues and humidity but my first instinct is to say there is a leak somewhere behind the wall.

      1. I live in a single wide mobile home. Where the two walls are that have the bubbles there wouldn’t be any water pipes. We put a metal roof on our mobile home 3 years ago. The bubbles aren’t all over the wall. One of the walls where the bubbles are is a closet. I didn’t paint the closet and there’s no bubbles.

  23. several years ago the front of our house needed painting due to cracking, chipping paint, the back was not painted. all was oil based. Front was repainted using oil based primer and latex top coat. We are now repainting the whole house. (it has log siding) Paint in the back is chipped in some places. Said all that to ask if we can use oil based primer on the whole house, (even the front which already has latex paint) then use latex top coat over all. (We also have to wash lots of mold from the back of house which doesnt get much sun.) thanks in advance for your reply.

  24. Step 7 Clean-up:

    Scott- your description sounds a bit idealistic and/or my brush technique is much worse than I thought.
    Some questions:
    • how much is the “some” that goes into the bowl? Let’s just say for a 2″ brush.
    • certainly when you say “vigorously mix,” you mean to do more with the brush than just stir up the thinner as fast as you can, don’t you? Or do you mean exactly that? Ought the bristles be worked (flexed) against the side of the bowl?
    • This ties in to the previous question: I am amazed that the term “brush comb” does not exist on this page with its accumulated 3 years of discussions. As far as I’m concerned, a brush comb is the best thing since sliced bread when it’s cleanup time.

    Do you simply not get paint up into the brush belly?

    1. Nate, I use a brush comb after cleanup usually. Basically I fill a small container (usually an old can of food) with spirits high enough to cover the bristles. That way I can work the bristles clean in deep enough solvent without wasting a ton of solvent to fill a big bucket.
      Then pour out the used spirits and add another helping into the can. I’ll repeat this process until the spirits come out clean and spin the brush dry before combing it.

      1. Interesting… I must have a bad brushing technique, since I need the brush comb to work the paint & pigment out of the ferrule end of the bristles. (I never dip the brush deep, but the paint works itself up there…)

  25. I am redoing a late 50’s red brick rancher in eastern Pa. In June 2015, I had my original wood Andersen casement windows removed, stripped to bare wood, new glass and glazing putty with two coats oil based primer allowed to dry for several weeks. In July, I had a painter use oil based Benjamin Moore HC-107 (Gettysburg Grey) in two coats for all the windows. Because it didn’t seem like the paint was drying, I left my windows ajar until October when it got cold and I just had to close them. They essentially welded shut and when I opened them this spring the paint was pulled completely from one surface down to bare wood. Benjamin Moore blames the preparation, yet the same thing happened to my exterior doors without the extensive prep. I think their new low VOC formulation is to blame, but regardless I am left with a mess. If I sand and re-use another oil based enamel, can I add thinner (VOC) to enhance the drying process? Ben Moore hasn’t been very responsive in standing by their top shelf product.

    1. This is a helpful discussion, thank you. You can still buy oil paint in California. One thing I don’t hear is the lead in the oil based paint that was in the paint previous to 1976. I have a large kitchen that needs painting and it has flaking paint in the ceiling. All my doors and trim were painted previously with oil based and I don’t know what to do. In most of the DIY your self shows I see people sanding the wood trim, windows and cabinets without mentioning the dangers of lead.
      I live back east many years and did the sanding and repainting without any protection who know the damage it did.

      Any tips in how repaint surfaces that have was painted with paint oil based paint that contained lead paint?

      1. Kitchen was repainted with oil based about 20years ago it is now peeling. Can you tell me how to take on this project?

      2. All the door frames and molding were repainted but were originally painted with oil that has lead. How should I go about repainting with water based paint? There is also peeling.

      1. I’ve been using Dumond’s Smart Strip to remove 8-10 layers of glopped-on paint from the woodwork in our 1931-built home in Cleveland. The process of scraping off the paint residue is slow and labor intensive but dust free, because it’s a wet process. So, you don’t even need a respirator. The upper layers of paint in this house are latex and have caused the underlying oil paint to “bridge”–that is, to pull away from grooves in the woodwork, forming brittle bridges that break if you poke them with your finger. Therefore, removal down to bare wood has been necessary. Smart Strip is expensive but non-caustic, cleans up with soap and water, and is environmentally friendly–except to aquatic life–with zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Smells similar to Play-Doh. If you get any on your skin, you can walk, not run, to wash it off–no burns. I’ve learned I need to slather it on thickly, like icing a chocolate cake where I don’t want any cake showing through the icing. Although Dumond says you don’t need to cover Smart Strip with their plastic-coated paper (made for their caustic and toxic product, Peel Away), I find it essential. However, I substitute white freezer paper (much cheaper), plastic side down. Let the glop sit for 24 hours to remove latex paint, and up to 3 full days to soften old oil-based paint, which is very hard. With my situation–4-5 old and very hard oil-based, lead-containing layers under 4-5 sloppily-applied latex layers–I needed two coats. The latex bubbles up quickly and turns into fragile, rubbery sheets that may actually tumble off as you start peeling back the freezer paper (from the top down) while scraping downward with a plastic scraper. Use the paper to catch the residue, then fold up and discard. The oil layers require a second coat with a much longer “dwell time” under the freezer paper. I’ve learned to be careful about using plastic sheeting to protect the floor, and to use plastic tape OVER blue painter’s tape to protect the wall edges abutting the woodwork. I use a plastic grocery bag inside a paper grocery bag for the trash. You can clean your brush with soap and water; however, once you’ve reduced old oil paint to a reconstituted gloppy mess, you absolutely do need mineral spirits to clean up your plastic scrapers (not metal–wet wood is very soft). Wear non-disposable -type nitrile gloves throughout the process–the disposable ones disintegrate. I use Handmaster RSF18TS Green Universal Nitrile Chemical Gloves–which, happily for me, come in size small. Once the woodwork dries, you can do a little sanding, but keep it to a minimum and use a respirator with lead-rated filters. I use a 3M 7502 half-facemask with NIOSH-rated P100 filters (3M filter model 2091–pink). Very comfortable and not expensive. Also use a HEPA-bag vacuum and keep the nozzle next to your sandpaper as you work, as much as possible. Regarding your walls: I would not use Smart Strip on plaster walls, since plaster doesn’t like to be wet and will disintegrate. For your kitchen walls, you’ll probably need to go whole hog and follow EPA guidelines for lead dust containment. See:
        “Renovation, Repair and Painting Program: Do-It-Yourselfers”

  26. Some time ago, I used oil based primer, but it was drying to fast and I made a terrible mess and had to take it off. Is there a particular brand of oil based primer that doesn’t dry so fast that you recommend?

    1. There are slower drying oil based primers especially for wood that can take about 24 hrs. Adding some penetrol to your oil based paints will slow down the drying time as well.

        1. There are recommendations on the can but it really depends on personal preference and local conditions. Hot, cold, humid, dry…they all affect the drying time so modify accordingly.

  27. We have 40 year old grasscloth wallpaper we plan to paint and I wonder if just using an oil based paint would get it down to one coat and would not affect the wallpaper paste. The wallpaper is not loose anywhere.

  28. My kitchen cabinets were painted black with a top oil-based paint 7-8 years ago. The job was well-done: sanded, primed, painted. At this point, around the pulls and on some corners, the black paint has rubbed off. I will touch up the black paint, but I am wondering if I should put a finish over the paint after it cures so that it lasts longer. Thank you.

  29. hi scott i work in a school that all the walls are painted with oil what do you recommend to prep the walls with to paint over the oil with latex

  30. Help?.. I really need to find out if I should use oil or water based paint on my newly glazed windows and french doors! Everywhere on this site and around the net, it says “use oil based paint” and i guess it’s due to the oil in the DAP glazing putty (?) and to protect the putty better. But, i live in California and these doors and windows gets full blazing sun all day. (btw, yes you can buy oil based paint in California). These doors were painted with oil based paint before, but it dried and flaked off so badly that I had to strip the doors, remove the old putty and glaze again. I just don’t want the same thing to happen again, so please, pretty please, help a girl out. What paint to use? Thank you in advance!

    1. I use water based paint on my sashes here in Florida, but you can use either water or oil. If you use oil based just make sure there is enough skin on the glazing putty before you paint because fresh oil paint on fresh glazing putty can cause the putty to re-emulsify.

      1. oops, don’t think my follow up question got posted, so I’m just going to try again. Thank you for your quick reply though!! I already have some Killz water based exterior primer, but I’ve read elsewhere (the expert housepainter .com) to use oil based primer first and then do the top coats with a water based paints. What’s your thoughts on best procedure?

  31. Jessica- Brush marks your getting when priming the door may also come from using a cheapo throw away brush!! happened to me lol. I switched over to a quality brush for the second coat and came out great. You get what you pay for. Remember that please.

  32. Oil painted old lino floor. Turned out very well. Would like to put a non yellowing coating on it for protection. Any suggestions? It has a white background.

    1. Diane, if you painted using a white oil-based paint then that will yellow slightly over the years. If you used a quality enamel paint on the floor then no sealer would be necessary. If you didn’t then I would recommend a porch and floor type enamel meant for foot traffic.

  33. I am painting a hardwood floor with oil based paint (black) Every application I do, I get pain streaks and uneven sheen, What am I doing wrong?

  34. Hi Scott. I just paid a painter to paint the bedroom trim. He used a semi gloss oil based paint. I don’t like semi gloss. My question is what prep work needs to be done to paint oil over oil but change the sheen from semi gloss to eggshell? The original paint on the trim was also an oil based paint.

    1. Patty, you can paint a new coat of oil based right over that new coat. You may want to scuff the paint lightly with a 220 grit sanding sponge to give it better adhesion before adding the new coat though.

  35. Hi Scott. I just painted my bathroom walls with latex paint (no primer. I noticed after anyone showered the paint would peel off easily (There is no window in the bathroom, but there is a fan that we do use while showering). In fact the paint easily peeled off the walls. I am assuming that the wall was previously painted with oil based paint. I want to repaint it with the same latex paint.

    I just read through your blog entry and all the comments…I had a few questions.

    I know I should peel all the paint off of the wall.

    Can I skip sanding? Or do I have to sand the walls down?

    Can I use Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 Water Based primer? Or do I have use oil based Primer? I want to use latex paint on top of the primer.

    Thanks in advance for your reply!

    1. Susan, that stinks! Yeah, I would remove all the peeling paint layer and then prime with the Zinseer which should work just fine then do your top coats. No sanding necessary. It might be helpful to wipe the walls down with TSP or a paint deglosser prior to priming to help with adhesion as well.

  36. Hi Scott,
    Thanks for the tip last time.
    I have now repainted my door with water based paint. However, I have a brush bristle stuck to the coat of new paint applied to the door. How can I remove the brush bristle?
    Many thanks.

  37. We blew in insulation in September and now the outside walls are bubbling and cracking where they drilled holes to blow in the insulation. The company states that the bubbling is from previous owners using water based paint over oil based paint, but 3 outside walls that were not drilled into are not bubbling. Does this sound like a paint issue?

    1. Lauren it sounds like a moisture problem caused by the insulation. I’m not sure without seeing for myself, but it’s not uncommon for insulation blown ingot the walls of old houses to cause moisture problems since there are usually no vapor barriers or building wrap to keep the insulation dry. Try testing the moisture content of the siding on the insulated walls and comparing it to the uninsulated ones. If the siding is significantly higher then it’s time to call the insulation company back and see how they plan to fix things.

  38. I made a mistake and bought oil based white kiltz to cover painted ivy on my walls. I went ahead and used it. Now I’m wondering what paint to use to cover the oil based paint?

  39. Hi Scott,
    I want to repaint my room. Two of the 4 walls have a green oil based paint applied to it. I want to repaint with grey or white. I dont mind repainting with oil based paint again (it took foreverrrr to dry the first time) as long as I dont need to sand it? Is that possible? Could I just use a primer over it and repaint directly?

    Been googling for an hour now trying to find a answer but can’t find anything specific for what I need. Hope you can help me.

    Thank you!

  40. I recently used an oil based paint for metal on my fireplace doors. That being said I love the color. I believe that I rushed the paint process and now I have brush marks that I don’t love. Is there any way I can fix this? Thank you in advance.

  41. Hi Scott,
    If I would like to touch up oil based paint on the bathroom door, do I need primer when using oil based paint again or I can just directly apply the oil based paint to the spot?
    Alternatively, if I would like to switch to water based paint for the touch up process, which primer should I apply on top of the oil based paint? Should it be be an oil based primer or a water based primer?
    Many thanks in advance.

    1. Dawn, to just touch up a section I would lightly sand with 220 grit and then touch up the area. To repaint with water-based paint I would prime the door first with an oil-based primer and then repaint.

  42. When painting with oil based paint, do I need to remove the masking tape right away, or can I leave it on for 8 hours, paint a second coat and then remove the tape?

  43. Hi,

    I am a great fan of oil-based paints, but when you say oil based paint dries in 8, 16 or even 24 hours, I have found that that is not quite true, certainly not if the surface will be in contact with other painted surfaces.

    When I paint shelves, I’ve found that I want to leave the shelf as long as a week before storing things on them long term, or solid objects might stick/ tack.

    1. Stahl, agreed! There is a big difference between dry and cured. Most oil-based paints are dry to the touch in about 8 hours, but not ready for a recoat for at least 24 hrs, but I wouldn’t put objects on a shelf or something similar for at least a week or until the paint is fully cured at about 30 days. It’s a different world with oil paint.

  44. You mention that oil-based is better for old houses, but don’t really say the exact reasons why. We are fixing up a 1930s wooden house in Hawaii with original doug-fir and redwood walls. Some have said to use oli-based primer to cover up the lead paint. is that true? Another question, our oil-based primer has been sitting covered for a few months as we moved onto the next room sanding and prepping and now has a thin film on it the consistensy of caramel. It could easily be taken off with a stir stick. Should that be stirred in or taken off. Thanks for the blog and the help!

    1. Stephanie, oil primers penetrate into wood more than latex and thus provide more protection. I’d remove any film before stirring the can well and then make sure to filter the paint thru a screen of some sort before you start using it to avoid clumps.

  45. Hi Scott,
    Thank you for the post on this topic! I have been painting my window with oil base paint and have been struggle great deal as I keep either get brush marks or running. I have been repeat few time by re-sand and re-paint but not much of improvement. Do you recommend to mix the oil base paint with mineral spirit? Will that get the paint job easier? Will that reduce the quality of the paint some how?

  46. Scott – Due to a medical condition, my son takes extended hot showers in a small bathroom with no windows. I just finished two coats of latex paint on the walls but I’m thinking it will never survive the heavy moisture buildup on a daily basis. Do I need to go ahead and bite the bullet and use an oil-based primer as well as an oil-based enamel to seal those walls from the excessive moisture?

    Thanks for the insights – DW

    1. David, the best thing you can do to protect yourselves against the moisture is to install a bath fan in the room. Whichever kind of paint you use there will still be moisture issues unless you find a way to help the humid air exit the building promptly.

      1. Gotcha – there is a fan in there and I’m looking at upgrading it so that it moves a LOT more moist air out of there. I just wanted to verify that the additional painting was worthwhile. After all the work prepping the walls and getting two coats of top-shelf latex on there, I was crushed to hear that I really should be using oil-based. Before starting on this, I had asked two other people with “experience” and they felt like the latex would be fine.

        1. Oil based paint is great for bathrooms. Latex paint, however, provides a matrix for mold growth and if you prep with TSP (trisodium phosphate), youve just added the fertilizer! Yes, latex contains “mildewicides” but its still inferior to oil. Oil based paint washes well so surfaces that are touched alot, like doors, cabinets, trim and furniture, are easy to clean. Hard, washable and long lasting (I consider long lasting to be eco-friendly!) you can also renew oil based paint surfaces with carnuba wax and buffing with a soft cloth. Both latex and acylic will become tacky with finger traffic and cleaning the surface often softens or removes the paint. IMO latex trim is tacky–in more ways than one! Bathroom ceilings should be painted with oil based to keep mold from growing high up in the corners. Oil based paint isnt available in matte finishes but I LOVE Benjamin Moore low lustre satin IMPERVO alkyd enamel. BM IMPERVO is also available in high gloss alkyd. Tho BM is coming out with new generation enamels, old school alkyd impervo is still available and unparalleled for bathrooms, doors, window sashes and trim. Oil based impervo has gotten expensive but it can last a lifetime when a good paint job is important. Paint formulations are changing quickly with new standards and some paints havent yet been tested by time.

          1. Suzanne, while I am a huge fan of Impervo, any oil-based paint has a greater chance of fostering mildew than latex. Being in a humid climate like Florida I’m well acquainted with the joys of mildew on paint. I say stay away from oil-based paints in bathrooms.

          2. Gotcha. I live in Colorado and have never seen mildew grow on oil, latex yes. Much, much drier climate than Florida. Really enjoy your blog BTW!

  47. I’m confused! Painted new front door with exterior acrylic now need to repaint door facing that has been painted with enamel. What prep should I do to the door facing before I paint the facing with the exterior acrylic?

  48. Hello,
    Do you have any recommendations to cover/seal Creosote on my subfloor? I purchased Behr Floor and Porch oil based paint, but I’m second guessing this decision.

    The floor is clearly oily and I’d like to cover this nasty chemical.

    I will also need to finish up my project with latex paint due to a technique I plan to apply.

    Please help!
    Thank you

  49. I should also mention I have an EPDM membrane under this deck which is situated and a second level above a 1st floor porch.

  50. I have a two story deck that has never been stained or painted. It’s been over 2 years and was growing mold and mildew. I sprayed and pressure washed everything using a combination of bleach, water, and an alkaline solution called “The Brown Stuff”.
    I can’t say that all of the mold and mildew spots are gone as lighter black dots or spots continue after I sprayed and washed twice. My plan is to use B. Moore oil based primer, followed by latex porch paint on the deck surface, latex semi gloss satin paint on the railings, posts, & pergola, and Silken latex stain on the siding that was pre primed with oil-based primer.
    Please advise me what are the best / most efficient steps to take to provide the longest lasting, less maintenance solution to my dilemma. I’m considering using the product copper coat before any more priming.

  51. My son wants to have a tagging birthday party with all his friends. We are redoing his room which has wallpaper currently. We plan on using an oil base paint to paint over the wall paper. Will the spray paint stick to the oil base paint?

    1. My kitchen cabinets were painted black with a top oil-based paint 7-8 years ago. The job was well-done: sanded, primed, painted. At this point, around the pulls and on some corners, the black paint has rubbed off. I will touch up the black paint, but I am wondering if I should put a finish over the paint after it cures so that it lasts longer. Thank you.

  52. Hello Scott, I want to paint my daughters closet doors with a chalkboard paint. Her closet was painted many years ago with an oil based paint. I don’t want to sand it, and am hoping a primer will do the trick? I painted my oil based bathroom a while ago, primed it first, then painted, and I can scrape it off with my fingernail. I used what the salesperson recommended at the paint store, but obviously it didn’t work. I’d like to avoid this on her closet doors! She’ll be using chalk markers, (not traditional chalk), which requires a damp cloth to remove. What do you recommend?

    1. Lorna, a light sanding followed by an oil-based primer is the best way to ensure that your finish paint will stay for the long haul. It may be a little extra effort but it always pays off in the end.

  53. I’m currently painting the radiators in my 1922 brownstone. I’ve scraped, sanded, and cleaned them and have done one coat of oil primer. Should I sand with 220 before starting my top coat or is that unnecessary when painting metal? Also, can I wrap my oil brush in plastic until the next day when I apply more coats or should I be cleaning after every coat with mineral spirits? Thanks in advance!

  54. We installed several new “primed” replacement Anderson wood casement windows. We painted them with an exterior latex paint with primer. Now the windows won’t close completely. I think that maybe the wood swelled due to humidity and rain. I think that maybe we should have used an oil-based primer. Do you think that is what happened? Is there any way to fix it at this point? Thanks so much for any input you can provide.

    1. Julie it might be swelling or it might also be from the latex paint which can cause the windows to stick in place and be difficult to operate. Try sanding a little and waxing the any parts of the window that rub.

  55. I am about halfway through a kitchen cabinet re-do with oil based paints. I submitted a previous comment in April and asked you a few questions then (I’ve gotten quite distracted with other projects and am a notorious procrastinator). I primed my laminate cabinets with zinsser and now have done 1 coat of oil based paint on each of the cabinets. I am noticing that my brush stroke marks are significant and noticeable. I was wondering if you thought that using a foam applicator for the remaining coats would solve the issue, and if not, what would? Also, how many coats of the oil based paint do you think will be sufficient for kitchen cabinetry?

  56. Question?new ceiling in small bath. Primed with KILZ I need to reprime for oil base paint or have I gone to far?

  57. Hello everyone.Just one question. If I use oil primer to paint my chairs and table dinner. Witch kind of paint should be use. Latex??


  58. We’re painting cabinets using oil based enamel over old stain which has been sanded. Is mineral spirits best to use to remove any residue and can paint be applied soon after? Also after painting when is the best time to remove edge tape to prevent any peeling of paint? Thanks.

  59. I have some beutiful built-in cabinets in my bathroom. The problem is that prior to me buying my house someone spray painted white (prob latex paint) over the origonal oild based paint. I recently hoping the white paint would act as a primer painted pver top of these cabinets, now the paint is just peeling off.

    Do you have any suggestions? Do I need to strip them? Or. Can I peel away whatever paint is coming off, prime and start again?

    Thank you for any imput, I would really like to have these for many years to come.

    1. It depends on how bad the paint is right now. For the longest lasting paint job I would strip it down and prime with an oil based primer and a couple coats of oil-based paint. You may be able to get away with just sanding the paint smooth and then priming if it isn’t coming off in sheets.

  60. Hi Scott,
    A so called painter put Coranado Polyurethane Rust Scat[rust prevenitive coating] Enamel on textured hollow core interior doors[not metal doors] and wood casings around doors. The odor is intense. I am wondering if I can cover with a semi gloss oil base and what the procedure should be? Please help Thanks!!!

  61. We’re the process of restoring an 1860 brick farmhouse in PA. Our plan is to use traditional linseed oil paint (Allback) on the trim both inside and out. Outside first applying raw linseed oil to help restore the old dried wood. Do you have any experience/advice for us?

  62. We’re having all running trim and millwork in our home painted with a dark bronze oil based satin paint after minimal sanding over white oil based existing paint. The supposedly low sheen paint is turning out a high gloss with far too much reflection and blemish revelation. Is there any way to prevent the higher gloss look or is it possible the paint was mixed incorrectly?

    1. Keith depending on the brand of paint you’re using oil-based enamels often dry to a high gloss finish and take about a week to reach their satin sheen. If it’s been longer than a week you’ll likely need to repaint with a new sheen. Test it first to make sure.

  63. I have recently stepped into a painting nightmare. We bought our house and are wanting to repaint our trim (its a dark almond, I prefer WHTIE).
    Here is what I have done:
    – “tested” to see if I have oil or latex. I used both “goof off” and rubbing alcohol and with both I was able to remove paint from my trim.
    – After thinking my trim was latex I bought Sherwin Williams Harmony paint. I did not sand the trim only painted it. And yes it did fail and will come off easily with my fingernail.
    – Next I bought Sherwin Williams Pro Classic, which was suppose to have high adhesion. Again I just applied paint. It too in places has failed and will peel off easily with my nails.
    – Then, feeling frustrated I contacted a painter to get a quote to have ALL of my doors and trim painted. The painter felt that the trim was oil based. (he did this based on look and touch)
    – Finally I went back and purchased an oil based primer (pro block), then followed up with the Pro Classic trim paint
    I have tested this in 3 areas. 1 out of the three had good adhesion. the others were hit and miss.

    What can I do to avoid sanding the trim and doors? should I try the primer then paint route again?

    Truly I am at my wits end with this trim painting project.

    1. Forgot to mention I would prefer to use Latex Paint. The Pro Classic and Harmony I bought were both latex as well.

      1. Just wiping with liquid deglosser before painting (whether it is over oil or latex) you won’t have to sand or scrape!!! It will not chip or peel. I have been refinishing furniture and trim for years deglosser has saved me a LOT of time throughout the years. You do have to get it from a hardware or paint store. You will not find at Walmart or target. Hope this helps!!

  64. Hi. I’m painting a wooden boat with oil based paint. We have a lot of problems with chipping because of boaty stuff. I’m considering, instead of using wood primer, doing a first coat of paint thinned with 3 parts boiled linseed oil for good penetration, then a second coat with less oil, and a top coat of straight paint. Do you have any experience with this? I’m particularly worried about drying time.

    1. Anything painted by the ocean is all ways a maintenance issue. If you’ve allready primed the surface, coating it with boiled linseed oil is only going to cause topcoat adhesion problems because the linseed oil will only stay on the surface, not soak in and take for ever to dry. Sand your primer to give “tooth” , tack it and apply your finish coats thinned no more than one part thinner to three parts finish.Sand between coats and make sure the prior coats are dry prior to finish.Check it by dragging your fingernails across it or putting some masking tape on the surface and pulling it off. Moisture in the air will cause problems with drying, adhesion and flattening especially on horizontal surfaces so work with the weather.Be prepared for the maintenance because you’ll be touching up once a year.

  65. Hi painted two small bookshelves with oil based paint in hope to achieve the high gloss finish… its hasn’t been 24 hours but the paint looks very messy and its not settling or reducing the appearance of brush strokes like a imagined. Should I recoat? Sand it down a bit? Wait the full 24 hours and then decide? I’ve got to save these bookshelves.. please advice!

    1. Brittney, wait a full 24 hrs and then you can make the decision. You may have to sand smooth and add another coat. Try adding some Penetrol to help thin the paint and let it flow out better. Also make sure you are using a quality brush and not brushing to much.

    2. Did you use an oil primer? Did you sand first to at least 120? Did you sand between the 2 coats of primer and again to 180 or above and clean the dust off before painting? Did you sand w/220 and clean the dust off before the next coat? Did you use the correst brush and methods of tipping off, etc. and use a good quality paint, not the most “popular” brand? Then it should be just how you wanted it to be!

  66. We have a house built in the 1940’s that has cedar tongue and groove board that have had linsee oil applied to them. The board are really dark making the house really dark. We would like to white wash the boards. when we went into a paint store, the indicated we could not do that. Would live your advice on how we can white wash these walls.

    1. Randi, as long as the linseed oil is old and been on longer than a month you can definitely paint over it. To white wash it try diluting some white paint with water brushing it on and then immediately wiping off the excess. Good luck!

      1. What a relief. You’re first to say I can paint on top of old linseed oil! Your comment was for someone wanting to whitewash. I have a treated peacock chair so I’d probably gold wash. What type of paint and what ratio to dilute with water, please?
        I was on the verge of simply dry brushing the chair until I read your comment.
        Am so excited. Please provide needed details. Thanks very much!

  67. Hi Scott,

    We moved into a house in the Northeast that has oil based paint on exterior trim. Not sure when last painted but lots of cracking and chipping of the paint. Painter suggested putting oil based primer and then switching to latex paint as feels will easier to deal with and will weather better. Seems from your blog that once you put the latex on, would be difficult to go back to oil in future. I do like the smoothness of the oil and do not want my windows and doors to ‘stick’ after they are painted. For exterior trim, what would you suggest? If go with latex, is there a better quality exterior paint that will mimick oil based?

  68. I have brand new pressure treated wood can I use water paint as primer then use oil as top coat? This is in a climate. Looking forward in hearing from you. Thanks. By the way what will be the long effect on the wood? The oil primer would get into the board better than the water base is not so.

    1. Walter, you can prime or paint pressure treated wood for several weeks until it dries out. A moisture content below 16% is best before painting. And you can only coat latex primer with latex paint. If you use an oil primer you can top coat with latex or oil based paint.

    2. Pressure treated wood…not sure what your doing with it but I’d consider “not” to paint but to “stain”…you won’t have to paint again…just a thought, Ben.

  69. Hi Scott,
    I need your advice. We bought a house and my painter used 1 coat of latex paint over oil-based paint on the trim and doors without any primer/prepping. The latex paint comes off/peels off very easily when you touch it. I have fired the painter and hired a new one. The new painter says to paint oil-based on top of latex now. Should I do latex now as we already have one coat of latex paint? How to avoid further peeling? Thanks so much!

    1. Olga, first you’ll need to remove the latex paint if it is peeling and has bonding issues before you do anything else. Then prime with an oil-based primer and paint with your choice of oil or latex paint.

      1. Thank you, Scott! That was fast :).
        The latex paint is not actively peeling. It was painted only about a week ago. But if I brush my finger against it just once(finger, not even nail), it comes off so easily. Do you think it is still best to go through the steps you listed above? Thanks a bunch!

  70. I have an okd farm house built in1893 with plaster walls coated with layers of wallpaper. I do not want to strip the wallpaper, which is adhered very well. The Home Depot workers reconmended oil based primer followed by latex. also what do you mean by prepping?

  71. Hi Scott,
    I stumbled upon your blog while looking for good info on oil based paints. I have ugly yellow laminate cabinetry that is in great condition (installed in 1973) and am looking forward to repainting it. I am going to go with a navy-black for the lowers and white for the uppers. I am wondering if i need to sand prior to priming (planning on zinsser for the primer). If i prime with the white zinsser, is it helpful to get a darker tinted primer for the lower cabinets? my kitchen is a typical L-shaped with only one small window–is this sufficient ventilation? I have painted many many things but never used oil based paints. I am worried my two small dogs might have some issues with the fumes considering the lengthened dry time with oil based products. Any help you could offer is appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Emily, tinting the primer for the darker paints will help you cover in fewer coats. For ventilation try putting a fan in the window to help pull the air out. At least some sanding will help greatly with adhesion. Try using a 220-grit paper before priming.

  72. Scott, I have to agree with Kerri on Nov, 19, 2014 regarding painting water-based paint over oil-based painted surfaces. I have seen too many disasters when this method was used. Terrible mistake.

    I have painted oil over oil on trims etc many times and never felt I needed to prime first. Maybe I’ll try priming next time, just to see If it makes a difference.

    Thank you for your blog!

  73. Hi I’m looking into repainting an old swing sign for a pub. I believe that it is a aluminium sign I know I have to sand and scrape all the old paint then prime at least 2 coats and sand in between but where do I go after that what paints should I use.

    1. Ive HerD One Shot enamel Will Be The Best For The Lettering But It’s The Point From Priming To Lettering That Im Stuck On As Well As Finishing.

  74. Thanks for these tips. I just used an oil-based black paint on ceramic tile…so far, so good (waiting for it to fully dry). But I have another question. We have a steel door to our garage that our dog has scratched down to the metal. We decided to repaint it black and not knowing any better, applied latex paint (we were told it would act as its own primer and applied 2 coats). Within one day, the dog had scratched it down to metal again. Now I would like to try the black oil-based, Benjamin Moore “Direct-To-Metal” paint I used on the tile. Most of the door is still covered with the black latex. Can we just paint it all with the oil-based? This paint also says it can be used as primer. Will it matter that some is applied to the latex and some directly to the metal? Sorry for this long, long question! I appreciate your help!

  75. I just moved into a house where a smoker had been living. Nothing extreme, but there were some nicotine stains on the wall. My painter said that to properly cover the stains, he’d need to use an oil-based primer under the no-VOC latex paint we chose. That was about 2.5 weeks ago and the room still has a very strong smell despite daily ventilation. I should note that I live in a cold region of the US, so the air has been cold. Any advice on how to hurry up the curing/dying process? This is of special concern given that it’s my 2-year-old’s bedroom.

    1. Tony, that’s extremely unusual. The primer should have cured within days and the 0-VOC paint shouldn’t have any fumes. I’d call in another painter for a consult.

  76. After applying a coat of oil-based semi-gloss, I realized that some spots needed some caulking which I did and now want to add a 2nd coat in some spots. It has been a few days since it was painted so the paint is fully hardened and smooth. Should I prep by sanding or cleaning before applying the 2nd coat?

  77. I have enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks for all the good information. I need to give our baseboards and picture frame molding a fresh coat of paint. It was originally done in oil based paint and planning to recover with oil. My question is do I have to sand all the baseboards and molding before giving a new coat? It is good condition no chips or anything.

    1. You may be able to get away with either for a while, but latex is more flexible than oil. As oil ages it gets harder and won’t be able to withstand the movement of the latex paint underneath it. Causing it to crack and fail prematurely.

      1. For easel painting, the gesso medium for canvas or panels is acrylic based and then the oil or oil paint plus a synthetic medium can go on top. Or you can do an underpainting of acrylic paint and glaze on top with oil for richer color or an “old master’s” effect. I guess artist painting is totally different from house painting, especially outside.

        I have also read the cold-pressed boiled linseed oil resists mildew much better than the type you get at the hardware store. And that the artic-grown flax (the source of linseed) protects better than flax grown at lower latitudes. Of course what works in the North may not work in humid Orlando.

        There is a Swedish manufacturer (Alback and others) of very traditional varnishes, paints, waxes and soaps using this sort of oil. Very expensive, but suitable for the finest preservation projects. And there is an American-made version as well.
        Check it out at:


        // (with video)

        // (American Distributor)

        Pros and Cons of Allback paint–long discussion //

        For a discussion of different linseed oils for artist paints and how to make your own mediums:



  78. Scott,
    I have read through all of these questions and your responses and I must say…you have been VERY helpful! I am in the process as we speak of refurbishing my bathroom wood vanity (oak). I am using an oil based primer (Zinsser) and I will allow that to dry before using an oil based dark brown paint (Glidden). I had the primer tinted to a darker color because I was told that it helps with the coverage of your paint (less paint required). So far it is covering quite well and I am excited about the seeing the finished product. My question is, should I lightly sand the primer before applying the top coat of paint? Or is it ok to go ahead and paint right on top of the primer? Also, how long should I wait before putting the doors back on the vanity and do I need to apply a sealer on top of the dried paint? Thank you again for your helpful tips!

  79. Painted my kitchen with BEHRS sandwash paint in 2007,the paint is no longer available at Home Depot.Need to repaint some walls and heard that the sandwash paint needs to be repainted with a oil based primer and paint.Any advice

    1. Chris, sandwash paints can fail if they are coated with a water-based paint. I would prime with an oil-based primer and then you can top coat with standard water-based paint afterward.

  80. What are your thoughts on using liquid sander products on oil based paint? All the trim and doors in our 1970 house is painted and it is lead based so don’t want to sand it but want to repaint it

    1. Sarah, I dont have a lot of experience with them, but usually a good oil primer will be sufficient to give your topcoat good adhesion. I’d try a test in an inconspicuous area first.

  81. In art class, I learned some neat tricks to dealing with oil paint that might work here too. Take a large peanut butter jar and clean out well. Put a tuna or other flat can with holes punched in the bottom with the holes facing up (can use an 8-penny nail to punch holes and be generous). Pour odorless mineral spirits to about an inch or two above the can. Then when you clean your brush (like a small sash brush)dab the brush against the top of the can to work most of the paint out, and then finish off in another (similar) container. For artist style brushes, you can use the thinner almost indefinitely, just pouring out the sludge once in a while and topping off the mineral spirits. The can separates the good thinner from the bad.

    I bet a similar set-up can be made with a larger sealable container and galvanized hardware cloth for larger brushes.

    Artist grade brush soap can help keep natural bristle brushes in good condition. Plus always hand shape the brush after cleaning and hang to dry.

    Paint brushes left for just a short time (at most overnight) can be wrapped in plastic and put in the freezer or fridge.

  82. Hi, i used Sherwin Williams primer and then a Purdy brush to apply Sherwin Williams pro classic enamel. Not sure wut went wrong but I have drips and brush marks. When I only used a light coat, the brush strokes were worse. When I used a heavier coat, i got drips. Please help!

    1. Barb, a thin coat dries out too fast and leaves brush marks whereas a thick coat tends to run. Add some Penetrol if you’re using the oil-based version (floetrol for water-based) to help slow the drying time and eliminate brush marks. And then find the sweet spot of how much paint to load on your brush. Practice makes perfect!

  83. Hi Scott! So glad I found your blog. Lots of useful information here!
    I need to repaint a wood desk chair. About thirty years ago, I stripped it down and applied high-gloss oil-base enamel. I must have done ok, because the only reason I want to repaint is to change the color. I’d like to use another high-gloss enamel when I redo it. So … scuff, prime, paint? What kind of primer and paint would you recommend (going from a medium blue to grayish-green)? I like the look of the oil-base enamel, but don’t really like working with oil-base paints. I’ll do either, though. Whichever is likely to work best. Many thanks for any advice you could give! 🙂

    1. Sheryl, I’d go with a fast dry oil-based primer and then use another oil-base enamel to stand up to the punishment of daily use. Take a look at Ben Moore Impervo which is absolutely incredible and super hard finish.

  84. Hello- we bought a house built in 1922, and much of the trim was painted in oil paint. How best to paint over this now with latex paint? In particular, the bathroom. Do I need an oil or water based primer? do you have one you would recommend for trim and around the original window?

    1. Wells, If you are going to paint with a latex paint then I would prime with an oil-based primer first. Or you can just put another coat of oil-based paint over the existing without priming.

      1. Thanks for the response! Our house does not get a lot of direct sunlight, so most of the oil painted trim is now a slight yellow. The loss of white is my main reason for wanting to switch out of oil. Do you have any advice for switching when you suspect the trim has lead paint underneath? I was recommended to me that I sand the trim, but my husband is worried about that.

  85. Hi Scott,

    Our house was built in 1977, in my ignorance, when we first purchased the house I painted all of the trim, doorways and doors in Valspar Paint and Primer Latex. After awhile EVERYTHING started peeling off like sunburned skin. It has been a nightmare. Recently, I have started scraping the paint off one room at a time and sanding everything. I know oil paint looks better but I just hate working with it. What can I do to get everything where it won’t peel but bypass using oil paint? Any primer or bonding suggestions? I haven’t sanded anything down to barewood, I’ve only sanded all the latex paint off but the oil paint is still there. Would I need to completely sand the oil paint off too?

    Thanks for the help!

    1. Kristin, if you have glossy trim the paint will have a hard time sticking to it. I would recommend scuffing the surface up a bit to give the paint something to hold onto and then apply a latex or oil-based primer before you try repainting. Try a Sherwin-Williams product call ProClassic “Acrylic/Alkyd” or Ben Moore “Advanced” They are water based paints that dry like an oil-based enamel. Easy clean up and hard finish coat.

  86. I have found your info on oile based paints great. I need to invest ina primer. I am painting an old deck and railing, wood is pourous and soaked up first coat on deck. Second coat came out better. I thought to paint the hand rails with an oil based paint, but you have mentioned a mildew build up over time. Being in the thumb of michigan with the temp swingning all over and a moist atmosphere, what would you recomend? Do I need to scrap the deck and start over (ha ha)?

    1. For outdoor projects a water-based paint is usually best or in your case a deck paint. Make sure it’s something designed for decks or floors and can stand up to the brutal weather it will endure.

  87. I want to paint a metal front door that is forty years old. It is well protected from the weather by a covered porch. Do I really have to use oil based paint? I have painted the inner side of the door with latex and it looks great. Should I use a brush with oil based paint or have it spray painted on the outside. I’m kind of chicken to do this.

    1. Latex paint will work fine for the door. The latex may stick a bit when the door is opened and closed but the oil could possibly mildew over the years since it’s outdoors. Either way has its down sides.

  88. Thanks for the information about oil paints. It was recommended to me to use Glidden Porch and Floor Polyurethane Oil Paint (PF8090-01 on on a project and I was wondering if you could provide any input.
    My son is working on an Eagle Scout project. There is a wooden staircase at a local park that has fallen into disrepair. He is planning on fixing it up and repainting it. The current paint (not sure if it’s oil or latex, how can I tell?) is coming off of the wood in many places. It will need to be scraped (wire brushes?) of loose paint, then repainted. What type of paint would you recommend? We’d prefer something that doesn’t require primer (self-priming paint) if there is something that will work well. Do I have to worry about new paint adhesion to the paint that is still firmly stuck to the wood? Any advice you can offer would be appreciated.

    1. Nate, priming is always helpful for a lasting paint job especially on something that will be outside or be subjected to foot traffic. I have never used the Glidden Porch & Floor so I can’t say how it is. For porches I’ve been using Sherwin-Williams Sher-Cryl with great results. It’s water based so it won’t mildew and it has some of the most tenacious grip on whatever surface you paint it onto. It dries to an extremely hard finish too. Whatever you decide to do I would definitely prime first. The idea of self-priming is a bit silly to me. A primer prepares the surface so the paint will adhere better.

  89. Hello,
    I painted my outside door with an oil based paint. I prepped it just like your instructions. It looks terrible. Also the paint was thick and left brush marks. I read that you can mix some mineral spirits in the paint to make it spread on smoother. Is this true and how much do you add to a quart? After letting it dry should I sand then apply another coat or is this not necessary since I sanded it in the beginning?

    1. Cheryl, what kind of paint did you use and how old was it? I would sand smooth the coat you applied and add a second coat. Try these tips:
      1) You can add mineral spirits to thin the paint, but I would recommend a product called Penetrol (can be found at your local paint store). It thins the paint and extends the drying time so as to help eliminate brush marks.
      2) Make sure you brush the paint on and lightly tip off the surface to help eliminate brush marks as well.
      3) Also, once you’ve tipped off don’t go back over the areas you’ve painted. Let them dry and the paint will level out better.

  90. Oh darn…Benjamin Moore Paint store no longer carries the Impervo in quarts, so I tried Impervex, which is water-based. I’m happy to report this is the BEST water-based paint for my old house.
    I will use this always. Also has the nice mellow white that suits a vintage

  91. Scott, is there any way to store a paintbrush used for oil based latex between the 24 hour coat applications? I hate cleaning up after each coat, just to have to get out a new brush the next day while the other one dries!

  92. I live in Honolulu and I am renovating a 1940’s house. All the door & window trim, ceiling molding and baseboards I have painted in oil. I use Benjamin Moore’s Impervo paint and the sheen is perfect for an old house;the mellow white is beautiful.

    I prefer using oil, I think it’s easier to clean the brushes, just swirl them around in paint thinner, takes 3 minutes
    and this chore is done.

    I will be painting my kitchen cabinets with Impervo-White. My primer for everything is oil-based Zinnser.

    I also paint furniture and I always use oil paint. Always enjoy reading your articles, Scott!

  93. I am painting a corn board game with oil paint. I will have three color, black,red and white, which color should be my base coat? And do I need to apply clear oil poly to seal and if I do do I sand my last coat before applying poly.

    1. Richard, the order of the paint colors will depend on the pattern you are painting. There’s no real right or wrong there. And you won’t need a clear coat afterward. Use a good enamel oil-based paint and then let the bean bags fly!

  94. Scott, I am a contractor and can use a lot of thinner to clean up. I use a few coffee containers and when I clean my brush, I put the used thinner into another container and cover. After a few days, the paint settles to the bottom of the used can and I then use the (mostly) good thinner over and over again. I hate to trash the environment any more than necessary, and this method saves me lots of money and is ecologically friendly!
    Thanks for your blog.

  95. I need to repaint my kitchen cabinets. They were originally spray painted with white lacquer. I would like to repaint with oil-based paint. Would 220 grit
    sandpaper & oil-based primer be the correct protocol? Thank you!

  96. Interior trim in our home is painted with oil paint. To repaint it, what is best to repaint with same color oil paint: 1. apply new oil paint over the old; 2. scuff the wood first, then paint; 3. apply primer then paint. Also, my hubby painted some areas with latex paint. How to handle this? I want to repaint with oil paint (looks so much better).

    1. Since the wood has already been painted with oil-based I would simply scuff the surface a bit before applying a fresh coat of oil-based.
      For the area with latex paint I would sand more thoroughly to remove as much latex as possible then prime with an oil-based primer before repainting with oil-based paint.
      Be sure to follow lead safe practices if you are sanding painted surfaces in an old house.

  97. Hi,
    I am working on an old house. Trying to repaint the trim. After scrapping off the old chipped paint, I got down to an even layer. I painted one doorway with an oil based enamel,after 12hrs it is still tacky.
    Do I just need to wait longer, it will need a second coat

    1. Ana, oil paint does take a long time to dry. The typical time necessary between coats is usually about 8 hrs. But if the weather is cold or humid that time can be slowed down significantly. And if the temperature is below 45 degrees or so the paint may not actually dry at all. I would wait till the paint is dry to the touch before recoating in your case.

  98. We painted a brand new steel door with black oil based paint. We have painted it with 2 coats of paint and it looks horrible! We can see brush marks and uneven texture all over the door. What should we do? We thought about lightly sanding it, then repainting another layer … But not for sure. I think latex would’ve been much easier!

    1. Sand the door with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it out and apply another coat of the oil-based paint. If you’re getting brush marks you are either brushing too hard or continuing to brush the paint as it starts to cure. Get the paint on quickly, then tip off the paint and leave it alone while it cures. Don’t try to fix any drips once it starts drying.
      Also, if the surface wasn’t smooth before you started painting you won’t be able to get a smooth surface in the end. Hope that helps!

  99. I am using oil based paint over a previous oil base on cabinet doors. It is a smooth surface and I was told I need to scuff sand the doors before painting. My question is what grit of sandpaper should I use and will the paint adhere if the sanding is too light?

    1. Chip, you’ll need to use a 220 grit sandpaper on the cabinets. Make sure you sand everything otherwise you may have adhesion problems. Using a good oil-based primer before painting would also help assure good adhesion by the new paint.

  100. I painted latex over sanded clean sliding closet doors and the paint peeled. I resanded the doors primed them with oil based primer, then used oil based semi-gloss with a foam roller. I think i went over the paint to often for I have uneven texture on some places on the doors. Can I just roll over the doors again with the paint, of course not as often this time?

  101. I certainly agree that you shouldn’t short cut any prep work, but as a professional paint here in UK, I have found it perfectly acceptable to put oil based finish over a good acrylic (water based) primer/ undercoat. Acrylic over poorly prepped oil based paint is a recipe for disaster!!!!

  102. A “professional” painter we hired put latex over oil-based. Of course, it peels and the painter is long gone. Thought we would have to sand down all the bad paint and then redo it. But if we could just prime and then use latex over it that would save us a lot of time. Any tips on how to do this?

    1. Chances are that if the paint is peeling off then he didn’t do a good enough prep job. I always prime before switching between oil and latex paint just to be sure it sticks, but the traditional thinking is that latex over oil is OK whereas oil over latex is a no, no!

      Unfortunately, If your paint is peeling off then the only way to get a solid coat of paint is to strip off the bad paint, prime and start again. Paint is only as good as the substrate it is painted on. And even if you do a quality paint job on top of his bad job it will still come off sooner than it should.

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