Oil vs. Latex Paint

90% of the time, I use latex paint because it's easier to clean up and dries much faster. But every once in a while, I haul out some oil paint and remember why oil is still superior for some tasks. Last weekend, I primed my wife's chaise lounge with oil-based primer (mostly because I have a 5-gallon container of it and only about a quart of latex primer left) and rediscovered the joys of oil paint:

  • It goes on smoothly. Latex paint goes on easily enough -- very little drag on the brush. But oil paint has a nice drag and the feel under the brush is smoother and the end result of one swipe of the brush is less likely to show brush marks.
  • It covers more thoroughly in one coat. Comparing white latex primer vs. white oil primer, the oil primer was the hands down winner.
  • It dries slowly, but when it's dry, it's dry. Have you ever noticed that latex paint will dry quickly, but (especially with semigloss) will seem tacky for days after it's dry? That is because it hasn't fully cured to its final hardness. Oil paint will take much longer to get beyond being tacky (overnight at least), but when it is dry, it's dry and hard.
  • It's dries harder. The coat of oil paint always seems to be more resistant to chips, dings, and dents. Plus, when it gives up the ghost, you don't get the latex tears in the finish -- it just chips off.
  • It stinks. Sorry, but oil-based paint just smells worse than latex paint.

There are some latex paints that come close, but by and large oil paints seem better for tasks like painting woodwork. I'd still choose latex for most of the jobs around here, but I have to remember that oil-based paint has its uses.