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The New and Improved Latex Paint

The New and Improved Latex Paint

Exterior renovationsThe New and Improved Latex Paint

This type of paint is often still linked to large-scale projects. However, nowadays, painting the whole inside of a house is nothing compared to what it was back in the day. 

Partly due to the products currently available on the market, and to basic know-how, one can achieve near-professional-looking results even as a novice in the field. Water-based paint (also known as latex paint) has replaced oil-based paints on our walls, and we couldn’t be happier about it. It’s easier to apply, quick-dry, and happens to be easier to clean too; its list of attributes is ever-growing. 

As the famous saying goes: Out with the old,—oil-based paint—in with the new—and improved water-based paint! 

What’s Latex Paint?

choosing a latex paint

Source: Canva

Latex paint differs from other products considering that it’s diluted with water. Latex paint was first used in Ancient Egypt. Nowadays, the latex paint we use doesn’t actually contain latex. Rubber tree sap, albeit natural is expensive, is no longer used as a bonding agent. The latter has been replaced by synthetic latex, like acrylic or polyvinyl acetate. These two man-made versions, though equally effective, now colour the walls of our homes. 

Present-day latex paint is an emulsion, which manifests as an aqueous dispersion of synthetic polymer. In other words, its polymer particles don’t dissolve in water. After painting a surface, the water evaporates and the particles adhere progressively to then form a continuous film that clings to the intended surface.

Each shade will create a dense surface once applied and is available in a variety of sheens. And, as a result, combined with the density of its binding agent, people have come to recognize latex paint as a high-level gloss paint. 

The Right Way to Apply Latex Paint

Latex paint is widely used in Canada but is especially popular in Quebec. It’s used indoors and outdoors, for residential projects, but also for commercial and institutional ones too. Basically, in seconds, it protects, colours, and adds life to various parts of a building. 

Whether it’s new construction, a renovation, or maintenance work, this type of paint will work great on most surfaces that have been adequately prepared: gypsum or fibreboard, wood, concrete or stucco, walls, ceilings, wood panelling, kids’ rooms, playroom, hallways, kitchens, bathrooms, etc. 

Its many benefits make it a great option in high-traffic areas and in rooms where walls require frequent cleaning.

Acrylic paint, which is a water-based paint, is comparable in terms of durability to former oil-based paints. Albeit more glossy than latex paint—and more capricious in terms of application…and a little harder to clean—withstands the harsh North Eastern weather to boot. It’s usually reserved for outdoor use.

Advantages of Water-Based Paint

blue latex paint

Source: Canva



Latex paint is available in several finishes, from matte to glossy, in a near-infinite amount of colours. 


Most formulas glide on without a fuss for an easy and effortless application. You can also easily touch up and correct any minor blunders.


Though one can use a fan to lessen the drying time, generally, a waiting period of 3 to 4 hours is needed before applying the next coat.


Good quality latex paint can conceal most colours with two coats. On new drywall, use a primer-sealer to primer and paint simultaneously.


Some latex paints, especially those with high levels of acrylic, are more resistant and durable than oil-based products. The new varieties of this paint type aren’t as subject to discolouration with outdoor use and yellowing when used indoors. Also, the lighter texture limits the risks of chipping or cracking. 


Water-based paint can be applied to a wide variety of materials, whether inside or outside.


Latex paint can be easily cleaned with a bit of soap and water. Better yet, numerous paint brands can withstand a good scrub while also maintaining their gloss and colour. And, during the painting process, the paintbrushes and rollers are super easy to clean!


In its “green” version, the ingredients used are often renewable, biodegradable, and non-toxic. It’s made with post-consumer recycled paint, and its manufacturing process generates fewer greenhouse gases than similar products.  


Latex paint conforms to Canadian regulatory requirements limiting VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) levels when it comes to architectural coatings. As such, it makes for a safer environment for children and pregnant women. VOCs are a mix of gases and odours emitted by toxins or chemical products which are found in a lot of products. Whether it’s short- or long-term, they can have serious repercussions on the health of the dwellers (eye, nose, or throat irritation, liver or kidney damage, cancer). 

Check out our article Is Zero-VOC Paint Always Eco-Friendly?


It’s also anti-static and a wise choice for individuals suffering from respiratory issues since this type of paint is dust-proof and doesn’t foster dust mite growth. 


Synthetic latex doesn’t emit any particular odour. It’s a non-toxic, water-based paint that’s also non-flammable.


A lot of latex paints can withstand humidity and aren’t likely to foster mould growth. Since it’s a breathable type of paint, simply allow the first coat to dry before applying the second one to ensure it isn’t retaining any moisture.

Lastly, high PH levels in paint containing lime slow down the proliferation of mould in very humid areas and prevent the use of toxic, antifungal products. 

Latex Paint and its Constraints

applying latex paint

Source: Canva

Holds up, unless…

Water-based paints don’t hold up as well on surfaces that are already coated with an oil-based product. However, oil-based paint surfaces can still be painted over with latex paint after applying a coat of ultra-adhesive acrylic primer. 

Are you unsure of whether the former paint is latex or oil-based? You can easily confirm it. 

Simply pour a few drops of methanol (gas line antifreeze) or an acetone-free nail polish remover on a pad and vigorously scrub the painted surface. If it’s an oil-based paint, the wall will retain its sheen. On the other hand, if the paint peels off, it’s indeed a latex product. 

When in doubt, you can simply use a primer before applying your colour

Greener, yes but…

While latex paints are considered less toxic or less pollutant than solvent-based paints, they’re still not without toxic substances. So-called “water-based” products are still, essentially, issued from petrochemical industry-made ingredients.

The pigments giving the paints their rich colours almost always contain VOCs. Certain chemical additives, biocides, or heavy metals can also be added to the recipe to prevent bacterial or mould growth or to enhance the product’s overall performance. These tiny particles will inevitably pollute our water streams. 

We have to ponder over the impact these chemical substances, especially those that seep into the makings of recycled paints, have on our health and environment. Contrary to popular belief, such paints still have to be brought to eco-centres once the work is done. 

Applying Latex Paint

latex paint and paintbrushes

Source: Canva

Steps to Follow

We can safely estimate that 80% of the time needed to carry out a paint job is dedicated to prep work and cleaning thereafter. Even if we prefer to start the project right away, the preparation stage is nonetheless a crucial step that can’t be rushed.

When it comes to the application process, here’s everything you need to know to avoid painting yourself into a corner!

1- Determine the amount of paint required

Measure the area in question prior to showing up at your local paint store. A 4-litre (1 gallon) can of paint usually suffices to cover a 37 m2 (400 sq.ft.) area. 

When you’re calculating the quantity of paint you need to purchase, take into account its coverage capacity. To paint over an especially dark surface, you’ll probably need to apply more than two coats. To minimize the amount of finishing coats required, you can always colour the primer so that it has the same shade as your paint. 

Upon purchasing, opt for the product(s) whose "made on" date is the most recent. Plan for slightly more paint than you actually need in case of a mishap: spilling over a can of paint can happen all too fast. However, it’s useless to store large quantities for other projects down the line; paint doesn’t keep longer than a year

Instead, keep track of the paint names or numbers in a booklet if you want to do touch-ups or repaint with the same colours.

2- Choose the right tools

Before undertaking the task at hand, make sure you have to right tools handy: protective tarps for the floors and heavy furniture that can’t be moved, adhesive tape to tape off the ceiling, baseboard, and doorframes, a stepladder or an extendable paint roller pole to reach areas high up, paint trays, sponges to quickly fix minor blunders or spattering. 

Pay close attention to your paintbrushes and rollers. They must be made for the paint in question and the surface itself. 

3- Clean-up duties

All contaminants (grease, soot, dirt) have to be removed for the paint to hold up on the surface. Eliminate all cigarette smoke residue with trisodium phosphate (TSP). Remove any mould with a bleach-based cleaner. Scrape any paint streaks or bubbles with a putty knife, then sand it down to achieve a smooth surface.

Make sure to sweep up any dust after! Vacuum and wipe off any dust on the floor and wall with a damp mop.

4- Protect all surfaces 

Lay drop cloths over the floor and cover any large furniture pieces left in the room with tarps. Use adhesive tape to thoroughly conceal and protect any surfaces and objects left behind. 

5- Make sure it’s ideal paint weather

Open the windows and turn on fans, even if you’re painting with water-based products. The ideal painting weather is around 20°C, 5 degrees either way. Some paints offer a bit more latitude (between 10°C to 32°C). Check the manufacturer’s guidelines. 

As for the humidity level, it’s best between 15% and 55%. These meteorological conditions must be respected during the application process, and during the drying process too. 

6- Apply a primer

Applying a primer is for the best. This step will even out the surface and ensure the paint holds to the intended surface. Its use is indispensable if you’re getting ready to paint drywall (gypsum), patched-up walls, or any material with a stained, rough, or especially smooth surface, raw wood or metal. 

You can skip this step by using a 2-in-1, paint and primer. 

Our Tips for a Seamless Application

orange latex paint

Source: Canva

Applying the paint

Professional house painters highly advise working in 1-metre-long sections at a time on ceilings and walls:

  • Paint along the trim: woodwork, window and door borders, etc. 

  • Next apply a line of paint along the edge of the ceiling, ensuring the paint isn’t dripping.

  • Paint first with a roller the highest part of the surface, meaning the ceiling.

  • Then use a roller to cover the walls, top to bottom, in V or W shape. Ideally, painting one wall at a time. 

  • Repeat the above-mentioned steps for every coat.

  • Paint over the woodwork and mouldings. 


Drying time

Painting requires time and rushing the process is rarely a winning combination. By disregarding the drying time, you could potentially risk seeing repercussions, both aesthetically speaking and in terms of durability. Typically, the drying time of a water-based paint oscillates between 3 and 4 hours. Therefore, it’s important to respect the drying time as indicated on the product by the manufacturer.

Before applying a second coat, make sure that the first coat is completely dry. To the touch, if the wall isn’t sticky and you’re able to slide your hand up and down smoothly over the surface, then you’re good to go. When applying a second coat on still-wet paint, you’re basically trapping the moisture between the two coats and compromising how well the paint will hold up, which could lead to paint bubbles, blisters, and cracks. 

Are you in a rush? Here’s how to subtract one hour from the drying time: Make sure you’re not applying more paint than necessary, position a fan in the middle of the room, and increase the temperature without going over 25°C.

Number of paint coats necessary

Coupled with a primer, one or two coats of paint are usually enough. The number of coats is often linked to the quality of the paint itself. While, right off the bat, the price tag on low-end-type paint can be quite appealing, make sure to account for the possibility of having to apply an additional coat of paint. The bottom line is, the amount spent could be the same and you’ll have worked longer for a result that won’t necessarily be up to par. 

Have you chosen a darker shade? Ask the sale’s person to pigment the primer alike. That way, you might not have to apply a third coat!

How to Choose a Paint

variety of latex paint colours

Source: Canva

Beyond choosing a colour, when it comes to water-based paints, three factors must be considered: durability, resistance to humidity, and gloss range. Note that these characteristics aren’t mutually exclusive.

As such, glossy paint will withstand wear and humidity better than matte paint since its formula contains more resin. Its characteristics are very valued in areas in which the humidity levels are higher or where cleaning is often required, like a kitchen or bathroom. On the other hand, every time the sun seeps into the room, this finish will expose any and all wall flaws.  

As for matte paint, it’ll be harder to clean and won’t withstand humidity as well. However, it’ll conceal really well any imperfections on a wall (and ceiling!), as well as brush streaks and roller marks from novice painters.

Between these two opposites, there's a wide variety of finishes: gloss, semi-gloss, pearl, melamine, platinum, velvet, satin or eggshell, and semi-matte. The finish should be chosen based on where the paint will be applied. If you're undecided, a semi-matte finish is often your best bet.

Interior Latex Paint: Choices and Pricing

Unlike a low-cost product, high-end paint will be made from a formula that contains a higher percentage of solid materials, pigments, and binders. The latter will ensure an impeccable finish, in less time and effort required. The paint will be easy to apply and won’t require as many layers to perfectly coat the surface. 

Rona Collection - $27.99 to $59.99, for a 3.5-L can.

This formula doesn't require a primer on previously painted surfaces. It’s ideal for bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, and hallway walls and ceilings. It has a fast drying time, virtually no odour, good hold and it won’t yellow over time. The base coat doesn't contain any VOCs prior to the pigments being added.

Grafclean MidShine Premium - $84.99 to $99.99, for a 4-L can.

In this ecological paint, harmful chemicals were replaced with lime for long-lasting, durable, and mould-resistant results.

RONA ECO recycled latex paint - $19.99, for a 3.78-L can.

Not only does it contain fewer VOCs, but this formula contains at least 50% recycled paint. As such, it contributes to the preservation of raw materials and limits waste. It’s a wise choice, both to improve air quality in homes and to lessen the paint’s impact on the environment.

SICO evolution - $63.99 to $66.99, for a 3.78-L can.

A 2-in-1 primer and paint, zero-VOC situation that’s easily applied and dries fast, free of unpleasant fumes. Since its finish can withstand cleanings, it can be used in frequently used areas of the house. 

Laurentide Boomerang recycled latex paint - $23.99 for a 3.78-L can or $94.99 for a 19.9-L can.

A 100% ecological, quality paint that suits almost all areas in a home. Its low VOC content ensures the health of the occupants. Its formula contains at least 50% post-consumer recycled paint, and its manufacturing process emits four times fewer greenhouse gasses than that of standard paint. 

Benjamin Moore’s AURA MD - $109.99 for a 3.79-L can.

AURA MD paint guarantees an impeccable and uniform finish, as well as a rich, deep, and long-lasting colour once applied. 

Benjamin Moore’s ben® - $68.99 for a 3.79-L can.

ben® makes your life easier, starting with the application, to maintenance, and finally touch-ups.

Designer Plus by Peinture MF - $35 to $80 for a 3.7-L can.

A quality Quebec product since 1967, this is a zero VOC, 100% acrylic paint. Designer Plus paint is ideal for a variety of materials, both indoors and outdoors. It’s easy to apply, splatter-free, provides excellent coverage, hides imperfections, is washable and prevents mildew growth.

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Last modified 2023-11-07

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