There are so many types of exterior paints that it can be confusing to choose the right one for your project. For most exterior applications, the Paint Quality Institute recommends 100 per cent acrylic paint instead of latex or oil-based paint. Choosing between flat and semigloss finishes, or something in between, depends on the look you want and the condition of the surface.
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Semi-gloss paint is more washable, more resistant to abrasion and highlights architectural detail better than flat paint because it reflects more light. For this reason, many people use semigloss paint on entry doors, trim around windows and gutters and to accentuate detail. Semi-gloss paint also accentuates irregular or bumpy surfaces and is typically not the best choice on rough cedar trim or on woodwork that is not smooth and well-prepared. It's also an uncommon choice for siding because large expanses of glossy paint will reflect a lot of light. Because the ingredients in semigloss paint are more expensive, it usually costs a little more per gallon than flat or lower-gloss paint.
Flat paint is most commonly used on siding and on rough or textured trim. While it is as durable as semigloss paint, it is not as washable and not a good choice for decks, stairs, frequently-used doors or any area that may need to be scrubbed. A good quality 100 per cent acrylic flat paint is not "dead flat" and will have a very low, almost imperceptible, sheen. Dust and dirt that accumulates on siding may be hosed or power-washed away without harming the finish. A combination of flat exterior paint for siding and semigloss for smooth trim and doors works well for most homes.
Other sheens in between flat and semigloss are, in increasing order of shininess, matt, eggshell and satin. Most paint stores have samples so you can see what each looks like. You can mix flat and semigloss paint together to get something in-between as long as you use the same product and type of paint.
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