Paint, Stain, and Solvents Buying Guide

Paint and stain can quickly transform interior walls, furniture, and exterior surfaces such as siding and decks. You don't have to be a pro to apply paint or stain, but the finished job will look better and last longer if you choose the best paint or stain for your specific surface. Use this buying guide to learn what type of paint or stain you should choose for your next home improvement project.

Types of Paint, Stain, and Solvents

Types of Paint, Stain, and Solvents

Choosing the right paint or stain can quickly become overwhelming because of the sheer number of choices, but understanding the key differences between various formulas can make the decision easier. In basic terms, primer prepares the surface for the top coat; paint coats the surface; and stain penetrates the surface and allows varying amounts of wood grain to show through. Paints are formulated differently depending on whether they'll be used inside or outside, so be sure to choose a paint or stain based on where it will be used and what surface it will be covering. Here are the primary types of paint and stain available.

Interior Paint

Designed to be used inside the house, this type of paint can be either water-base or oil-base. It's available in several different sheens. Because they are more rigid than exterior paints when dry, interior paints are easier to wash and less prone to scuffing.

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BEHR Premium Plus Ultra
$28.98

To bring classic beauty to all of your home’s interior walls, choose BEHR Premium Plus Ultra Interior Matte. This traditional matt...e paint will create a low-reflective appearance that’s perfect for all of your home's rooms. It’s also great for hiding... read more

BEHR Premium Plus
$25.97

For a classic, scrubbable finish in low-traffic areas like living rooms and bedrooms, choose BEHR Premium Plus Zero VOC Flat Inter...ior Paint. This traditional flat sheen creates an all-purpose finish that covers and touches up easily. The non-reflective... read more

BEHR Premium Plus
$132.00

For a paint that’s tough enough to tackle any room in your home without sacrificing beauty, choose BEHR Premium Plus Zero VOC Semi...-Gloss Enamel Interior Paint. This sleek sheen resists mildew and wear, so it’s great for bathrooms and kitchens. The... read more

BEHR Premium Plus Ultra
$144.00

BEHR Premium Plus Ultra Satin Enamel Interior Paint and Primer in One will change the way you paint and save you time. This perfor...mance-driven paint, featuring NANOGUARD technology, offers superior stain removal and excellent hide in fewer coats. This... read more

Exterior Paint

Designed to be used on exterior surfaces, this type of paint can be either water-base or oil-base. Exterior paint includes additives to help it resist fading, and its chemical composition allows it to be flexible enough to expand and contract with a home's siding. It's available in several sheens. You can find different formulas designed for specific surfaces, such as floor/porch paint and masonry paint.

Primer

Applied under interior or exterior paint, primers are designed to create a uniform surface that will improve the adhesion of the paint top coat. Primers also block tannin, water, grease, and smoke stains and prevent them from bleeding through the top coat. Like paints, primers are available in both water-base and oil-base formulas. Oil-base primers can be used with either oil- or water-base paints, but water-base primers are not recommended for use with oil-base paint.

Stain

Instead of coating the surface like paint, stain penetrates the surface and allows the natural texture of the surface to show through. Stain can be used on many different wood surfaces, such as furniture, siding, and decks. Stains are available in both water-base and oil-base (alkyd) formulas and in a variety of colors.

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Cabot Stains
$48.95

This item is Cabot Solid Color Acrylic Decking Stain Acrylic Exterior White Base Opaque 1 Gl . Used For Painting Supplies, Paint &... Stains Accessories. The product is manufactured in United States. read more

CabotStain
$23.60

This item is Cabot Australian Timber Oil Penetrating Oil Formula Jarrah Brown 1 Qt . Used For Appliance Parts & Accessories,Cookin...g Accessories. The product is manufactured in United States. read more

Minwax
$20.22 $14.49

This soft, water based stain finish allows wood grain to show through while adding just a wash of color to woods natural beauty. Q...uart. Covers approximately 100 sq. Ft. Apply with synthetic brush, cloth or pad. read more

CabotStain
$25.69

This item is a Cabot Australian Timber Oil Penetrating Oil Formula Jarrah Brown 1 Qt. Purpose of use for Painting Supplies, househ...old-wood-stains. This product is manufactured in United States. read more

Epoxy

Ideal for garage floors, this durable, plasticlike coating is tougher than other paints and stains and is able to withstand the heat from hot tires. (As you drive on hot streets in the summer, your car's tires absorb heat and can cause standard floor paint to peel or stain.) Epoxy is not suited for damp floors, however.

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$24.99

Epoxy putty hardens like steel in 20 minutes Ideal for use on plumbing, underwater, bathroom, auto, electrical and most any place ...in the home Stops leaks Easy mix makes repairs fast It will patch holes and cracks, and mend almost anything that is... read more

Rust-Oleum EpoxyShield
$88.76

Bring extra shine and protection to bare or coated concrete floors with Rust-Oleum EpoxyShield Premium Clear Coating. This non-ski...d coating resists water, chemicals and wear-including hot tire pick-up and is perfect for garages or floors with heavy... read more

Dyco Paints
$35.50

Dyco Epoxy-Tite is an interior/exterior waterborne 1-part epoxy. It provides a low sheen, protective finish on concrete surfaces u...sually found in driveways, garages, walkways, patios and pool decks. Epoxy-Tite's durable epoxy acrylic formula resists... read more

Rust-Oleum EpoxyShield
$47.96

Rust-Oleum EpoxyShield 8 oz. Stain Effect Rustic Brown Additive (Case of 2) for premium EpoxyShield Premium Clear Floor Coating Ki...t Model No 263997. Create a high performance finish with a premium professional look. Easy one coat system. read more

Solvents

Usually available in liquid form, solvents can be used to thin paint, as well as to clean and prep the painting surface. Many solvents are flammable and emit toxic fumes, so you need to wear safety equipment and work in a well-ventilated area. Some solvents—including mineral spirits, turpentine, denatured alcohol, linseed oil, and lacquer thinner—can be used to thin various substances, so it's important to choose the right one for your job.

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Eagle
$144.97

Protect and beautify your concrete with Eagle Solid Color Sealer. Your concrete will look better than new. Eagle Solid Color Seale...r is an acrylic coating in an oil base for best adhesion and durability. Available in 30 colors, Eagle Solid Color Sealer... read more

Minwax
$17.05 $8.99

A companion product to Minwax wood finish, pre-stain wood conditioner helps ensure even stain penetration on softwoods such as pin...e, fir and spruce. Assures even stain penetration on soft woods such as pine, fir and spruce. Prepares the wood to avoid blotching and streaking. Wood may be stained immediately after application. read more

Rust-Oleum
$18.74 $5.99

224500 Features: -Thicker consistency prevents drips and runs. -Twice the coverage compared to traditional oil based stains. -Used... on steel and fiberglass doors to create the natural look of wood. -Capacity: 1/2 pint. Product Type: -Gel Stains. Finish: -Dark Wood. Generic Dimensions: -1.58'' H x 0.78'' W x 1.58'' D, 0.97 lb. Dimensions: Overall Height - Top to Bottom: -1.58 Inches. Overall Width - Side to Side: -0.78 Inches. Overall Depth - Front to Back: -1.58 Inches. Overall Product Weight: -0.97 Pounds. read more

ZAR
$8.37 $5.49

ZAR Interior Oil-Based Wood Stain wipes on like furniture polish to add rich, uniform color to wood. Controlled penetration brings... out the natural beauty of a variety of wood surfaces without streaks or lap marks. read more

Product Features

Product Features

Although various types of paint may look similar, their chemical composition can be very different. Paint can include a variety of additives, or additional chemicals, that can change properties of the paint. Additives in exterior paint can help it resist mildew, for example, while additives in interior paint can make it easier to clean. Here are a few features to look for when selecting paint for your project.

Low-VOC

Many paints—especially oil-base paints—include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be dangerous to humans and the environment. More paint companies now offer low-VOC paint that poses less of a health risk and is more eco-friendly.

Nonskid Additives

These gritty additives can be added to floor paint to make floors less slippery.

Mildew Resistance

Some paints offer mildew resistance, which is especially important for exterior paint and interior paint used in kitchens, baths, and damp areas, such as basements. Water-base stains are also mildew-resistant, whereas some oil-base stains can encourage mildew growth. If you opt for an oil-base stain, look for one that specifically says it's mildew-resistant.

Hiding Ability

If you're painting a light color over a dark wall, you'll want to choose a paint that has good hiding ability.

Scrub Resistance

In rooms that get a lot of use (kids' rooms, family rooms, and kitchens, for example), a paint that can stand up to a vigorous cleaning is beneficial.

Resistance to Cracking

When choosing an exterior paint, look for one that resists cracking. If the paint finish cracks, it will expose the siding or trim underneath the paint to the elements, potentially resulting in surface damage.

Chalking Resistance

This feature helps prevent the buildup of a white chalky powder on an exterior surface. If you use an exterior paint that does not have chalking resistance, the paint will start to become streaked as the binder in the paint slowly degrades over time.

Blister Resistance

Paints with this component will help prevent moisture from coming through the paint surface and causing the paint to blister.

Purchase Considerations

Purchase Considerations

You have a lot to think about when choosing a paint or stain. You'll obviously need to consider color, but you'll also want to think about what paint sheen is best for your painting surface, or whether you want an opaque or transparent stain. Is easy cleanup important to you? Can you handle the strong fumes of oil-base paint? Also consider the type of surface you'll be painting—different paints and stains are better for different surfaces. And be sure to consider quality, because all paints are not created equal.

Color

Deciding on a color can be the toughest part of purchasing paint. Plan to buy a sample jar or a quart of paint, and try out the color on various walls before committing to one. Look at the sample areas at various times of day, so you can see how the color looks under natural light and when indoor lighting is used.

Sheen

Both interior and exterior paints are available in a variety of sheens. Flat paint is good for hiding imperfections, but it doesn't offer much stain-resistance; use flat paint on living room and dining room walls and exterior siding. Eggshell and satin finishes have a slight sheen; they work well in family rooms, kids' rooms, and hallways. Semigloss paint is easy to clean but shows imperfections in the surface; use this paint for kitchen and bathroom walls and windowsills. Use semigloss and gloss exterior paints on trim, as they'll show off the details of the woodwork.

Opacity

The opacity of stains allows various amounts of the wood grain to show through the finish. Clear stains show off the wood grain the best, but they offer minimal protection from the elements and will need to be reapplied often. Semitransparent stains let some of the wood grain show through and offer more protection than clear stains. Solid stains form an outer coating on the wood surface, which hides the wood grain; they usually last longer than clear and semitransparent stains.

Oil-Base vs. Water-Base

Water-base paints are easier to clean up than oil-base paints, dry more quickly, and emit a less-powerful odor. However, oil-base paints can be a better choice in some circumstances. Oil-base paints can prevent stains and rust from bleeding through the paint, for example, so they're better for chalky and stained surfaces and metals that rust. Oil-base primers can be a good choice for raw interior wood.

Painting Surface

For the best results, be sure to choose a primer and paint that work well with the surface you'll be painting. Various primers are designed for use on specific materials—wood, concrete, and metals such as galvanized steel, iron, and aluminum. Also be sure to carefully clean and prep the surface before painting to ensure a long-lasting finish.

Quality

When it comes to paints and stains, it pays to pay more. Low-quality interior paints will require more coats than top-of-the-line products, and economy grades of exterior paints and stains won't hold up as well as high-quality versions. If you opt for a cheap line of paint, you may save money now but end up paying more in the long run.

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READY SEAL
$149.00 $126.65

READY SEAL stain enhances the natural beauty of the wood allowing the texture and grain of the wood to remain visible. This stain ...is an oil-based, semitransparent stain and sealer in one, suitable for all your exterior wood projects. It is a unique... read more

BEHR DECKPLUS
$28.98 $26.98

The BEHR DECKplus Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Wood Stain is a 100% acrylic stain for all wood types. This stain adds beauty whi...le allowing the natural wood grain to show through. The stain also provides a durable, water-repellent finish that also... read more

Rust-Oleum Restore
$32.97 $26.38

Restore 1 gal. Semi-Transparent Stain Redwood is an innovative new semi-transparent stain that enhances the beauty of wood with co...lor while still allowing the grain to show through. NeverWet Properties in the formula extend the life of the deck by... read more

BEHR DECKPLUS
$28.98 $26.98

The BEHR DECKplus Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Wood Stain is a 100% acrylic stain for all wood types. This stain adds beauty whi...le allowing the natural wood grain to show through. The stain also provides a durable, water-repellent finish that also... read more

READY SEAL
$33.97 $28.87

The READY SEAL 1 gal. Mahogany Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer enhances the natural beauty of wood, allowing the texture and grain ...to remain visible. This stain is an oil-based, semi-transparent stain and sealer in one, suitable for all your exterior... read more

Rust-Oleum Restore
$32.97 $26.38

Restore 1 gal. Semi-Transparent White Stain is an innovative new semi-transparent stain that enhances the beauty of wood with colo...r while still allowing the grain to show through. NeverWet properties in the formula extend the life of the deck by... read more

BEHR DECKPLUS
$28.98 $26.98

The BEHR DECKplus Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Wood Stain is a 100% acrylic stain for all wood types. This stain adds beauty whi...le allowing the natural wood grain to show through. The stain also provides a durable, water-repellent finish that also... read more

BEHR DECKPLUS
$28.98 $26.98

The BEHR DECKplus Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Wood Stain is a 100% acrylic stain for all wood types. This stain adds beauty whi...le allowing the natural wood grain to show through. The stain also provides a durable, water-repellent finish that also... read more

BEHR DECKPLUS
$28.98 $26.98

The BEHR DECKplus Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Wood Stain is a 100% acrylic stain for all wood types. This stain adds beauty whi...le allowing the natural wood grain to show through. The stain also provides a durable, water-repellent finish that also... read more

BEHR DECKPLUS
$28.98 $26.98

The BEHR DECKplus Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Wood Stain is a 100% acrylic stain for all wood types. This stain adds beauty whi...le allowing the natural wood grain to show through. The stain also provides a durable, water-repellent finish that also... read more

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