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The Main Differences Between Interior and Exterior Paint

lady painting kitchen cabinets on the left and man painting front porch on the right

When you’re painting your home to make it look new, whether you want to make your living room more attractive or protect it from the weather, it’s important to know how interior and exterior paints are different. These terms aren’t just about where you put the paint; they’re about tailoring the paint to the specific needs of each area. In this blog post, we’ll explore the features of interior and exterior paints, why using exterior paint inside might not be a great idea, and whether you can use interior paint outside.

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Interior Paint

Interior paint is made for the walls and surfaces inside your home. It’s built to handle daily wear and tear, like scuffs, stains, and cleaning. You have the option to pick various finishes, such as matte—eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss to match your style.

Interior paint is designed to emit fewer Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making it safer for indoor use. These low-VOC formulations help maintain better indoor air quality, reducing the risk of health issues related to breathing in paint fumes.

Exterior Paint

On the flip side, exterior paint is created to withstand the tough outdoor elements. It’s made with additives and resins for added durability, weather resistance, and protection against UV rays. Exterior paints come in various finishes, from flat to satin to gloss, accommodating different architectural styles.

One key feature that sets exterior paint apart is its ability to fight moisture and prevent mold and mildew growth. Additionally, exterior paints often have special additives that resist fading, chipping, and peeling, ensuring a lasting finish despite exposure to rain, sun, and other environmental factors.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Exterior Paint Indoors

While it might seem like a good idea to use strong exterior paint inside for extra durability, it’s important to avoid it. Exterior paints have higher levels of VOCs and other chemicals necessary for weather resistance but can be harmful when used inside. The off-gassing of these compounds can lead to health issues like headaches, dizziness, and respiratory problems.

Moreover, the smell of exterior paint tends to stick around longer, making it less suitable for enclosed spaces. The look of exterior paint, with its high sheen, may also clash with the desired atmosphere of indoor areas. So, it’s better to stick with interior paint for indoor projects to ensure safety and a pleasing result.

Can You Use Interior Paint Outdoors?

Surprisingly, yes, but with some conditions. While interior paint doesn’t have the robust properties of exterior paint, it can work for outdoor projects if the area is sheltered from direct exposure to rain, sun, and harsh elements.

For instance, painting a covered porch or an enclosed patio with interior paint can be an option. However, keep in mind that interior paint may not offer the same durability and weather resistance as exterior paint. Choosing exterior paint is still the smarter choice in places with high humidity or where the painted surface will be cleaned frequently.

Understanding interior and exterior paint differences is crucial for successful home improvement projects. Interior paint is made for comfort and aesthetics indoors, while exterior paint is built to endure the elements and protect your home’s exterior surfaces.

Choosing the right paint for each project ensures a visually pleasing finish and durability. A beautifully painted home is about creating lasting spaces, whether sheltered indoors or boldly facing challenges outdoors. So, the next time you tackle a painting project, let the specific needs of your space guide your choice between interior and exterior paints for a lasting masterpiece.


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