Choosing paint finishes to highlight your home this Spring

A fresh coat of paint can be just the trick to refresh your surroundings and give your home a whole new feel.

While there are probably a million different paint colors available, when you’re decorating the inside of your home, there are really only five “finishes” or sheens to choose from. Each has its own features, centered around two main traits: durability and ease of cleaning.

High gloss: This paint is shiny and easy to clean, reflects light and opens up small spaces. It's good for highlighting trim, railings, and architectural features or for “special” rooms like a formal dining room. The colors look deep and rich (great for dark and jewel tones!), but gloss shows every flaw on the painted surface. Often expensive to buy, high gloss may need primer, lots of sanding and many coats to look good.

Semi-gloss: Like high gloss, semi-gloss is long-lasting and washable. It stands up well to moisture, making this finish ideal for bathrooms, kitchens, and areas that frequently need to be cleaned.

Satin: Satin is the most popular finish by far, good for light colors and large areas. This finish is pretty easy to clean with a damp cloth (although not actually scrubbable), so choose it for kids’ rooms, laundry rooms, and high-traffic areas. Caution: Brush or roller strokes will be visible if not put on smoothly and evenly.

Eggshell: This finish only has a bit of shine to it, meaning it covers up flaws pretty well. While somewhat stain resistant, eggshell is not very easy to clean and it can mark easily, so it’s not a good choice for areas where lots of kid activities take place; use it for bedrooms, hallways, and lower-traffic areas.

Flat or matte: This sheen has no shine at all, which means it absorbs light and hides flaws, making walls look smooth (even when they may not be), so it’s good for textured surfaces. Flat paint shows every scuff and fingerprint; cleaning the wall can actually remove or damage paint, so touch-ups are really the only way to cover marks and scuffs. Flat finishes are good for dining rooms, adult bedrooms, ceilings, and other areas that won’t get lots of fingerprints.

Exterior paint comes in mostly the same finishes as interior paint. As with the inside, lower-sheen flat and satin paints are better for walls, while semi- and high-gloss finishes are great for trim, shutters, and doors. The shinier paints should be applied in multiple thin layers for the best effect.

Be sure to check with your local paint store for more information on paints such as tinted primer, no-fade paint, stains, oils and acrylics, and other specialty paint features that can also enhance your painting project. No matter where in (or on) your home you’re ready for a new look, choosing the right paint is the best way to get started.
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