So you've chosen the perfect color for your room but when it comes time to select a finish, the choices can be overwhelming. The bad news is that the wrong finish can turn an otherwise lovely paint job into a disaster if used in the wrong room. The good news is that there is a fairly short list of finishes to choose from.
Here's the best use for (and the pros and cons) of each finish:
A flat finish is most often used on ceilings, bedrooms, low traffic dining rooms, and living-room walls. Professional painters tend to use flat finishes on ceilings because it cuts down on the glare created by lights. Professionals also use this finish in rooms with imperfections on the walls because it hides flaws so well. Though flat paint is great for hiding imperfections, it's not advised for use in the kitchens or bathrooms. This finish is easy to touch up, but hard to clean. This means you'll have to re-paint any dirty or soiled sections, wiping and scrubbing might ruin that area of your wall. Take this into consideration - do you really want to haul out the paint bucket and brushes every single time you squirt toothpaste or spagetti sauce on the wall by mistake?
Eggshell is a low-sheen finish that is a great choice for living rooms or adult bedrooms. Professional painters don't often use eggshell finishes in high-traffic areas (like hallways, or rooms for children) because this finish is delicate and mars easily. Eggshell finishes are washable when cleaned with a gentle hand. This finish also touches up nicely, much like flat paint, however take caution when moving furniture, playing with children, or hanging pictures - those small marks and scratches will be noticeable.
Satin is a more widely used finish. It's universal in that it works for most rooms and furniture. Satin finishes give a silky, pearl like sheen. It's often the professionals choice for painting woodwork, furniture, family rooms, children's rooms and laundry rooms because of it's ability to be easily cleaned. It's a scrubbable finish, which makes it perfect for bathrooms and kitchens, however it is more difficult to touch up because any difference in sheen will be apparent.
Semigloss is a popular finish choice for trim and moldings. It's heavily used on bathroom walls because it's resistant to humidity. This finish is also great for use in kitchens because it withstands stains, chipping, and scuffing. This is one of the more durable and easy to clean finishes. Though it has many pluses, semigloss is difficult to touch up because the difference in sheen shows up more easily, much like satin finishes.
Gloss finishes are rarely used on walls. It shows every imperfection and is comparable to a mirror. Professional painters often use gloss finishes on trim and moldings but it also works really well on surfaces that are truly smooth. It's hard not to choose gloss for high traffic areas, as it's the most durable finish and the easiest to clean - but it is also the most difficult finish to touch up - any difference in paint quality or sheen will be glaringly obvious on a gloss finished wall.
This may sound like a strict guide, however there are exceptions to every rule. If you have your heart set on a flat finish for the kids playroom - you'll want to invest in high quality scrubbable flat paint. This may cost more, but you'll get the look you desire with slightly easier maintenance. If you crave a high gloss finish on a less than perfect wall, consider adding texture to the wall before painting to make the imperfections part of your design style. With these paint finish tips you'll be able to think less about right and wrong and more about making your home more enjoyable for you and yours.
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