By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

Last week we began a discussion about a great mid-winter pick-me-up for your home: paint. It’s a great do-it-yourself home improvement project that doesn’t require nice weather or prolonged upheaval to your home. And a fresh coat of paint can provide an immediate update to any room in the house.

Last week we talked about choosing the right color. You will also need to decide which type of paint to use. There are two basic types: oil base and acrylic or latex. Latex is water soluble and cleans up easily with soap and water, which makes it a strong favorite with both amateur and professional painters.

Oil-based paints were traditionally stronger and longer lasting, but improvements in latex formulas have made them more comparable. The addition of high-tech chemicals has made today’s paints more durable and elastic, which reduces tendencies to crack and peel. Cost is a good indicator of quality in this case.

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A new coat of paint will update any room, but choosing the right type of paint is key. In this kitchen the homeowners chose a bright medium gloss color for the walls and high gloss accent paint for the cabinets.

Water-based paints emit chemical vapors, and oil-based paint is infamous for its irritating odor. Many people are concerned with the odors of paint, and some are even allergic to them. Called volatile organic compounds or VOC, these odors can contribute to air pollution both inside and outside a home. Be sure to open a window, even in a winter painting project.

Paints with low or zero VOC are available, though they may be less long-lasting and have a higher price. Another alternative is paint made from natural materials such as plant oils, resins, natural minerals, and even milk. Recycled paint is also an option. This will not be free from fumes, but it may be cheaper than new with equal quality.

Another thing to consider is luster. Luster refers to the sheen or gloss of the paint. Going from least to most shine, the terms are flat, matte, eggshell, stain, semigloss, and high gloss. Wherever there is water and humidity — bathrooms, kitchens, laundries — a higher gloss level is recommended. It has a less porous surface and provides better protection against moisture. Medium glosses fare better than low glosses when it comes to scrubbing, so they should be considered in high maintenance areas such as stairwells and children’s rooms. Be careful of extremes. High gloss is not appropriate on walls, and flat or matte is generally used just for ceilings.

Preparation of the surface is critical to doing a quality job. Using a paint primer will make the paint adhere better, look better, and last longer. Primers contain specialized ingredients that paints don’t have. The right primer can fill in cracks, hide stains, prevent rust, and mask odors. Primer is also helpful if you are covering a darker color with a lighter color.

Finally, you need to determine the amount of paint to use. For each wall, multiply the length of the wall by the height and add all the areas together. Then multiply that number by the number of coats you are planning to apply. You don’t need to subtract doors and windows unless you have a lot of them. Each can of paint will specify the square footage it should cover. It is wise to buy a bit more than you will need.

With a little patience and practice, you can give your home a quick update to brighten up the coldest winter day. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at as*@re*******************.com.

Choose right paint for project