Guide to the Type of Paint to Use for Which Room

Young Couple Viewing Paint Swatches

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Can you use one type of interior paint for every room of the house? Ideally so, but conditions in the basement are not the same as in the bedroom, and the kitchen is not the same as the bathroom. Different areas of the house have different microclimates and thus need different types of paint. In some instances, paint companies have responded by creating niche paints for several rooms and surfaces of the house: basement, kitchen, ceiling, bathroom, trim, and cabinets. Most paints have crossover abilities; few recommendations are absolutes. 

Here are the appropriate types of paint to use for each room in your home.

  • 01 of 08

    Kitchen Walls

    Large Contemporary Kitchen with Open Shelves 186807237

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    In kitchens, look into the general category of interior wall paints, but avoid flat or other types of matte paints, as they can be difficult to wipe down. While satin or eggshell sheens are popular, some homeowners concerned about maintenance even opt for semi-gloss sheen in their kitchen.

    • Type: Interior wall paint
    • Composition: Latex enamel
    • Sheen: Satin, eggshell, or semi-gloss
    • Try this brand: Behr Premium Plus Interior Satin Enamel
  • 02 of 08

    Bathroom Walls

    Luxurious Modern Bathroom

    ML Harris / Getty Images

    Because of bathrooms' moisture, the need for wipe-ability is even greater than in the kitchen. Paints with glossier sheens have a tighter molecular structure than flat paints, making it more difficult for moisture to penetrate.

    • Type: Interior wall paint. Usually, premium paints or those labeled as "bathroom paint" are appropriate.
    • Composition: Latex enamel.
    • Sheen: Satin or any glossier type of paint. If you do not mind paints with a higher gloss, these will perform better over the long run.
    • Try this brand: Behr Premium Plus Interior Satin Enamel.
  • 03 of 08

    Ceilings

    Painted Vaulted Ceiling

    zorani / Getty Images

    ​A vast majority of ceilings are painted flat white, but for a good reason. White reflects a majority of ambient light into the room and helps rooms feel more substantial. Flat avoids the space-limiting illusion that glossy paints create.

    • Type: On ceilings, you can use any paint that is labeled "ceiling paint" or any flat white interior latex paint.
    • Composition: Latex paint.
    • Sheen: Flat or matte.
    • Try this brand: Glidden EZ Track Ceiling Paint.
  • 04 of 08

    Trim, Cabinets, Windows, and Doors

    High Gloss Slab Kitchen Cabinet Doors 514410507

    Spaces Images / Getty Images

    While you can use water-soluble latex enamel paint, oil-based paints (only available in quart sizes) provide smoother surfaces. There are two downsides of using oil-based paints, though: strong fumes and extended drying times.

    • Type: Paint labeled "cabinet and trim paint" or any oil-based paint or acrylic latex paint
    • Composition: Alkyd (oil) or acrylic latex (the acrylic additive prevents white-tinted trim paints from yellowing).
    • Sheen: Semi-gloss or a glossier sheen.
    • Try this brand: Sherwin-Williams ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex Enamel.
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Bathtubs or Showers

    Shower Stall
    Shower stalls can be repaired with special kits that closely match the base surface.

    Astronaut Images/Getty Images 

    Often, the best paint for the bathtub or shower walls and bathing surfaces is not a common paint found in the home center's paint aisle. Instead, this is a coating usually found as part of a do-it-yourself refinishing kit.

    • Type: Use a coating that is specially designed for bathtubs, sinks, tile, and surrounds.
    • Composition: Acrylic resin consisting of two parts, base color, and base hardener.
    • Sheen: Glossy.
    • Try this brand: Munro Products' Bathworks.
  • 06 of 08

    Drywall (Unpainted)

    Installing Drywall In a Room

    Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

    Drywall's porous outer paper covering soaks up liquids at an uneven and often alarming rate. Primer helps you lay down a more balanced color coat. If you have bare drywall, you can paint directly into it. But you'll achieve far better results if you prime it first.

    • Type: Use a primer specially labeled as appropriate for ​drywall (usually the product literature will incorporate the word "drywall" or "wallboard" within the name).
    • Composition: 100-percent acrylic latex.
    • Sheen: You have no sheen choice with drywall primer. All primer comes in flat, or matte sheens.
    • Try this brand: Behr Premium Plus Drywall Primer and Sealer.
  • 07 of 08

    Living Room and Bedroom Walls

    Single Coffered Ceiling In Bedroom

    Ke Yu / Getty Images

    Living rooms and bedrooms are low-impact areas and can use any paint you wish. Since these tend to be very forgiving spaces in terms of impact, you can use flat or matte paint, if you wish. Still, most homeowners go for satin or eggshell sheen latex paints in living rooms and bedrooms.

    • Type: Interior wall paint.
    • Composition: 100-percent acrylic latex.
    • Sheen: Flat or a greater sheen, though most homeowners choose eggshell or satin
  • 08 of 08

    Basement Masonry Walls

    Home Bar in Basement

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    Basement masonry walls can often weep water. If your basement walls are dry, consider yourself lucky. If yours does give off water vapor, consider yourself part of the crowd.

    Basement masonry paint seals cracks up to 1/16-inch wide with elastomeric action. Elastomeric means that it expands, and then it resumes its previous shape when the pressure is gone.

    • Type: Basement flexible primer and finish.
    • Composition: Latex acrylic.
    • Sheen: Glossy.
    • Try this brand: Zinsser's Watertite Flexible Primer and Finish.