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Making Sense of Interior Paint Finishes

You’ve finally picked out the perfect paint color.  After taping samples to your walls for weeks, eyeing them in different lights, and matching them up to rugs, towels, or tile, you’ve got it!   Then you arrive at the paint store only to discover that a whole new decision awaits.  You have to decide on the paint finish too?

Painting & Remodeling St Paul MNPaint finishes may seem confusing.  We’re here to give you a simple guide to selecting your paint finish based on the wall, room, or project, so that once you’ve finalized that color, you’re all set to go!  Most paint brands have four to five paint finishes to choose from, and they’re really all quite similar, even though the names might vary. The following descriptions are sure to help:

Matte or Flat Paint
All paint manufacturers have what they call a flat or matte paint finish.  Matte paint produces a flat, non-glossy finish that is great for interior walls.  It is easy to touch-up since it typically blends well and hides surface imperfections like bumps or cracks on the wall, absorbing light to mask these defects.  Since it has a non-reflective quality to it, it is especially good for ceilings, eliminating glares from overhead or mounted lighting.  The downside of matte paint is that it is less forgiving when it gets dirty, may scuff easily, and is almost impossible to wipe clean.  (Though some brands are now coming out with “washable matte!”)  In a room that is likely to get stained or highly moist, matte paint might not be the best solution, but otherwise it provides an all around great look for walls and ceilings.

Eggshell Paint
Eggshell is another multi-purpose paint finish for walls and ceilings, sometimes going by the term low-luster.  Eggshell has a very light sheen and is a more forgivable when cleaning than matte, though not necessarily easy to clean. The sheen is less noticeable with lighter colors such as those in the white/cream family. It is a nice alternative to matte if you have areas prone to getting dirty.  The slight sheen can reveal some surface flaws and even roller marks, but ultimately this finish is pretty low maintenance.  If you love the look of matte, but want some more durability, especially in a room like a kitchen or bath, eggshell may the perfect compromise.

Satin Paint
Not all manufacturers have a satin option, as some simply skip from eggshell to semi-gloss.  However satin paint finishes can be handy, especially if you want to be able to wipe a wall clean, but don’t want it to be downright shiny.  Satin has a bit more sheen than eggshell and has a somewhat velvety look when dry.  Though it’s often used for trim work such as moldings and doors it can also be used for walls in rooms prone to humidity or excessive finger touch such as kitchens, bathrooms, kid’s play rooms, laundry rooms, hallways, etc.

Semi-Gloss Paint
Semi-gloss paint has a moderate and significant sheen, and is typically reserved for trim, doors, molding, cabinetry, and window frames.  It provides a nice contrast on trim next to your walls, which are likely a matte or eggshell finish, giving your room definition and visual interest.  Though semi-gloss is especially easy to wipe down, it is not a great look for most walls, as it can come across as poorly done.  Since it reveals all surface flaws and often leaves roller marks, it’s not a great fit for wide-open walls.

Gloss Paint
Gloss paint produces a high shine and is the most reflective of all the finishes.  It is popular for doors, windows, and trims because of its very smooth, non-porous finish, keeping dirt and dust away.  You may also consider using it on cabinets in a contemporary setting.  Like semi-gloss, glossy paint is generally not tasteful on your basic wall, but it’s certainly an option for your framework and mouldings if you want to add the pristine look of high-shine.

When all else fails, remember that levels 1-3 (matte, eggshell, and satin) are usable for interior rooms and household walls and 3-5 (satin, semi-gloss, and gloss) are best for trims, doors, and windows.

Now get painting!!

Andrus Built is a custom home builder and remodeler that has been in business for over 20 years.  Serving Saint Paul, MN and the surrounding Twin Cities area, we have completed a wide variety of successful projects – from large to small!  We believe that remodeling and building a home should be a fun and exciting process, and welcome you to contact us to learn more.


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