Can You Use Latex Paint on Metal; including doors (How-to guide)

When it comes to any paint project, it can be difficult to know whether to opt for latex or oil-based paint. When it comes to painting metal surfaces such as metal doors, oil-based paint is generally preferred, as it forms a hard coat that is extremely durable, and also bonds well to surfaces such as metal.

What about latex paint?

Latex paint is easier to clean up than oil-based paint, and it also emits less harmful fumes, making it better for indoor spaces.

Latex is a water-based paint and is similar to acrylic paint in the sense that it is made from acrylic resin. Latex paint adheres best to materials like drywall and wood, but they may not adhere very well to the surface of a metal door.

Can you use it on metal doors?

Usually, oil-based paints are recommended for use on metal surfaces. There’s two reasons for this.

Firstly, oil-based paints bond to metal more easily, and secondly, because they don’t contain water, they’re far less likely to develop rust on the surface of the metal.

However, this doesn’t rule out latex paint entirely.

You should check your preferred brand to see if it has a latex paint specially designed for use on metal.

Furthermore, if your metal surface is outdoors, it’s essential to look for a latex brand specifically designed for outdoor use, as paints intended for outdoor use contain additives to increase durability and protection. If the metal surface is indoors, you can instead opt for an enamel latex paint.

You then want to look for an oil-based primer that will work for both oil and latex based paints. This gives you the best of both worlds: you reap the bonding benefits of the oil, while still being able to use latex as the outer coat.

While you’ll still require careful ventilation for the primer coat, the additional latex coats won’t require this.

Painting a Metal Door

You’ll need:

  • Sander
  • Scraper
  • Wire brush
  • Primer
  • Short-nap roller
  • Small brush
  • Paint
  1. When painting a metal door or other metal surface, one of the most important things to ensure is that you’re painting the first coat onto the bare metal. If there’s an old layer of paint on the metal surface, you need to remove this using a scraper, sander and potentially a wire brush.
  1. You should also ensure that the surface is thoroughly cleaned.
  1. Once the metal surface has been adequately prepped, you should apply a coat of primer. The primer you choose should depend on whether the surface is located indoors or outdoors, but like we said previously, an oil-based primer will provide better adhesion on metal surfaces, just ensure that it’s suitable for latex paint as well as oil-based formulas.
  1. If you’re painting a flat door, use a short-nap roller to get a smooth, even coat, but if the door has panels or woodwork, a small brush will provide greater control for painting these areas, then you can switch to a roller to paint the larger areas of the door or surface.
  1. When switching between a brush and roller, try to put down a similar thickness of primer to ensure maximum uniformity.
  1. Allow the primer to dry for the duration recommended by the manufacturer, then apply one to two coats of your chosen paint using the same technique.

Oil paint vs latex paint

Oil paint

Oil paints were the first of the two to be invented, but due to environmental concerns and health and safety regulations, their use has declined in recent years.

Increased regulation means there are less options on the market today, but oil-based enamel paints are still often used as they create a glossy, smooth finish and are frequently used on doors, windows, and trim.

Oil paint is highly durable, making it ideal for high traffic areas. It’s also far better suited to metal surfaces as it adheres better to metal and won’t develop rust.

Oil-based primers are also a preferred option, particularly on a metal surface or if you can’t tell the type of paint used on the surface before. These primers create a smooth, even surface for paint to adhere to, and can work well with both latex and oil-based paint.

Latex paint

Latex paints are more common than oil-based paint for the health and safety factors mentioned previously. Many latex paints today are now technically 100% acrylic.

These paints are water-based and are best suited when it comes to painting drywall and plaster, siding (wood, fiber cement, aluminum), and stucco.

Latex paint technology is continually expanding, too, and you can now find water-based paints that are suitable for windows, doors, and trim. Latex paints are easier to clean up and are safer to use as they’re lower in VOCs, and, while oil-based paint is still preferred for painting metal surfaces, this could change in the future.

Final Say

Painters have always used oil-based paint on metal doors and surfaces, mainly because it adheres to the surface better and provides better protection and durability.

However, it’s understandable if you’re reluctant to use oil-based paint, as it contains harmful chemicals and requires extensive ventilation in the area where you’re painting, which isn’t always possible.

If you do decide to use latex paint on a metal surface such as a door, try to find one that is designed specifically for such surfaces, and ensure that it suits the environment the surface will be exposed to (i.e. outdoors or indoors).

Use an oil-based primer when possible, even when using a latex paint on top, and always prep the surface to expose the bare metal before you paint it

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