Can You Put Oil-Based Paint or Primer Over Latex? (Why You Shouldn’t)

Are you considering applying oil-based paint over latex paint? Home improvement professionals will tell you this is not a good idea. Were you planning on covering your latex-painted walls with oil-based paint?

As a general rule, you should not put oil-based paint or primer over latex. Oil-based paint does not adhere to latex. The oil-based paint will not stick and you will soon be dealing with cracked and peeling walls. 

Oil-based paints are durable and coat quickly, but they are not the best choice if you are painting over latex.

If you absolutely want to use oil-based paint for your next painting project, there are some tips and tricks you should learn first.

Can You Put Oil-Based Paint Over Latex?

It isn’t impossible to put oil-based paint over latex. But is it a good idea? Most home improvement gurus would say no.

Oil-based paint and latex do not work well together. Putting oil-based paint directly over latex causes adherence issues. Over time the paint will start to separate from the latex. This can happen very quickly on items like furniture that are moved and touched a lot.

Oil-Based Paint

Once the paint begins to crack and peel, you will need to start your refinishing process all over again. Even worse, oil-based paint is super hard to remove, so this will end up being an even longer project.

If you are set on using oil-based paint, there is a method that will allow the paint to adhere to latex. The process is time-consuming, but the result will be the long-lasting finish you are looking for.

Why Shouldn’t You Apply Oil-Based Paint Over Latex?

Using oil-based paint over latex is ill-advised. Oil-based paint does not adhere to latex. The paint will crack, split, and peel. The cracked oil-based paint will expose the latex paint underneath.

The edges of the paint will lift and the paint will peel away. The wall or piece of furniture that you just painted will end up looking worse than it did before you covered up the latex paint. 

Oil-Based Paint Won’t Adhere Properly

Oil-based paint is brittle and latex paint is flexible. These textural differences make it difficult for oil-based paint to adhere to latex. 

It is possible to paint over latex, but you must prepare the surface properly. Before painting, you need to sand as much of the latex off as possible.

This requires two types of sandpaper and several passes. Then primer should be applied to the sanded surface. After the primer is dry, you can apply the oil-based paint. This process will allow oil-based paint to properly adhere to latex.

Oil-Based Paint is Difficult to Remove

Once dried, oil-based paint is tough to remove. You must use a solvent like paint thinners or mineral spirits. These solvents are highly toxic and flammable. Before starting your project, make sure the area is properly ventilated.

It is recommended to wear protective equipment like gloves and face masks. Solvents will dissolve most finishes and several layers of paint. Prep your area with plastic drop clothes and painter’s tape.

Removing Oil-Based Paint by Hand

Oil-based paint on small or intricate areas like window sills or furniture pieces can be removed using paint thinner and a rag.

Put a painter’s rag over your gloved finger and dip it into the paint thinner. Begin scrubbing at the paint. Once that area of the cloth is covered in paint, repeat the process on a clean section of the rag. After all the paint is removed, wipe away any extra solvent.

Using Chemical Solvents to Remove Oil-Based Paint

Large areas (like walls) that are painted with an oil-based paint will take longer to remove. Put the chemical solvent in a painting tray and use a brush or roller to apply it to the oil-based paint. The solvent should be heavily applied.

Coats need to be at least ¼” thick. Leave the solvent on for 24 hours. This gives the paint stripper time to break down and soften the oil-based paint. Once you see that the paint is peeling, you can wipe it away with a cloth. Clean up any extra solvent. 

How to Properly Apply Oil-Based Paint to Latex

Applying oil-based paint to latex is a six-step process. Each step should be followed with care. Oil-based paint will not adhere to latex if the surface is not appropriately prepared. You will need the following materials to apply oil-based paint to latex:

  • 80-grit and 150-grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block
  • Painter’s tape or masking tape
  • Bonding-primer (oil-based, acrylic, or water-based)
  • Oil-based paint
  • Paint brushes or rollers

Step 1: Sand the Area with Coarse Sandpaper

Sanding the area where there is latex paint left
Sanding the area where there is latex paint left

It is important to remove as much of the latex paint as possible. Use coarse-grit sandpaper, preferably 80-grit.

Apply medium pressure and sand evenly across the latex surface. You want to remove the latex and scour the surface. Take care not to sand too heavily or too lightly. Wrapping the sandpaper around a sanding block will guarantee an even sand.

This is the most important prep step, so take your time. Make sure you remove all the shine from the surface. Once done, you should be left with a matte finish.

Step 2: Use Fine-Grit Sandpaper and Sand Again

Fine-Grit Sandpaper

Finer grit sandpaper will smooth the surface. Take 150-grit sandpaper and go over the entire area again. Now that the surface is matte, it will be more difficult to track what you have and haven’t sanded. Work slowly and methodically.

It is okay to overlap your work. Make sure you are applying medium, even pressure. Continue sanding until the surface is perfectly smooth.

Wipe away all dust. You may need to dampen a cloth to get all the dust off the surface. Be careful to remove every speck as this will affect the priming process. Allow the surface to dry completely before moving on to the next step. It is best to let the surface area dry so that you are positive it is truly dry. 

Step 3: Tape Off Your Painting Area

Use masking or painter’s tape to protect areas you do not want to paint. This includes walls, trim, fabric on furniture, and ceilings. Protecting these areas ahead of time will allow you to work through the next steps quickly. 

If you are painting furniture or trim, this is also a good time to lay down a drop cloth if you haven’t already. Oil-based paint is very hard to remove. Getting paint where you don’t want it will be a long and tedious process to fix. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Step 4: Apply Primer to the Sanded Surface

Apply Primer to the Sanded Surface

Apply primer to the entire surface. Bonding primer is the best choice for this project because it adheres well to hard surfaces. Oil-based primers work well with oil-based paint. However, you can use acrylic or water-based primers too. Just double-check the label to make sure oil-based paint can be applied to it. 

Cover every bit of the surface with primer. In some cases, you will only need to apply one coat of primer. If you see any of the original paint coming through the primer, you need to apply a second coat. Make sure the first coat of primer is completely dry before applying a second coat. 

Step 5: Paint the Surface with Oil-Based Paint

Check and confirm that the primer is 100% dry before applying the oil-based paint. Move quickly and use wide, even paint strokes.

This will eliminate brushstrokes in the paint and ensure it is applied evenly. If you are using one-coat oil-based paint, it should cover in one coat. Otherwise, you will want to apply a second layer. Make sure the first coat is dry before painting over it. 

You may want to apply gloves before digging into the oil-based paint. It can usually be removed with soap and water, but if left on your skin for a long time, it could stain. 

Step 6: Remove Tape

Then remove the tape

Be careful when removing the painter’s tape. If you decided to only apply one coat of paint, remove the tape while the paint is still tacky. Removing the tape after the paint has dried may cause the edges of the paint to split, tear or crack. 

If you had to apply two coats of paint, be careful when you peel back the tape! Instead of peeling it off right away, cut through the tape and the dried paint with a razor blade first. This will make the tape easier to take off and will prevent cracking.

What Oil-Based Paint Should You Use?

Despite being difficult to remove, oil-based paints do have some benefits. It applies smoother than latex paint. Oil-based paints also get better coverage with just one coat. They are also generally more durable than other types of paint.

There are lots of different oil-based paints on the market. This chart compares the bestselling brands by considering price, resiliency, and use. 

BrandAnti-FadingScuff ResistantMoisture ResistantIndoor/OutdoorPrice 
Diamond BriteNoYesNoYes$40.00/gallon
Valspar Barn & Fence Oil PaintYesYesYesYes$58/gallon

Oil-based paints are not made to go over latex. Doing so will result in peeling, cracked paint. To get oil-based paints to adhere to latex it is important to prep the surface thoroughly by sanding and priming. Taking the time to apply oil-based paint properly can be the difference between a successful DIY project and a remodel flop.

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