Exterior Paint vs. Interior Paint: What's the Difference?

Choosing the right paint for your outdoor and indoor projects can be a daunting task – one wrong step and you will have a bubbling, peeling, or cracking paint. This blog post will break down the differences between exterior and interior paint so you can make a more informed decision before you pick up a brush.

A Quick Overview of Interior Paint vs. Exterior Paint

The purpose of exterior paint is to protect the surface it covers and to provide a decorative finish. Exterior paint is formulated to resist the harmful effects of UV radiation, rain, wind, and other environmental factors. It also adheres to different surfaces, such as wood, metal, stucco, and brick.

On the other hand, interior paint is primarily concerned with providing a good appearance. It doesn’t need to be as durable as exterior paint since it’s not exposed to harsh conditions. However, it must adhere well to surfaces and resist dirt and stains.

Types of Exterior and Interior Paints

There are two main types of exterior paint: water-based latex and oil-based paint. Water-based latex is the most popular type of exterior paint because it is durable and easy to clean up. Oil-based paint is also durable but takes longer to dry and can be difficult to maintain.

Interior paint comes in various types, but the two most popular are latex and oil-based. Latex paint is easy to clean up and dries quickly, while oil-based paint takes longer to dry but provides a more durable finish.

Benefits of Using the Right Type of Paint for Your Job

Choosing the right type of paint is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when undertaking a painting project. The type of paint you use will be determined by the surface you’re painting, the desired finish, and your budget.

Using the wrong type of paint can result in an inferior finish or even damage your painting surface. Therefore, it is important to choose the right type of paint for your project.

Interior paint is designed for use on indoor surfaces. It’s typically thinner than exterior paint and has a lower VOC content to limit fumes. Interior paint is available in various colors and finishes, from high-gloss to flat.

Exterior paint is tougher and more durable than interior paint because it is more exposed to the elements. It’s usually thicker than interior paint and has a higher VOC content to ensure good coverage and adhesion.

No matter what type of paint you choose, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and cleanup.

Can I Use Interior Paint to Paint the Exterior?

It’s common to wonder if you can use leftover interior paint for outdoor painting. Unfortunately, this is not a prudent idea. While the exterior and interior paint are made of synthetic resins, pigments, and fillers, some key differences make them unsuitable for swapping uses.

Exterior paint is formulated to withstand harsh weather conditions like UV rays, rain, and wind. It also needs to be able to resist mold and mildew growth. To achieve these results, exterior paint contains higher pigment levels than interior paint. The increased pigment means exterior paint will chip and fade more slowly than interior paint.

In addition to containing more pigment, the exterior paint has a higher resin-to-pigment ratio than the interior paint. This makes it more flexible and less likely to crack in extreme temperatures. Exterior paint can also contain additives like mildewcides or ultraviolet (UV) absorbers to help protect the home’s surface from damage caused by sunlight exposure.

While you might be tempted to save money by using leftover interior paint on your property’s exterior, it’s not worth the risk. The wrong type of paint can crack, peel, or chip quickly, leaving your home’s exterior vulnerable to damage. Additionally, using the wrong type of paint voids most manufacturer warranties, so you could end up paying for any resulting damage.

What Will Happen if I Use Interior Paint Outside?

Interior paint is not formulated to withstand the elements like exterior paint is, so using it outside will cause it to deteriorate quickly. The sun will cause the colors to fade, while the rain and humidity will cause the paint to peel and blister. In addition, interior paint is not as tough as exterior paint, so it is more susceptible to damage from dirt, insects, and other outdoor nuisances.

Key Considerations When Choosing Paint


Exterior paint is typically made with higher-quality materials than interior paint because it has to withstand extreme temperatures, UV rays, and moisture. This means that exterior paint will usually last longer than interior paint, making it a good choice for areas with a lot of wear and tear.

Interior paint is not subject to wear and tear as exterior paint, so you can often get away with using a lower-quality product. However, if you want your paint job to last, it’s worth investing in higher-quality interior paint.

Volatile Organic Compounds

VOCs are gaseous emissions from various liquids or solids. They can be found in many common household products, such as paints, cleaning supplies, and aerosols. Some of the key things you should know about VOCs include:

**They are harmful **- Some VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. Others may cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea. At high levels, some VOCs could even cause cancer.

**The EPA regulates them **- The Environmental Protection Agency has set limits on the amount of VOCs that should be present in products like paint. For this reason, most paint companies have reduced the amount of VOCs in their products. Many now offer “low-VOC” or “no-VOC” options.

If you’re concerned about the health effects of VOCs, look for low-VOC or no-VOC paints next time you need to repaint your home.

Color Selection

When it comes to choosing paint colors, there are a few things you should keep in mind. It would be best to consider your home’s overall color scheme first. You might want a more modern color palette if you own a contemporary property. Classic colors might be ideal if your home has a traditional feel.

Once you’ve decided on the general feel of the colors you want to use, it’s time to start thinking about specific hues. When picking out exterior paint colors, it’s important to consider your area’s natural light and climate. For example, if you live in a sunny area, you might want to stay away from dark or muted colors that will absorb heat.

When selecting interior paint colors, you must consider the overall atmosphere you’re trying to create. For instance, warm tones might be best if you want a cozy and inviting space. Cool or neutral tones could be what you need if you’re going for a more sleek and modern look.

Once you have a picture of the general feel and tone you’re going for, it’s time to start narrowing down your options. The great thing about paint is that there are endless possibilities when it comes to color. Take your time and experiment until you find the perfect selection for your space.

Contact Us Today for an Outstanding Painting Job

Do you have an exterior or interior paint job in Kansas City? The professional painters at Great Plains Painting are ready to offer quality services. Contact us today to request a free quote.