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Can Exterior Paint Be Used on Garage Walls?

If you’re like most homeowners in the United States, you probably don’t think much about your garage. But if you’re looking for extra space around your home and finding none, it might be time for a garage upgrade. You can transform a humble, unfinished garage to a workshop, man cave, home theater, or anything else your heart desires — all with some strategic reorganization, some new furniture, and a few coats of paint. (Wondering what color to paint inside a garage? Check out our article on the topic here!)

It’s relatively simple to know what type of paint to use on interior walls since products intended for interior painting are clearly labeled for use inside the home. However, you may be scratching your head thinking about paint for garage walls. Does your garage’s interior really count as inside? The answer is more complicated than you might initially assume. Read on to find out the facts about using exterior paint on garage walls.

Is Exterior Paint on Garage Walls More Effective?

One of the reasons people consider using exterior paint on garage walls is that exterior paint is heavy-duty. The big difference between interior and exterior paint is that exterior paints are made with mold and mildew-resistant additives, anti-fading solvents, and even chemicals to provide UV protection. But do you really need such heavy-duty paint for your garage? Your garage isn’t truly exposed to the elements, and your garage walls likely don’t experience nearly as much wear and tear as the walls in the rest of your home. Exterior paint on garage walls is actually no more effective than interior paint, even in non-climate-controlled garages. 

The best choice for painting your garage walls is a durable interior paint such as acrylic latex paint. This water-based paint is superior because it will dry quickly, is easy to clean, and has a long lifespan. 

If you don’t mind waiting longer for your paint job to dry and you’re comfortable using chemicals such as paint thinners, you can use an oil-based interior paint such as alkyd resin. It’s always critical to your safety no matter what to ensure ventilation when painting, but oil paints do require special attention. Be sure your area is well ventilated and keep your garage door open if you’re working with oil paints since they can be more toxic to breathe in than water-based paints. 

Is Exterior Paint on Garage Walls More Affordable?

Another factor people consider when choosing between interior or exterior paint for their garage walls is the price of the paint. Some exterior paints have much smaller sticker prices at first glance, making them tempting to choose instead of interior paint options. However, almost all exterior paints on the market require you to clean, sand, and apply primer to the surface you intend on painting, followed by a second and sometimes third coat of paint depending on the paint color and quality. The combined cost of sanding materials, paint, and primer can end up being much more expensive than you initially thought.

Interior paint is the better choice for the cost. Many interior paints have paint-primer combos that require only one coat of paint, meaning you spend much less, leaving you with more options to choose from. If you use interior paint, you can also ensure your walls have a sheen you prefer, such as a semi-gloss or gloss finish, that will help hide scratches and dents and also make things easier to keep clean.

Is Exterior Paint on Garage Walls Safe?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exterior paints can be especially toxic because they contain what are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). As it dries, paint naturally releases chemicals into the air, but VOCs are especially toxic and are linked to many health issues. During the painting and drying processes, VOCs are released by the chemical additives in exterior paint. Because outdoor surfaces have adequate ventilation, this isn’t a problem for painting a park bench or a deck — but in a small, poorly ventilated garage, you can give yourself serious health issues just from one application of exterior paint. Even worse, VOCs can continue to be released by paint for several years in small amounts, even after everything is dry. In order to classify as safe for interior use, paints must be inspected and graded on the amount of VOCs within them. If this number exceeds a certain threshold, the paints cannot safely be used indoors.

To put it simply, exterior paint on garage walls is not safe. Don’t take shortcuts — take care of your health and your family’s health by choosing interior paint for your garage walls.

Add Color to Your Life!

Your garage takes up a significant amount of your home’s square footage, so put it to good use by painting it and using it for a purpose you care about. However, few people have the supplies or energy to paint their entire garage by themselves, plus the process is messy, difficult, and time-consuming. If you’re looking for residential painting services in Fairmount or elsewhere in and around Philadelphia, don’t worry about doing it all yourself — contact us today!