How Can I Tell What Paint Was Used Previously? | Southwest Florida Painting

Ron's Painting

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Sometimes in Southwest Florida painting it can be difficult to tell what kind of paint was used in a previous project. Dennis from Ohio has that problem and is asking for our help:

“I'm not sure what the previously painted surface is. But what I can tell you is that the project is to paint 12 metal doors which were previously painted probably in the 1980's. I believe it is an oil-based paint. The paint is very hard, sands well and is not latex/water-based. I do not want to sand the entire surface of all the doors to metal. My choice of paint is a Xylene-based paint. I do know that if you paint over some enamels/paints which a Xylene-based paint that the underlying paint will blister. My question is, how do you know what sort of solvent or oil based paint was used before I paint over it? Is there a test to make this determination?”

That’s a very good question for a problem that comes up a lot.

More than likely the doors were painted with an oil-based enamel paint.  You do not want to paint the doors with a Xylene-based paint.  The Xylene will eat away at what is now on the doors.  Xylene-based paints are for concrete driveways, pool decks and walkways that have never been painted before or previously painted with Xylene.

What I would recommend is sanding the doors, wiping them down with Gloss Off, which is sold at Home Depot  and made by Krud Kutter, then repaint the doors with an oil-based semi-gloss enamel.  There are no short cuts here if you want to do it right and have the paint job last.  The only other option, which is more labor intensive, is to prime the doors with Cover Stain oil-based bonding primer. Allow to dry overnight, then sand, clean with a tack rag and paint with Sherwin Williams Resilience in a gloss finish.

It’s really important to have a good idea of what paint was used previously before selecting the paint you want to use for the job. Xylene and oil-based paints do not play well together. And even though you don’t want to sand the surfaces of all the doors, that really is the best option here.

Contact me for more Southwest Florida painting questions for your next project.