These pro tips can help you understand the advice and information that’s flooding the marketplace before starting your project.

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Q: Seems like everyone is an expert these days. I’m contemplating a major paint project and would like to know how to distinguish whether what these so-called experts are saying are facts or merely a cash-grab fantasy.

A: It’s true: There is a wealth of information on the internet seemingly tailor-made to confuse you. How can anyone tell whether said info is fact or just deceptive marketing to get you to buy an unnecessary product or service?

As a professional painting contractor with 30 years of experience, I want to share a few facts so that you can decide. After all, what you do with your home is your decision, and your time and money are major factors when deciding to do it yourself or hire a pro.

Let’s address three often-asked questions to give you a more concrete basis for what types of painting options you might choose for your home’s well-being.

1. Paint primer: yes or no?

I believe paint primer is a marketing ploy to convince folks it is a superior product because, proponents will say, it has primer mixed in with the paint, or that it can replace priming.

Here’s the thing: Primer serves a specific purpose, as does paint (or the top coat). All primers are designed to adhere to surfaces and form a binding layer that is better prepared to receive the paint. Paint, in turn, is the colored substance that is spread over a surface to dry and leave a thin decorative or protective coating. Paint primer products don’t do either of those things well, and they tend to thicken more quickly and dry much too fast for a smooth overall appearance — which is what you’re looking for.

Primer and paints should be used separately, as they were meant to be applied.

2. Oil or latex (acrylics)?

Oil-based paints dry to form an inflexible coating that blocks moisture, and they tend to become brittle and yellow over time. Oil paints are great for metal and steel and are used as a primer to cover very heavy-stained areas. Oil paints also tend to get rancid and attract mold easier, need turpentine or paint thinner to clean up, contain fewer color choices than latex, and are more expensive to buy.

Latex paint is a water-based product based on vinyl and acrylics and can be cleaned up with water. Latex paint is also more elastic and allows water vapor generated inside the house to pass through the paint film. And, latex offers more colors and is cheaper to buy.

In addition, oil is solvent-based, while latex is water-based and contains low- or no-VOC materials (harmful chemicals).

Because of all this, water-based coatings account for approximately 80 percent of paint sold in the residential marketplace. I don’t use any oil-based products due to the environmental and health concerns with using solvents (toxics).

3. Spray or brush exteriors?

I have had many folks ask if it’s better to hand-brush the house’s exterior rather than spray painting it. Both have their merits: Spraying is a fast-application process, can achieve single-coat coverage, offers a smooth finish that is free of brush and roller marks, and can get hard-to-reach areas. Spraying also requires more technical skill if you DIY, as well as longer prep and cleanup times. It produces uneven coverage unless you back-roll it, uses more paint overall, and is not conducive to windy-day applications.

With brushing, you have excellent control, very good adhesion, uniform coverage and can get into nooks and crannies better. The downside is that brushing is slow and laborious, can require two or more coats, and can leave brush marks and obstructions on surfaces, making for difficult applications. Keep in mind that hiring a professional to paint by hand is three times the cost of spraying. I spray (as opposed to brushing) because it saves my clients time and money.

While there really is no right or wrong answer when it comes to these questions, the decisions become easier when weighing the costs and various hassles involved in each option.

Darylene Dennon of Solid Energy, Inc., is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 3,000 members, write to