Can You Put Oil Based Paint Over Latex?

Many people wonder, “Can you put oil-based paint over latex?” Latex is widely available and often more popular, so it’s common for homeowners to have walls or furniture covered in latex paint. However, oil-based paint offers some advantages, giving you a reason to prefer it for an upcoming project.

You can put oil-based paint over latex. However, you want to take the time to prepare the surface first. While oil-based paint will stick to latex, a lack of preparation can harm adhesion, leading to cracking, peeling, and other issues.

Fortunately, the preparation steps aren’t overly challenging. If you’ve been asking yourself, “Can you put oil-based paint over latex?” and want to know how to make it possible, here’s what you need to know.

Can You Put Oil Based Paint Over Latex

Can You Put Oil-Based Paint Over Latex?

You can put oil-based paint over latex. However, preparing the surface before you start painting is essential. Otherwise, you could end up with adherence issues.

When two paint layers don’t stick correctly, it compromises the surface. In time, splits develop in the oil-based paint layer. Not only can this cause unsightly lines on the wall or furniture piece, but it can also expose the latex paint beneath. If the two paints are different colors, the cracks are more noticeable.

In time, the splits spread, grow, and expand. Additionally, the edges of the oil-based paint may begin to lift, resulting in peeling. As more time passes, the oil-based paint starts to flake off, at times in pretty big pieces.

While these sorts of issues are less common when you put oil-based paint over latex instead of the other way around, since the two paints are different, it’s best to prep before you repaint. Surface preparation prevents adhesion issues. As a result, you’re far less likely to experience splits, cracks, and peeling.

What Happens If You Apply Oil-Based Paint Over Latex?

Without the proper preparations, certain issues arise if you apply an oil-based paint over latex. Latex is a flexible paint, while oil-based paint is more brittle. If binding issues happen, you could end up with splitting and cracking. As any splits or cracks spread, peeling can occur.

Usually, it takes a little time before the issue becomes apparent. It may be a few years before splits and cracks are noticeable on a wall. But once the cracking happens, dealing with it is challenging.

On furniture, you might see issues faster, depending on the piece. Splitting may happen more quickly with items like dining chairs that are moved and used frequently. For stationary pieces that aren’t handled often, you may get the same few years as you would with a wall.

However, if you prepare the latex paint correctly, you can avoid all of the issues above. While it takes effort, those steps ensure that the oil-based paint sticks properly, preventing future splitting, cracking, and peeling caused by poor adhesion.

How to Paint Over Latex Paint with Oil-Based Paint

How to Paint Over Latex Paint with Oil Based Paint

You need to prepare your surface before using oil-based paint latex. That way, the paint sticks correctly, ensuring a smooth, even result that will last.

Here is an overview of how you need to prep the wall or furniture piece when you’re painting over latex paint with oil-based paint.

1. Sand the Surface Using Coarse Sandpaper

The first step you want to take is to sand the surface you want to paint with coarse sandpaper. In most cases, you want something near an 80-grit, allowing you to remove some of the latex paint and begin scouring the surface.

As you work, keep the pressure consistent and metered. You want to maintain contact with the surface without pressing in too hard. That way, you’ll end up with light scouring without gouges.

Keep sanding until the existing latex paint has a matte finish. The oil-based paint won’t adhere properly if any shiny areas remain, so make sure you’re thorough.

2. Sand Again with Finer Sandpaper

Once the existing paint surface is fully sanded, you’ll sand it again with finer sandpaper. Usually, you’ll want to use 150-grit, allowing you to even out the surface.

Since the surface is matte, it’s harder to track where you have and haven’t sanded during this step. As a result, you want to work methodically. For example, if you’re prepping a wall, start in the upper left-hand corner and work your ways down. Then, shift slightly to the right and repeat that process, overlapping your work area while hitting part of the wall for the first time.

As you keep shifting right, maintain the overlap, essentially applying two passes to every area of the wall. That way, you’ll cover the entire space you need to prepare.

3. Wipe Surface with a Damp Cloth

After sanding, you need to remove the excess dust. Take a clean, soft cloth and dampen it. Then, wipe down the walls.

You may need to rinse or remoisten the cloth as you work. In some cases, you may even require several clothes and multiple passes. Keep wiping the surface until the dust is gone. Then, either leave it to air dry or use a clean, dry cloth to remove the remaining moisture.

4. Prepare for Primer

Before you apply any primer, you need to take certain precautions. For example, if you’re preparing one wall but plan on leaving an adjoining wall or any trim as-is, you’ll want to use painter’s tape on the edges to prevent spillover. You might also want to set a drop cloth down to cover your flooring.

Using a drop cloth is also wise if you’re completely repainting a furniture piece. Not only will it catch drips, but it also makes painting low areas of the furniture less risky to your floors even if you don’t lift the piece.

If you’re partially repainting a furniture piece, using painter’s tape is an excellent idea. You can tape off the parts you don’t want to paint or use the tape to secure a plastic sheet or another kind of cover. Just make sure that you use the proper tape for the underlying material. For example, you’ll want to choose a version designed for wood if part that’s the underlying surface.

5. Apply Primer

After the preparation, it’s time for a primer. This gives you a fresh surface and creates a buffer between the two paints.

Going with a bonding oil-based primer could be your best option. Bonding primers are designed to adhere to hard-to-cover surfaces, decreasing the odds of an adherence issue. Plus, going with an oil-based version ensures you won’t have any trouble when applying the oil-based paint.

However, you could also opt for a water-based or acrylic primer. As long as it’s compatible with an oil-based paint topcoat, it will do the trick.

6. Wait for the Primer to Dry Completely

Before adding your paint, you want to make sure your primer is completely dry. That way, the oil-based paint topcoat will adhere correctly.

As the primer dries, check the surface for coverage. In some cases, you’ll want to apply a second coat of primer, especially if you see any underlying paint color bleeding through, ensuring you have a fresh, even surface. Just make sure that the second coat fully dries before moving on to the next step if you choose to add one.

7. Apply the Oil-Based Paint

Once the primer is fully dry, you can apply a coat of oil-based paint. Work methodically to ensure that the layer of paint is even, avoiding streaks or other visual inconsistencies.

Ideally, you want to use a one-coat oil-based paint. That way, you can get full coverage in one pass. If you need a second coat, you want to let the first one cure before applying it to maintain the quality of the finish.

8. Carefully Remove Tape

If you used any painter’s tape, you’ll want to remove it carefully. Ideally, you want the top coat of paint to be slightly damp – but not wet – when you pull the tape. That way, it will come up without harming the newly painted surface.

If the paint is fully dry or you used several coats, you may want to score along the edge of the tape with a razor blade before removal. That keeps the paint on the wall from pulling with you taking up the tape, reducing peeling or cracking at the paint line.

Can You Use Oil-Based Primer Over Latex?

Yes, you can use oil-based primer over latex. As long as the surface is prepared correctly – as mentioned above – oil-based primer will adhere to latex without an issue.

How to Tell If Paint Is Oil-Based?

If you want to paint a wall, furniture piece, or anything else but aren’t sure whether the existing paint is latex or oil-based, there are ways to find out. Here are some checks and tests that will tell you what you need to know.

Check the Old Cans

The first thing you should do if you need to determine if the existing paint is oil-based or latex is to check the old cans. If you have them, simply looking at the labels might tell you everything you need to know.

If the wall paint you want to update was there when you bought your home, look in the garage, shed, or attic for cans. There’s always a chance they were left behind.

Rubbing Alcohol Test

For homeowners looking for a simple test, the rubbing alcohol test might be your perfect option. Find a test area in an inconspicuous spot on the wall or item in question. Next, use mild dish soap and water to clean a test area and let it dry. Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and rub it over the paint several times.

If you see paint on the cotton ball, you’re probably dealing with latex or water-based paint. If you don’t see anything on the cotton ball, it’s likely an oil-based paint.

Acetone Test

The acetone test works just like the rubbing alcohol test above. The only difference is that you’ll use acetone instead of rubbing alcohol.

After cleaning the surface with mild dish soap and water, let it dry. Then, soak a cotton ball in acetone before rubbing it on the wall or item. If the paint transfers to the cotton ball, you have latex or water-based paint. If the cotton ball is still clean, it’s oil-based paint.

Nail Polish Remover Test

Many nail polish removers contain acetone, allowing you to use it for the test. Clean the wall or item with mild dish soap and water and allow it to dry. Soak a cotton ball in nail polish remover and rub the surface. If you don’t see paint on the cotton ball, it’s oil-based paint. If you see paint on the cotton ball, it’s water-based or latex.

It’s critical to use nail polish with acetone for this test. If the nail polish is acetone-free, it won’t work.

Latex Paint Test

One final option to try involves using a small amount of latex paint as a test. Since latex paint doesn’t adhere well to an oil-based paint undercoat, you can add a dab of latex paint to an inconspicuous spot on the item or wall you’d like to paint. Let it dry overnight.

Then, see if you can scratch the latex paint up with your fingernail. If it scrapes off easily, the odds are high that your wall or item is painted with oil-based paint.

Can You Use Oil-Based Paint Over Latex Primer?

You can use oil-based paint over latex primer. However, you might want to go with a bonding primer that’s specifically designed to be compatible with oil-based paint. That way, you reduce the odds of adhesion issues.

If the primer layer was already in place, you could still use oil-based paint. Just make sure that the primer is completely dry before you begin.

Can You Put Latex Paint Over Oil-Based Paint?

You can use latex paint over oil-based paint, but you’ll need to prepare the surface correctly. Otherwise, the latex won’t stick, leading to cracking and peeling, sometimes in as little as 15 to 30 days.

Oil-based paint typically has a slick surface, harming adhesion. Plus, oil-based paint takes a long time to dry. If it isn’t fully cured, more sticking-related issues can occur.

In most cases, you’ll want to degloss or sand the oil-based paint as a starting point. Then, clean the surface to remove debris. After that, you can apply a primer to create a bondable surface for the latex paint.

Usually, a water-based bonding primer designed to stick to oil-based paint is your best bet. It will adhere to the oil-based paint undercoat and work well with a latex topcoat. You’ll end up with a fresh, smooth surface, improving the final result.


If you were wondering, “Can you put oil-based paint over latex,” the answer is usually “yes.” However, you’ll want to prepare the wall or item correctly. That way, you won’t experience adhesion issues that could lead to cracking, splitting, or peeling.

Did you find out everything you wanted to know about painting over latex with oil-based paint? If so, please head to the comments area below to share your thoughts. Additionally, if someone you know could benefit from any of the information in the article above, please feel free to share it with them.