Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Spring and summer are the usual choices for exterior paint jobs because there’s less chance of bad weather interfering. However, when you’re painting an indoor space, rain or snow won’t ruin the work. So is it bad to paint interior walls in the winter?
It’s okay to paint interior walls in the winter as long as the room has the right temperature and humidity for your paint. You’ll need to ventilate the space without letting the temperature drop below 50°F (10°C). Paints with low or no VOCs are a good choice when you have limited ventilation.
Interior painting in any season requires good ventilation as well as stable humidity and temperature. Painting in extreme temperatures, either too cold or too hot, will impact the way the paint dries and how long it lasts. Read on to learn if about what the best winter conditions are for indoor painting and how to do it safely.
What To Consider When You Paint Interior Walls in the Winter
There are three things you’ll need to consider before you start painting indoors in the winter: temperature, humidity, and ventilation.
Temperature and humidity can impact how well a paint dries and how long it lasts without cracking, peeling, or bubbling. Ventilation is critical for you and your painters because many paints contain chemicals that could irritate you if you breathe them in for too long.
Finding the right balance between good ventilation and maintaining a steady temperature and humidity level is important for any season. The challenge for winter painting comes from the risk of letting in the elements when you open windows to ventilate. Maintaining the right wall and air temperature can be difficult and expensive for your heating system if it’s too cold outdoors.
But what’s the best condition for interior painting, and how can you achieve it during the winter months?
The Best Conditions for Painting Interior Walls
For the vast majority of paint types, you’ll need a temperature above 50°F (10°C), but check the label on your paint can carefully. The way the paint is made and its primary ingredients will determine what the ideal temperature is.
Oil-based and latex-based paint dry at different temperatures, so what works for one might not work for another.
When thinking about temperature, you should consider the temperature of both the air and the walls. Depending on the type of wall insulation and how close it is to the exterior of the building, these two temperatures could be very different. The wall surface needs to be roughly the same temperature as the air, or it could negatively impact the way the paint dries.
As far as humidity goes, you want the room you’re painting to maintain 40-50% relative humidity. This is important for making sure the paint dries all the way smoothly. You want the water in your paint to dry before the solvents do. If there‘s too much, or too little, water in the air, then the paint won’t dry properly and will be prone to cracking, peeling, running, or flaking.
Benefits of Painting Interior Walls in the Winter
There are a few significant benefits to painting your interior walls during the winter. First, if you’re hiring professional painters you’re more likely to get a good deal and flexible availability. Exterior painting doesn’t happen in the winter, so most professional painters have more time in the winter for indoor projects.
Second, indoor paint jobs aren’t limited by daylight hours. Good indoor lighting is available year-round, so early winter sunsets won’t impact your painting timeline. Plus, you can work through bad weather. As long as no snow or ice makes its way into the room you’re painting, and you can keep the temperature steady, there’s no reason for bad weather to delay a project.
Finally, people tend to spend more time indoors during the winter. When you see your walls all day every day, having a nice paint job can make a big impact on your happiness. Taking care of your painting projects in the winter will set you up to enjoy your home all year long.
Drawbacks of Painting Interior Walls in the Winter
The main drawbacks of painting interior walls in the winter are the difficulties in maintaining wall temperature and proper ventilation. Heating up a room in your house to the ideal temperature is one thing, but making sure the walls reach that temperature can put a strain on your heating bill.
Additionally, opening windows to add ventilation will let cold air back inside, which could put pressure on your heating system to keep up. Opening all of the interior doors in your home and adjusting your HVAC system for maximum ventilation can help, but this will also let heat escape from the room you’re painting.
The easiest way to avoid these issues is to avoid painting during extremely cold weather. The beginning and end of the season will be better opportunities when the weather is milder.
Best Paint Types for Winter
Painting safely in the winter is much the same as painting safely indoors in any other season. Choosing the right paint for your project and your environment is the first step in making sure everyone stays safe, and the paint job comes out perfectly.
Bearing in mind the conditions of your home during the winter months, you can choose a paint type that will work well in those conditions. Whether you hire professionals or do it yourself, the type of paint you choose should work with your environment, not against it.
Low or No VOC Paints
One of the reasons you need good ventilation when you paint indoors is because the paint fumes can be harmful to your health. Most of the odors in paint fumes come from volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs.
VOCs aren’t all dangerous, and most aren’t instantly toxic. However, some of them trigger allergic reactions or irritate your skin, including the skin in your eyes, nose, and throat. They can also cause headaches and nausea. Over time, the health impacts from VOCs can build up and cause long-term damage.
Commercial paint often has some VOC content, but there are low and no VOC paint options that are safer for indoor use. These paints still require some ventilation, but they’re significantly less harmful if you accidentally breathe in the paint fumes.
Oil Paint vs. Latex Paint
Oil-based paint and latex-based paint have different temperature needs for the best application and drying process. For oil-based paints, the best temperature is between 40°F and 90°F (4.5°C and 32°C). Latex does better between 50°F and 85°F (10°C and 29°C).
For both types of paint, the best relative humidity is 40-50%. In the right conditions, it takes paint a few days to dry all the way through, so you’ll need to be able to maintain the right conditions for two to three days in a row. Outdoors, that requires careful consideration of the weather report, but indoors you can artificially create the right conditions.
Knowing what type of paint you’re using will help you make temperature and humidity adjustments. On the other hand, if you know the typical temperature and humidity conditions of the room, you can choose the paint type that most closely matches.
Consider Your Climate
Winter months don’t mean the same thing for everyone. While winters are typically drier and colder than summers, the winter in Florida is very different from the winter in Maine. If the temperature and humidity in your area are frequently at the extreme ends of the scale, you’ll need to make more intentional changes to get good paint results.
Areas that have low humidity all year round, like the southwestern United States, need paints with more moisture, as the surrounding air will absorb some of the water from the paint. Areas with relative humidity above 50% in the winter will do better with dehumidifiers in the room where you’re painting.
The Auzkin Dehumidifier is a great choice for smaller interior spaces. It’s quiet and portable, so it won’t be in the way while you work. The tank holds 26 ounces of water, so you won’t have to refill it constantly, and you can focus on painting instead.
It’s okay to paint interior walls in the winter. As long as the humidity, temperature, and ventilation are right, you can paint safely in any room during any season. Choosing paint with fewer harmful chemicals is beneficial, especially when you may not want to leave the windows open to the elements.
Extreme temperatures don’t work well for painting, but adjustments to your home’s temperature and humidity can easily make the perfect environment for painting. A few simple steps can prepare you and your space for a safe and beautiful winter paint job.
- Wikipedia: Humidity
- Wikipedia: Volatile Organic Compound
- Arizona Painting Company: Effect of Temperature and Humidity on Painting
- Green America: Eco-Friendly Paints and Stains
- Arch Painting: Is Painting Your House in Winter a Good Idea?
- Franklin Painting: Fall & Winter Painting
- Fillo Painting: The Impact of Humidity on Interior Painting
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