What’s the Difference Between Interior and Exterior Paint?

Even if your home is well-maintained, you can still see those ugly weathered spots now and then. It’s not just that your house is aging, but the paint that you used has faded, too.

To give your home a fresh look, you’re about to repaint it. But do you know what types of paint to use on your home?

Painting your house is not as simple as it may seem. Choosing the wrong surface or interior paint can lead to a lot of consequences. So be sure to consider the pros and cons.

To learn more, keep reading below about the difference between interior and exterior paint.

Purpose of Use

Interior paint is meant to protect walls inside the home, providing aesthetic value and the resistance from wear and tear that comes with regular, everyday use. It usually includes binders and pigments and is often highly washable.

Exterior paint is specifically designed to withstand the harsh elements of the outdoors. This often includes a longer-lasting finish that is more resistant to fading, peeling, flaking, and cracking. It also needs to be weatherproof, waterproof, and mildew-resistant. Learn more today, and you can make the perfect choice for your project.

Weather Resistance

Exterior paint is designed to be weather-resistant, which means it will hold up to continued changes in temperature, growing more and more durable in the process. Interior paint typically is not as weather-resistant due to its need to be easy to clean and maintain.

On the other hand, exterior paints usually contain higher concentrations of resins, which can reduce the likelihood of mildew and mold but can also fade sooner due to constant exposure to sunlight.


Exterior paint tends to be more durable because it is specifically formulated to withstand environmental elements. Interior paint, on the other hand, is designed to be easier to clean and maintain.

In addition to being less able to stand up to the elements, interior paint usually won’t hold up as long or provide the sound-dampening necessary in some areas. Because it is no match for the wear and tear that can come with outdoor elements, exterior paint will ensure wear and fade resistance for a longer period of time.

VOC Content

VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds which commonly exist in paints and can be hazardous to your environment or health. Interior paints are designed with lower VOC levels to increase indoor air quality and reduce fumes. Conversely, exterior paints may contain higher VOC content to ensure a weatherproof finish that can endure harsh weather conditions, such as rain, snow, and direct sunlight.

Interior paints are lower in VOC content, so they don’t off-gas as many VOCs and can provide better overall air quality for painting a home’s occupants. Exterior paints may contain higher VOC levels, but they tend to be more durable and require less frequent re-painting.


Interior paint has a more flexible application. You can mix it right in the can and thin it where necessary. It is meant to be applied in staggered strokes and can be easily removed if necessary. The exterior paint, however, must be applied thicker and evenly.

It’s meant to provide a thicker protective layer and is less flexible, so it’s harder to remove it if you have to repair a section. Exterior paint is also subjected to more environmental factors, like extreme temperatures, so it needs to be more durable and long-lasting than interior paint.

Moisture Resistance

Interior paint is designed to protect the walls from dirt, scuffs, and general wear and tear in an area with little to no moisture. It usually contains latex or acrylic as the primary binders, allowing it to create a water-resistant barrier on the wall’s surface.

On the other hand, exterior paint is created to stand up to outdoor elements. This type of paint contains binders such as vinyl, linseed oil, and elastomeric, allowing it to circulate air throughout the surface area and form a deep-penetrated barrier against the elements.

UV Protection

Interior paint offers less protection from UV rays than exterior paint because it is generally not as durable. The exterior paint, on the other hand, is designed to withstand exposure to sunlight and other weather conditions. This includes a higher level of UV protection.

Exterior paint also has added ingredients to further protect it from the sun, while interior paint generally does not. As such, paying careful attention to the UV protection of the paints you buy is important, depending on if you’re working on the interior or the exterior.

Application Techniques

Interior paint should normally be applied using a brush or roller, whereas, when it comes to exterior paint, a sprayer can be used to reach areas that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to reach with any type of brush or roller. When painting exterior surfaces, it is important to employ a primer or undercoat to ensure the paint adheres properly and does not easily fade or peel off.

For interior surfaces, a primer or sealer is not usually necessary. Exterior paint should always use 100-200 square feet per gallon of paint, which is usually two or three times higher than interior uses, which only require a maximum of 350 square feet per gallon.

Aesthetic Considerations

The key differences between interior and exterior paint in relation to aesthetic considerations come down to the desired end result. Interior paint acts as an accent to a room, allowing homeowners to express themselves through the best paint colors while exterior paint is a protective layer of color on the outside of the house, protecting it from the elements.

Interior paint is meant to create a warm and inviting atmosphere, while exterior paint is meant to help facilitate temperature control and protect the home from harsh weather conditions.

The Bottom Line: Difference Between Interior and Exterior Paint

The key difference between interior and exterior paint are the components used, how it is applied, and the durability of the finish. When choosing which paint to use, weigh your needs against expected wear and consider hiring a professional to help ensure a good paint job. Whatever your needs may be, make sure you get the right paint for the job.

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