Enamel Over Latex Paint (Can You Do it & How To?)

Enamel paint is oil-based, while latex paint is water-based. So, can you apply enamel over latex paint?

You can apply enamel paint over latex paint. However, the latex paint must be fully dry (cured), and you must sand it before applying enamel paint. Applying a primer between the enamel and latex paint will improve the finish quality too. 

However, you don’t need to sand or apply a primer if you use using water-based (acrylic) enamel paint. That’s because water-based paints are compatible with each other. 

Enamel Paint Sticks To Latex

Enamel paint sticks to a latex paint finish. Since latex paint is water-based, it has no glossy finish that repels the enamel paint. Also, latex paint has a dry textured finish that enamel paint can penetrate into. Paint must penetrate a surface to stick. Since latex paint has a textured finish, the enamel paint will stick over it.

But, you must clean, sand, and prime (optionally) the latex paint before enamel. That’s because latex paint attracts dust, and dust will prevent enamel paint from sticking. So, cleaning will remove the dust, sanding will remove imperfections from the surface, and priming will improve the adhesion between latex and enamel. 

However, if the latex paint is sealed, you can’t apply enamel paint over it. That’s because the sealer over the latex will prevent the enamel paint from penetrating the coating, thus enamel paint won’t stick. You must remove the sealer coating from the latex paint before applying enamel. 

Also, you can’t paint over high-gloss latex paint. That’s because high-gloss latex paint has a glossy finish that repels liquid, including paint. To apply enamel over high-gloss latex, remove the glossy sheen and then apply the enamel. 

How To Apply Enamel Over Latex Paint?

Applying enamel over latex paint isn’t hard, but you must prep the latex paint properly. If you don’t prep the latex paint, you can ruin the finish. 

Here are the tools you need:

  • Safety Gears
  • Enamel Paint 
  • A Paintbrush Or A Spray Gun
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint Scraper Or Metallic Putty Knife
  • Rags

1. Clean The Latex Finish

The first thing you need to do before applying enamel is to clean the latex paint.

First, clean the latex paint finish. If it’s an old finish, it will be riddled with dust, dirt, and debris that can prevent proper paint adhesion. Cleaning will remove the dust from the latex paint, allowing enamel paint to stick to a clean surface. 

To clean a latex finish:

  1. Mix soap with warm water. 
  2. Damp a clean rag with the mixture.
  3. Wait 5 minutes.
  4. Use the dampened rag to wipe off the dust from the latex finish. 
  5. Remove the soap residue from the latex paint with clean water.
  6. Allow the latex paint coating to dry. 

Don’t use solvent-based products to clean latex paint as it can remove the entire coating. 

2. Remove The Sealant (Optional)

Scrape Off The Wax On If The Latex Paint Was Sealed

If the latex paint is sealed with a topcoat, you must remove the topcoat before applying enamel. That’s because a sealant (top coat) has a glossy finish that is water-resistant (or proof). The sealant will prevent enamel paint from penetrating the latex paint coating, so enamel paint won’t stick. 

To remove a sealant from latex paint:

  1. Apply mineral spirits over the coating. 
  2. Wait 10 minutes. 
  3. Scrape the sealant using a paint scraper.
  4. Re-apply mineral spirits to the leftover sealant.
  5. Remove the leftover sealant with a rag.
  6. Remove the residue of the mineral spirit from the surface. 

Unfortunately, you can’t remove the sealant without removing latex paint. So, while removing the sealant, the latex paint will be also removed. 

Note: If latex paint isn’t sealed or waxed, skip this step. 

3. Sand The Finish

Sand Lightly With Fine-Grit Sandpaper

You must lightly sand latex paint before applying enamel. Sanding will improve the paint adhesion by removing imperfections and creating scratches that the enamel paint can stick to. 

To sand latex paint, use fine-grit sandpaper (240-grit and above). Avoid using coarse sandpaper as it removes the entire latex paint. 

4. Prime The Surface

Prime The Surface

Applying a primer over latex paint before enamel is optional, but it helps with paint adhesion. The paint primer will dry over the latex paint, creating a smooth base coat for enamel paint to stick to. However, you must use a compatible primer for enamel paint (preferably oil-based primer). 

To prime latex paint:

  1. Apply 2 coats of primer. 
  2. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one.
  3. Optionally, sand between the first and second coat (don’t sand the final one). 
  4. Wait until the primer dries before applying enamel paint. 

A paint primer will also seal (or fill) imperfections on the latex paint. So, enamel paint will stick over the even and textured coating of the primer. 

5. Apply Enamel Paint

Apply The Enamel Over The Latex

Once the latex paint is well-prepped, apply enamel paint over it. 

To apply enamel over latex:

  1. Use a paintbrush or sprayer. 
  2. Apply 3-4 thin coats of enamel paint. 
  3. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one. 
  4. If the enamel paint coatings dry unevenly (or have imperfections), sand with ultrafine-grit sandpaper (400-grit). 
  5. Allow the final coat of enamel paint to dry fully (cure) before using it. 
  6. Seal the enamel paint with a topcoat. 

It takes enamel paint 24 hours to dry fully (cure). You must wait until the enamel paint cures before using the surface or sealing with a topcoat. 

Related Read: Latex Paint vs Enamel Paint?

Mixing Enamel And Latex Paint

You shouldn’t mix enamel paint with latex paint because they have a different paint solvent. Enamel paint uses natural or synthetic oil as its solvent, while latex paint uses water as its solvent. If you mix enamel and latex, you will get a finish with an inconsistent flow, dry time, and color that won’t stick to surfaces. 

Because of the different paint solvents, enamel and latex paint have different drying times. Latex paint dries faster than enamel paint because water evaporates faster than oil. So, if both paints are mixed, one part of the mixture will dry and become hard (latex), while the other part will still be wet (enamel). This leads to a cracked or tacky finish. 

Also, the finish would have a yellow tint because of the oil deposits that won’t evaporate. So, you shouldn’t mix enamel paint with latex. 

However, you can mix acrylic enamel with latex paint. That’s because both paints have the same paint solvent (water) and are compatible. 

Latex Over Enamel Paint

You can’t apply latex paint over enamel paint. That’s because enamel paint has a glossy finish that repels liquid, including paint. So, if you apply latex paint over enamel, the latex paint won’t stick. 

Latex paint must penetrate the surface to stick. But, since latex paint can’t penetrate (soak into) the enamel paint coating, the paint won’t stick. Instead, the latex paint will turn tacky or sticky. 

To apply latex over enamel paint, you must remove the enamel paint glossy finish first, and then apply latex paint. You can also apply a primer over the enamel paint, and then apply latex over the primer, but the adhesion won’t be that good. 

Final Words

You can use enamel paint on a latex finish, but you must clean, sand, and prime the latex paint. However, if the latex paint is sealed, you must remove the sealer before applying enamel paint. Also, you can’t apply enamel over high-gloss latex paint because of its moisture-resistant glossy finish. 

On the other hand, you can’t apply latex paint over enamel paint. That’s because enamel paint has a glossy finish that repels moisture, including paint. 

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