Can You Apply Enamel Paint Over Latex Paint? (How-To)

I had some leftover enamel paint from a previous paint job. So I decided to touch up my old bookshelf by spraying it with enamel paint. But I had a little problem. I had previously used latex paint on the bookshelf and I wasn’t sure if I could use enamel paint on the latex. So I did some research and here is what I found out.

You can apply enamel paint over latex paint but you need to sand the latex finish lightly and then use a primer before applying the enamel paint.

However, if you intend to use water-based enamel paint over the latex paint, then using a primer isn’t necessary though it will improve the finish.

There is more to know about applying enamel paint over latex paint. So let’s get on with it.

What Type Of Latex Paint Is Best To Use With Enamel Paint?

Most types of latex paint are okay to use with enamel paint. However, most painters prefer to go with a latex satin finish or latex eggshell finish when working with enamel paint. This is because latex satin and eggshell finishes don’t have a glossy sheen. And, these paints are also durable enough to be used as a base coat for enamel paint.

However, light sanding and priming are usually required when planning to use latex paint with enamel paint.

Though latex paints are generally good with enamel paints, ensure to stay away from latex paints that have semi-gloss or high-gloss sheen. Also, latex paint sealed with wax or a clear topcoat shouldn’t be used with enamel paint, especially oil-based enamel paint.

This is because these latex paints have a slick finish and oil-based enamel paint wouldn’t stick well to a slick surface.

If you are to use enamel paint especially oil-based enamel paint with latex paint that has a glossy sheen or that has been sealed with wax, you need to strip the latex paint first. This helps to remove the topcoat on the latex paint that gives the glossy appearance. When the glossy sheen is removed, the enamel paint will stick to the latex paint.

To remove the glossy topcoat from a latex finish, you can use a paint scraper or paint strippers. Then sand the surface lightly and use a primer before applying the enamel.

All these conditions and uncertainties about using latex paint with enamel paint are enough to make you wonder why you would paint enamel over latex. It seems like a bad idea doesn’t it? Well not quite. Let’s take a closer look.

Related Read: Can You Use Enamel Paint on Wood?

Why Would You Paint Enamel Paint Over Latex Paint?

Painting enamel paint over latex paint helps to preserve and beautify the latex paint finish. This is because enamel paint especially oil-based enamel is a tough and very thick finish that is resistant to water and other factors that can quickly ruin the latex finish like scratches.

When enamel is painted over latex, the enamel coating serves as a shield to protect the latex finish from scratches, moisture and chipping. But protection is just one of the benefits that latex paint gets from enamel.

Enamel paint also beautifies the latex finish underneath especially if the enamel paint is a clear finish or has the same color as the latex paint underneath.

Enamel paint especially oil-based enamel paint when dry gives a glossy sheen to the latex paint. This glossy sheen is reflective and shiny. This sheen provided by the enamel paint over latex gives the latex finish an extra touch of class and beauty.

There is no denying the fact that painting enamel over latex paint is a struggle. The task is even more difficult when using paints with different bases or solvents. However, the result of this struggle if done properly is a beautiful and long-lasting latex finish.

To make this task easier, let’s take a look at how to paint enamel paint over latex paint below.

Related Read: Does Enamel Paint Need Primer?

How To Paint Enamel Over Latex Paint

Painting enamel over latex paint in itself isn’t a difficult task. It’s the level of prep work that needs to be completed before applying the enamel over latex that makes the task a bit tedious.

To paint enamel over latex paint, you’ll need the following tools:

  • A Pair Of Gloves
  • A Face Mask
  • A Can Of Enamel Paint (Preferably Water-Based Enamel Paint)
  • A Paintbrush Or A Spray Gun
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint Scraper Or Metallic Putty Knife
  • Rags

Here is how to paint enamel over latex:

  • Clean The Latex Finish
  • Scrape Off The Wax If The Latex Paint Was Sealed
  • Sand Lightly With Fine-Grit Sandpaper
  • Prime The Surface
  • Stir The Enamel Paint
  • Apply Two Coats Of The Enamel Paint On The Latex
  • Leave To Cure

Now, let’s get to work.

1. Clean The Latex Finish

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

The first step is to wipe the latex finish. Since you will be painting over the latex with enamel paint, it’s important to have a clean latex finish. If there is any debris, dust nib, or grease on the latex paint, the enamel would stick well and it will affect the resulting finish.

To clean the latex finish, use a clean rag and warm soapy water to wipe the latex paint. Don’t pour water on the latex paint. Just dip the rag inside the soapy water, squeeze it, and use the damp end to wipe the latex paint.

Also, don’t use any solvent that can ruin the latex coating since you will be painting over it.

2. Scrape Off The Wax On If The Latex Paint Was Sealed

Scrape Off The Wax On If The Latex Paint Was Sealed

If the latex paint was sealed with wax, a sealant, or a glossy top coat, you need to remove or scrape off the glossy top coat before applying enamel paint. If the wax or sheen is left on the surface, it will prevent the enamel paint from getting a good bond with the latex paint.

If the latex paint wasn’t sealed with a clear coat, then you can skip this step.

3. Sand Lightly With Fine-Grit Sandpaper

Sand Lightly With Fine-Grit Sandpaper

The latex paint should be sanded lightly with a fine-grit sandpaper. Sanding will improve paint adhesion. It helps the enamel paint to bite into the surface.

To sand, use sandpaper from 240-grit and above to sand the latex paint. Using coarse sandpaper will ruin the latex paint because latex is easily sanded.

Related Read: How To Sand Latex Paint?

4. Prime The Surface

Prime The Surface

You can do this either before stirring the paint or after. But it’s better to prime the surface first before stirring the paint. This is because it will take a while for the primer to get dry. You should select a primer that will work best with the type of enamel paint you plan on using.

Here is a guide to know which primer to use depending on the enamel paint.

Type Of Enamel PaintBase Coat To Be Painted OverPrimer To Use
Oil-basedLatex PaintOil-based primer for Enamel Paints
Water-basedLatex PaintWater-based primer for enamel paints
Flat and Matte enamelLatex PaintWater-based primer for enamel paints
Semi-gloss and high-glossLatex paintOil-based primer for enamel paints

The guide above is for when you want to paint over latex with enamel.

You only need 2 coats of the required primer on the latex paint. Asides from improving paint adhesion, priming before using enamel paint also help to seal or fill tiny holes and pores in the surface that can suck up excess paint. Priming also improves the resulting finish.

5. Stir The Enamel Paint

Stir The Enamel Paint

The next step is to stir the enamel paint to improve its flow, consistency, and uniformity. You can stir the enamel paint directly in the container with a turning stick. You can also use a paint mixer.

If the enamel paint is hard to stir, you can add a paint thinner or mineral spirit to loosen the paint particles so the paint is easier to stir. Never paint any surface with clogged enamel paint.

6. Apply The Enamel Over The Latex

Apply The Enamel Over The Latex

When the latex paint is well-prepped, you can then apply the enamel over it. Enamel paint can be applied with a paintbrush or a spray gun. Start with thin coats. You don’t need heavy coats of enamel on the paint.

When you put the paintbrush into the enamel paint container, brush the paintbrush off the inner walls of the container to remove excess enamel from the paintbrush. Thin coats of enamel will be easier to control on the surface. Thin coats will also fry quickly.

When the first coat has cured, you can apply the second thin coat. It takes a few hours for enamel paint coating to fully cure. If it’s an oil-based enamel, it’s best to wait for a full day before applying the second coating.

You usually don’t need to sand between coats of enamel paint but if you notice that there are pimples, dust nibs, and grain on the first coat of enamel, you can sand lightly with a very fine-grit sandpaper. Ensure to use sandpaper from 400-grit and above. Also, ensure to only sand the first coat of it has cured and not before.

7. Leave To Dry

Leave the enamel paint to dry

When you are done painting, leave the enamel coating to dry. If you used a water-based enamel coating on an exterior surface, it’s best to seal the enamel paint with a clear topcoat to improve its durability and resistance against harsh weather and UV rays.

When you are done with all these steps, you have successfully applied enamel paint over latex.

Related Read: Latex Paint vs Enamel Paint?

Can You Mix Enamel Paint With Latex Paint?

You should never mix enamel paint with latex paint even if both paints are water-based. Mixing latex paint with enamel paint will damage both paints and make them almost unusable. This is because both paint types have varying features and chemicals. This means they would react differently to changes.

Most enamel paints are oil-based. If you are using an oil-based enamel, do not mix it with latex. If you mix latex and enamel paint, the resulting paint will not have a uniform color or consistency.

Painting with such paint will also make the finish look amateurish. Not to mention the fact that the finish will peel off prematurely.

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

If you put oil-based paint over latex paint, the oil paint will stick to the latex paint but the resulting finish wouldn’t be very durable. This is because both paints have different characteristics.

Latex paint is flexible while oil-based paint is designed to be tough and thick which means oil-based paint isn’t flexible. This difference in paint characteristics will cause the latex and oil paint to react differently when exposed to moisture and temperature changes.

These different reactions of the paint to changes will cause the oil-based paint to crack, lose its bond, and eventually fall off.

Painting over latex with oil-based paint is not impossible. Latex paints are paints that use water as the solvent.

These include chalk, matte, water-based acrylic paints, and the likes. These paints when dry don’t have any glossy sheen. This makes it possible for oil-based paints to adhere to such paints easily.

However, easy adhesion doesn’t guarantee a strong bond. Though oil paints will stick to latex paint, the paint adhesion wouldn’t be strong enough to allow the paint to last long.

Also, the varying characteristics of the latex and oil paints will cause the oil paint to crack, split, and fall off within a few months after application.

Related Read: How To Put Epoxy Floor Over Paint?

What Happens If You Put Water-Based Paint Over Enamel Paint?

If you put water-based paint over enamel paint, the water-based paint coating will not stick well to the enamel paint. Unless the enamel paint is water-based and has been previously sanded. This is because enamel paints are usually oil-based paints and latex or water-based paints don’t stick well to oil paints.

When dry, oil-based enamel paints usually have a glossy sheen similar to the finish of a waxed surface. This glossy sheen prevents inter-coat adhesion – meaning that paints wouldn’t stick to the oil-based enamel paint. So if you paint latex over enamel, the finish will peel off within the first few weeks because there is no bond.

However, if the glossy sheen on the enamel paint is stripped off, latex paint will adhere to it better making the finish last longer – but not as long as you want.

This is because the enamel paint and latex paint will react differently to changes making the whole finish crack and fall off eventually.

Applying latex paint over water-based enamel paint is a different story. When latex paint is applied over water-based enamel paint, there is usually increased adhesion. However, the water-based enamel has to be sanded first before latex paint is applied over it. Priming might also be required though not necessary when painting latex over water-based enamel.

Related Read: Can You Apply Acrylic Paint Over Enamel?

Final Words

Overall, enamel paint can be used over latex paint but the latex paint underneath has to be unsealed, sanded, and primed. You should also endeavor to use water-based enamel paint over latex.

Though water-based enamel paint will not provide a very bright sheen, there will be better paint adhesion between water-based enamel paint and latex paint. Not to mention that the finish can be sealed with a clear topcoat like polyurethane to give the bright sheen.

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