Choosing paint for your bathroom can seem overwhelming. Satin, eggshell, gloss, flat: what's the real difference, and which is best for the damp bathroom environment? When selecting your bathroom paint, a good rule to remember is that the glossier the paint, the more durable, washable and water-resistant it is. Pick a finish on the glossier end of the spectrum, so your paint job holds up well in the bathroom.
The first step is understanding the different finish options and just how glossy each type is. Flat paint has the least amount of shine with a max 5 percent gloss level. It won't look shiny when the light hits it. Matte paint, sometimes called velvet, is the next step up on the glossy scale with a 5 to 10 percent gloss level. Since they don't reflect much light, both flat and matte paints hide flaws well.
Eggshell paint offers a little more shine with a 10 to 25 percent gloss level, followed by satin at 25 to 35 percent gloss. Semi-gloss is a middle-of-the-road paint at 35 to 70 percent gloss level, followed by gloss paint at 70 to 85 percent gloss level. The top of the list, high-gloss paint, has more than 85 percent gloss. Expect to see lots of shine when the light hits it. Higher gloss paints offer more durability, but they also make surface flaws stand out more than paints with less gloss.
The bathroom is no stranger to moisture, so it needs a paint that holds up well in humid conditions. Flat paint is the least resistant to moisture and isn't washable, so you can rule it out when your bathroom needs a new look. Stick with a paint with at least a moderate gloss level for the best results.
Satin and semi-gloss paints are both durable enough to stand up to the moisture in a bathroom. Plus, they're washable, so you can keep your bathroom walls looking clean and fresh. Paints with less gloss sometimes get damaged when you wash them. A gloss paint is also an option, but keep in mind that the shininess may be a bit much, and it shows every flaw on the wall because it reflects light so well. Mid-range gloss levels are washable and durable without highlighting dents and dings on the painted surface, making them a solid option for bathrooms.
Door and Window Trim
Door and window trim needs a little extra durability since those areas are most prone to scratches, scuffs and dirty fingerprints. A semi-gloss or gloss paint is best for these surfaces, as they can handle plenty of scrubbing. Using a slightly glossier finish on the trim makes it stand out to give your space a little architectural appeal. If you use semi-gloss on the walls, try a gloss on the trim, for example.
Ceilings usually call for a flat paint, but bathroom ceilings are the exception. Steam turns into condensation, which collects on surfaces, including the ceiling. Choose a ceiling paint with a bit of moisture resistance to make the finish last. An eggshell or satin paint adds durability to the ceiling finish without being overly shiny.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.