Bathroom Sink (Courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute)
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Bathroom Sink (Courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute)
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Paint that has a gloss helps to mitigate moisture damage to surfaces, and is easier to clean than flat paints. Used in bathrooms, gloss paint also blends well with the shinier aspects of bathroom fixtures. (Photo Courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute)

Allowing that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there are times when it is less subjective simply based on consensus. For example, if many people like paint with a semi-gloss sheen on surfaces in bathrooms and kitchens, that becomes a kind of de facto standard. Many times the standards of appearance in the built world come from architects and designers because they are the people we consider to be the experts in such matters. Then too, the companies that make the products we use in building have some ideas of their own when it comes to what looks good.

The Paint Quality Institute recently released descriptions of the various paint sheens that are available today, along with suggestions for where they fit the best. Here’s the rundown.

  • Flat sheen is most common and is non-reflective, helping to conceal imperfections such as uneven surfaces caused by poorly taped drywall. It also hides the under-color well, since it typically contains a lot of pigment. Use it in rooms that aren’t exposed to water, high humidity, or heavy soiling such as bedrooms, home offices, and living rooms.
  • High gloss sheen is very reflective so it tends to highlight imperfections. It is especially tough,  stain-resistant and easier to clean than paints with lower gloss. Use it for windows and trim, children’s rooms, and playrooms. With better mildew resistance it works well in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
  • Semi-gloss sheen is a compromise between the two sheen extremes. Since it is not as highly reflective as gloss, it won’t show surface imperfections quite as much, yet it still offers good stain resistance and is easy to clean. It’s very versatile and works well on windows and doors, trim, cabinets, walls of kitchens and baths, and in children’s rooms and playrooms.
  • Eggshell, satin, and low luster sheens are less “shiny” than either gloss or semi-gloss paints and they won’t highlight nicks and surface imperfections quite as much as flat. They’re also easier to clean than flat paints and are a good compromise between flat and semi-gloss.

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