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What Happens If I Use Exterior Paint On Interior Cabinets?

I Use Exterior Paint On Interior Cabinets

Are you thinking of giving your interior cabinets a fresh coat of paint but only having exterior paint on hand? It may be tempting to use it, but before you do, it’s important to understand the potential consequences. While both interior and exterior paints may look the same, they are formulated differently to withstand different conditions. In this article, we’ll explore what happens if you use exterior paint on interior cabinets and why it’s important to use the right type of paint for your project. So, let’s dive in!

What Are The Differences Between Exterior And Interior Paint?

When it comes to painting your home, it’s important to understand the differences between exterior and interior paint. While both types of paint serve the same basic purpose – to add color and protect surfaces – they have distinct differences that make them suitable for specific applications.

Exterior paint is formulated to withstand harsh weather conditions and other environmental factors. It’s designed to be more durable and resistant to fading, chalking, and cracking. Exterior paint is also designed to resist moisture and mold growth, which is especially important in areas with high humidity.

Interior paint, on the other hand, is not designed to withstand the same harsh conditions as exterior paint. It’s formulated to be easier to clean and more resistant to stains and scuffs. Interior paint also has lower levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than exterior paint, which makes it a safer choice for indoor use.

In terms of finishes, exterior paint typically has a flat or satin finish, while interior paint can have a variety of finishes, including matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. The finish you choose will depend on the desired look and function of the painted surface.

Color is another important factor to consider when choosing between interior and exterior paint. Exterior paint colors are typically brighter and bolder than interior colors, as they need to stand out against the natural environment. Interior paint colors tend to be more subdued and neutral, as they’re meant to create a calm and inviting atmosphere.

In summary, exterior paint is formulated to be more durable and weather-resistant, while interior paint is designed to be more stain-resistant and easier to clean. The choice between the two types of paint depends on the specific application, as well as personal preference in terms of color and finish.

What Happens If I Use Exterior Paint On Interior Cabinets?

Using exterior paint on interior cabinets is not recommended as it can lead to several issues. Exterior paint is designed to withstand harsh weather conditions, including UV rays, extreme temperatures, and moisture, which makes it more durable and resistant to fading, cracking, and peeling. However, it may contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemicals that can be harmful when used indoors.

Here are some of the potential problems you may encounter if you use exterior paint on interior cabinets:

  1. Strong Odors: Exterior paint typically contains a higher concentration of VOCs that can produce strong odors, which can be harmful to your health and cause respiratory problems when used in confined spaces such as interiors.
  2. Health Risks: The VOCs in exterior paint can also cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Exposure to these chemicals can lead to long-term health issues such as cancer, kidney, and liver damage.
  3. Poor Aesthetics: Exterior paint may not give the desired appearance when used indoors. For example, it may have a glossy finish or an uneven texture that doesn’t look good on interior cabinets.
  4. Peeling and Chipping: Exterior paint may not adhere well to interior surfaces and may start to peel or chip, especially when exposed to moisture and temperature changes.

In summary, it’s best to use interior paint for cabinets inside the home. Interior paints have lower levels of VOCs, are designed to withstand the wear and tear of indoor use, and come in a wide range of colors and finishes. If you must use exterior paint indoors, ensure it’s low-VOC and suitable for interior surfaces.

What Alternatives To Using Exterior Paint On Interior Cabinets?

When it comes to renovating or updating the look of your kitchen cabinets, using exterior paint may seem like a logical choice. However, there are some alternatives to using exterior paint on interior cabinets that can be more beneficial in the long run. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Stain – If you want to showcase the natural beauty of the wood grain in your cabinets, staining is a great alternative to painting. Stains come in a wide range of colors and finishes, allowing you to create a customized look for your cabinets.
  2. Laminate – Laminate is a durable and affordable option for covering your cabinets. It comes in a variety of colors and finishes and can be easily installed over existing cabinet doors and drawers.
  3. Veneer – Veneer is a thin layer of wood that can be applied over existing cabinet surfaces. It gives the appearance of solid wood without the high cost and can be stained or painted to match your desired color scheme.
  4. Wallpaper – Wallpaper is a unique option for adding texture and pattern to your cabinet surfaces. There are many designs available that can add a pop of color and personality to your kitchen.

When choosing an alternative to exterior paint for your interior cabinets, it’s important to consider durability, cost, and the overall style you want to achieve. Each of these options has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to do your research and choose the one that’s right for you. With the right alternative, you can transform your cabinets and give your kitchen a fresh new look.

What Are The Potential Problems With Using Exterior Paint On Interior Cabinets?

Exterior paint may seem like a cost-effective and convenient solution for painting your interior cabinets, but there are potential problems that come with using it. In this article, we’ll explore some of the issues you may face if you choose to use exterior paint on your indoor cabinets.

  1. Toxicity

Most exterior paints contain toxic chemicals that can be harmful to your health when used indoors. The fumes from these paints can cause respiratory problems, headaches, and even nausea. These toxic chemicals can linger in the air long after the paint has dried, making it a dangerous choice for indoor use.

  1. Durability

Exterior paints are formulated to withstand harsh weather conditions, UV rays, and other outdoor elements. However, when used indoors, these paints may not last as long. They may chip, peel or fade more quickly than interior paints, which are specifically designed for indoor use.

  1. Difficulty in Application

Exterior paints are thicker and heavier than interior paints, making them difficult to apply to indoor cabinets. They may not spread as easily, leaving behind brush marks and streaks. This can make the finished product look unprofessional and unsightly.

  1. Aesthetics

Exterior paints are designed to create a specific look and feel for outdoor spaces. They often have a glossy finish that may not be suitable for indoor cabinets. The shiny surface may reflect too much light, making your cabinets appear garish and unattractive.

  1. Legal Issues

Using exterior paint on interior cabinets may also lead to legal problems. Depending on where you live, there may be specific regulations or codes that dictate what type of paint can be used indoors. Failing to comply with these regulations can result in fines or other legal consequences.

Preparing Cabinets For Painting

f you want to transform your kitchen or bathroom without spending a fortune, painting your cabinets is a great option. It is an affordable way to give your space a fresh and modern look, but it requires proper preparation to achieve the best results.

Here are some tips on how to prepare your cabinets for painting:

  1. Remove Cabinet Doors and Hardware

The first step is to remove all cabinet doors and hardware such as handles and hinges. This will give you easier access to all areas of the cabinet and make the painting process smoother.

  1. Clean and Sand the Cabinets

To ensure a smooth finish, it is crucial to clean the cabinets thoroughly. Use a degreaser to remove any grease and grime, then sand the surface to remove any old paint or rough patches. This will also help the primer and paint adhere to the surface better.

  1. Fill in any Gaps or Holes

Inspect the cabinets for any gaps, cracks, or holes, and fill them with wood filler. Once the wood filler has dried, sand the surface again to achieve a smooth finish.

  1. Prime the Cabinets

Priming the cabinets is an essential step that helps the paint adhere better and provides a smoother finish. Use a high-quality primer and apply it with a brush or roller. Let it dry completely before moving on to the next step.

  1. Paint the Cabinets

Finally, it’s time to paint the cabinets. Choose a high-quality paint that is suitable for cabinets and apply it in thin layers, allowing each coat to dry before applying the next. This will ensure a smooth and long-lasting finish.


In conclusion, using exterior paint on interior cabinets is not recommended. While exterior paint may seem like a cost-effective option, it lacks the qualities needed for interior spaces. The harmful chemicals in exterior paint can pose health risks, and it does not have the durability or finish required for cabinets that come in contact with moisture, heat, and constant use. Using interior-specific paint is the best way to ensure a lasting and safe finish for your cabinets. So, if you want to maintain the beauty and quality of your cabinets, it is best to choose a paint that is specifically designed for interiors.