Why Use Latex Paint?

Latex or Not? When considering the use of latex several factory come into play. The first might be the total cost of your airplane. If you have just finished assembling your RV-10 quick build kit with a $30,000 panel and all the bells and whistles, then a $300 paint job might not be appropriate. On the other hand, if you have scratch built a Mini-Max for a $4,000 total investment, you might find a $10,000 custom professional paint job a bit too salty.

Cost: Latex paint costs much less that the traditional finishes used on aircraft (dope, Polyfiber, Stewarts Systems...). The best quality latex paint is around $60 per gallon, where aircraft products can be over $300. When you add in the fillers and UV protection products the total difference is dramatic.

Safety: Traditional aircraft products and automotive finishes all have strong odors and some are highly toxic. These can require expensive safety gear, specialized paint booths, and special shipping and disposal of the products. Latex is safe, low odor, and water based so it can be used in basement shops and attached garages.

Availability: Traditional products are not usually available locally and must be shipped, often requiring hazardous shipping charges. Latex is available from a variety of local paint suppliers and comes in all the colors of the rainbow.

What about weight? According to the Polyfiber manual the original cotton and dope on a Piper J-3 weighed 1.64 oz/sqft, 2.7 oz Polyfiber cloth and finish weighs .94 oz/sqft, and 1.7 ozĀ  cloth and finish weighs .72 oz/sqft. I have painted and weighted a test panel using 1.8 oz cloth. The cloth and glue cover 1.25 sqft and weigh .5 oz. The primer and paint add another .5 oz. This equates to .8 oz/sqft. So the latex finish process that I use, which is 6 coats of primer and 4 coats of color, sanded and polished, smooth and shiny, is about the same weight as Polyfiber and about half of dope and cotton.

What about durability and longevity? Latex if very flexible which make it great for fabric. It bends where harder paints might crack. But, being softer, it will scratch easier than harder paints. Still, my Titan Tornado was finished in 2011 and looks as good as the day I painted it. Drew Fidoe published a 10 year update on his latex painted Fly Baby with very positive results.

Is it as good as certified products? Maybe, maybe not. The certified products are all tested and designed to do exactly what they do. They can be used on certified airplanes as well as experimentals. They are great products and you can't go wrong by using them. But for me, latex has many benefits, and I only work on homebuilts. It's an individual choice that I hope to help you make with the information presented on this website.