The Cold Hard Facts About Paint Storage, Transportation and Application

Whether winter is coming or going, our thoughts (at least in the paint dept.) turn to the proper care and use of, you guessed it, paint and or stain. What can we say, we love it so. Be that as it may, we realize most homeowners don't necessarily love it, and don't have a good handle on the temperature limitations regardless of whether you are storing, transporting or applying it. So, we thought we'd shed a little light on the subject as we say a teary good-bye to fall and brace for Old Man Winter.


How Cold Weather Can Adversely Affect Latex Paints

Most latex paints are not to be used in temperatures less than 50° F. The exception would be some exterior acrylic paints specially formulated for use down to 35°, including as all Hirshfield exterior low temp paints.

As it regards to painting, temperature falls into three categories: ambient surface and material. No doubt these are pretty much self-explanatory, but since Murphy Bros. paint manager Dan Flaherty insists on thoroughness we’ll add these definitions:

  • The ambient temperature is the temperature of the surrounding air.
  • The surface temperature is the temperature of the substrate being painted
  • Material temperature is the temperature of the paint product being applied.


Paint Department artist Bill Brown touching up a ceiling. Yes, Bill this is why your neck hurts at the end of the day


In order to achieve a successful paint job, all three of the following conditions must be met. Be advised there are still many ways to screw up a paint job, but in this article we’ll just be dealing with paint and temperature.

1. The building being painted should have a heating system in place adequate to maintain an even and consistent AMBIENT temperature above 50° F.

2. The building being painted should have a heating system in place adequate to maintain an even and consistent SURFACE temperature above 50° F.

3. The paint should also be stored in a heated area above 50° F. Paint left outside or in a vehicle overnight in cold weather below 50° F may take SEVERAL HOURS at room temperature to warm up to an acceptable temperature.


This illustrates how your paint feels when it is too cold.


What happens when you apply paint that is too cold? Nothing good that’s for sure.

Applying paint that is too cold or in conditions where ambient and surface temperatures are too cold (below 50° F) can, as paint guru Flaherty would say, “adversely affect,” or as our paint coordinator Marianne would translate, “totally screw up,” performance, proper film formation, dry times and color.

While most latex paints contain glycol to give them some measure of freeze/thaw stability, many of today’s low and/or no VOC paints will not tolerate being stored or transported in freezing temperatures. Exposure to temperatures below 32° F for EVEN A FEW HOURS can cause issues that render the paint unusable.

Precautions should be taken with water-borne products too. This is especially true with the low and no VOC products during the cold weather months to make sure they don’t freeze. Or as Dan would say, “Just be careful out there; don’t try this at home and be sure to call us in the Spring.”


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