Decorating, DIY, Painting
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What’s going on with paint? Water based? Solvent based?

I’ve been planning to write this post for months, but wanted to collate as much info and evidence as possible before shooting my mouth. I haven’t seen anyone else tackle this issue yet and it’s about time someone did.

**Serious face**

Over the past few years, there’s been a huge shift in the paint industry.  Read this:

“Since the latest Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) Regulations came into force in the UK back in 2010, many paint products containing high levels of VOCs – the solvents that determine a paint’s viscosity, flow and drying time – were no longer be able to be manufactured.” Dulux

Ok, that’s very interesting, Karen, but what does this actually mean?

I’ll tell you. It meant the paints we’re used to painting our wood/metal work with have had to change in order to comply with the new VOC regs. Oil or solvent based paints as we knew them could no longer be sold because of environmental reasons. You know how gloss paint stinks and takes ages to dry? It’s also really bad for the environment.

“This marked a huge shake up in the paint and coatings market and left many professional appliers looking for alternative products that provide the results they require while complying with the legislation. Water based paints, with their naturally low VOC levels, have fast become a popular alternative.” Dulux

This is great! Anything that’s better for the environment gets a thumbs up from me. What gets a middle-y though is that fact that nobody’s really informed us, the customer about how this changes things, in practice.

Erm, ok, why would anyone bother telling us? Paint is paint right?

Well yes, but as in Animal Farm, “All paints are equal, but some paints are more equal than others.” More often, i’m finding myself steering people away from well loved paint brands and onto others in order to avoid some of the problems i’ve had with paint in the past.

What’s the problem?

The problem is, most of us have already used solvent based paint on our woodwork and metalwork at home. So now, when you want to touch up or re-paint your existing skirting and architraves, it’s not as simple as popping down to your local DIY warehouse and picking up any old pot of eggshell. You’ve got to get yourself clued up.

Why?

Because, if you apply a water based gloss/eggshell directly onto solvent based woodwork paint it will just chip, scratch or peel off. You know, how if you dropped a bit of oil into a glass of water, they just separate don’t they? The solvent in your old gloss paint forms a barrier which repels the water based paint from ahering. So before using any water based eggshell/gloss, you now need to use a water based primer too. A “brand specific” primer or undercoat is required to improve the adhesion between the old surface and new top coat of paint.

Oh.

Indeed. Don’t get me wrong, water based paints are way easier to use than their solvent based counterparts: Less smell, quicker drying times, easier to work with and a doddle to clean up afterwards. All great. But then when you’re all finished and the first thing you do is dink your woodwork and see all that hard work “chip off” it’s pretty infuriating. Everyone claims water based paints are as good if not better than our old skool paints. I’m not 100% convinced.

Here’s been my experience so far:


VALSPAR

Valspar Deep Shadow

My first time working with Valspar in 2015 was a mixed bag. Their emulsion was absolutely fab. I prefer their basic paint compared to the premium as it has a much more matt finish with great coverage. The woodwork and metal paint, however, was rubbish. Valspar is pretty new to the UK paint market, pushing Dulux out of B&Q’s across the country. It was now Valspar over on the paint mixing desk. When I went to get paint mixed for the Blue Room project, DID ANYONE TELL ME I NEEDED TO BUY A SPECIAL WATER BASED ACRYLIC PRIMER FOR THE WOODWORK?

No, no they bloody didn’t. And this is something I have issues with. If you’ve got trained staff on a paint desk, having one to one conversations with customers about what paint they would like mixing (because Valspar mix every colour right then, right there) why on earth aren’t they explaining the need for primer?

As you can probably imagine, the adhesion of this matt eggshell onto what was a solvent based satin finish, was rubbish. I remember tweeting Valspar to ask why their eggshell felt just like emulsion and didn’t get a reply. I just kept painting and painting it on in order to build up the layers. Even then, it still wasn’t great. My first lesson learned. Always buy the primer if you’re using Valspar woodwork paint.

So I did. For the next project where Valspar featured; The Sherwood Forest project.

Valspar Sherwood Forest and Gentle Shadow

You can see the grey primer on the skirting, architrave and radiator here ready for its coat of dark green paint.

Vintage Gallery wall

Valspar Sherwood Forest

Two coats of Valspar gloss paint went on very nicely and dried super quick. But it still chipped off. Man, I was so pissed off at this point. The solution? I had a solvent based paint colour-matched at a local paint specialist and I repainted all of the woodwork myself. **sigh**.

Valspar Midtown Magic

The only places where i’ve had any luck with Valspar’s woodwork paint has been when i’ve used their primer and paint on a completely bare surface (untreated timber doors and brand new, pre-primed MDF architrave).

Valspar Nevermore

So unless you’re willing to sand your woodwork right back to basics, i’m not convinced their water based paint is quite cutting it. Not for high traffic areas anyway.

FARROW & BALL

The first time i’d ever worked with Farrow & Ball was actually in 2016. Late to the party as ever.

Farrow & Ball

It was used throughout three rooms in a large Victorian refurb I was working on. When I placed the order, admittedly, I had no idea Farrow and Ball had pulled all their oil based paints. And again, nobody advised me to purchase a specialist undercoat for the eggshell either.

Farrow & Ball Paint

The paint was delivered directly to the property and the decorating began before I managed to get back on site. Even the decorator wasn’t aware of Farrow and Ball’s paint change. In fact he only realised half way through when his “oil based paint brush” was dragging in the water based paint. So, if a full-time professional decorator isn’t in the loop with all things “paint”, where does that leave the layperson? Where does that leave us lot standing staring at shelf after shelf of paint wondering which tin to pick up and take home?

Just looking at this image above makes me feel immensely sad as I know what came next. I won’t go into detail, let’s just say, there was a fair amount of remedial work to sort on the landing where the paint hadn’t adhered to the doors.

I keep on learning….

With all of this in mind, I was quick to advise my clients from the Drawing Room project about 100% needing to use the F&B primer before using Stiffkey Blue on their woodwork and radiator. I didn’t want the same situation to occur again.

Farrow and Ball Stiffkey Blue

The result? It still chipped off. They sanded everything back before priming too.

At this point, I never ever wanted to see or use a water based paint on woodwork again.

LITTLE GREENE

Luckily, Little Greene still sell a traditional oil-based eggshell and gloss, which they manufacture using naturally occurring vegetable oils, keeping in line with the VOC regs. Hoorah!

I’ve since used this paint, both the eggshell and gloss finishes in two projects:

Sage Green Traditional Oil Gloss

And it’s been wonderful. The gloss finish is beautiful and most importantly, doesn’t chip or peel.

Traditional Oil Gloss; Sage Green and Stone Pale Cool

You can read more about the two William Morris bedrooms here and the Upper Brook Street project, with its Black Jack door in Traditional Oil Eggshell here.

Coral detailing inside door frame

Black Jack Traditional Oil Eggshell

DULUX

I’ve yet to try Dulux’s water based eggshell, maybe I should have, so I could have added it to this post. I stuck with their solvent based eggshell for our loft spaces, which behaved exactly as I would have expected.

Dulux Trade Eggshell

Although a good friend has recently painted her woodwork in Dulux’s water based eggshell (after priming) and is really happy with the finish. So there is hope yet perhaps? I need to continue investigating….

I don’t want to sound like i’m brand bashing, it’s not about that. I would LOVE to see paint brands solve this issue so we can all move over to water based products. But these brands have also got to let people know this is a “thing”.  This is a real problem for those of us who are working in people’s homes, keeping budgets in check and tradespeople sweet. Not to mention wanting to give the client the best service you possibly can. So at this point, i’m advising people i’m working with to steer clear of any water-based gloss or eggshell. It’s just not cutting it i’m afraid. No matter who it’s by or how much money you spend on it.

Paint pots and brushes

Hmmm, this is all very confusing. How do I tell if a paint is water based or solvent based?

Yes, it is isn’t it. But there is a simple way to work out which base your paint uses. Turn your can around and take a look at how you clean your paint brush. If you can rinse it with water, it’s water based. If it says to use white spirit/turps, it’s solvent based. Simples.

Painting woodwork is one of life’s more tedious jobs. Not one you want to have to keep on top of. Or even want to do annually. Once it’s done, you expect it to last a few years don’t you? So, i’m just sharing my experiences with you to save you the hassle of re-painting chipping and peeling paint. I’ll probably be struck off a few invite lists for posting this, but my blog has always been about telling it like it is, sharing my projects and experiences and most importantly, it’s here to help you lot out. Someone’s got to write this stuff no?

I’d be really interested to know your experiences on this guys? Did you already know about this? Any paints you swear by? Any you’ve sworn off? Let me know.

68 Comments

  1. Sarah McIntosh - Cosy Cottage says

    This is something that has bugged me for the last 6 years! The worst for me is white wood work paint. It yellows after only a couple of months unless it’s in an area where is gets good sunlight to bleach it. Again this is because of the VOC regs. My husband and I have tried all sorts: water based, oil based, different brands! Argh!!!! The best we have found is a water based Ronseal stays white 2 in 1 primer and paint in satin. So far it has stayed white and has a nice finish. It’s a total pain in the ass to apply as it has to be super thin coats and built up very slowly. But it’s worth it to not see it turn yellow. Interesting about Little Greene though, I’ll try that out next. Thanks for writing about this, thought it was just me! ☺

    • Karen Knox says

      Definitely not just you, Sarah. Cheers for Ronseal suggestion. And yes, take a look at Little Greene, although I have no experience of using their oil based white paints, so can’t comment on the yellowing issue….

      • Hi Karen I know this post was from a while back but I’ve only just stumbled on it! It’s brilliant and highlights a whole load of issues relating to these water-based paints which, when used on woodwork, just aren’t very durable at all. I’m keen on the green/eco side of house renovation – I write a blog called renovategreen.co.uk – and I’ve found two other paint brands which, like Little Greene, get around the VOC issue by using natural plant oils in their oil-based paints. Auro make a natural oil gloss paint called eco gloss (only comes in white though) and Edward Bulmer make a traditional and modern oil eggshell in a whole range of colours.

    • mark Harmon says

      In regards to Little Greene, I loved how it flowed and it results made me smile as it looked like gloss paints of old….. well until a about 6 weeks later when it started to yellow. Thought it was how the painter applied it, but than I noticed the surface where I put 3 coats on (to hide a bumpy surface) also yellowed. Bit disappointed as now have to repaint skirting boards, picture rail and 2 doors. Looking on the paint can it also was yellowing where the paint caught the outside of the tin, So the search is back on….. Now only if I could invent a time machine to pick up a pre VOC regulation tin of paint :o)

  2. Great info – I’ve stumbled across this VOC thing recently too and wondered what the crack was. We were told that we had to use water based paint on our exterior wood and we were wondering what the flip was going on! Our paint guy said Americans have been using it for years (isn’t that always the case!) if in fact that is true!
    I can also recommend the ronseal 2 in 1 too, although like Sarah says, it takes several thin layers and I REALLY HATE glossing!!! I shall keep Little Greene in mind for the inside of our new garden room. Thanks for the intel and research!

    • Karen Knox says

      Cheers Alex, two points for Ronseal 2 in 1. Will make a note. And you’re welcome. Hope it’s helped!

  3. Food for thought! I recently had a couple of external doors repainted in water based external eggshell, rather than traditional gloss. And now the doors are swelling as the days get warmer and harder to open / close. Wondering if breathability has been affected? And no, the decorator didn’t strip the wood right back….

    • Karen Knox says

      Interesting. I’m guessing they’d been painted in a solvent based paint previously? Did he use a primer before the eggshell?
      Doors to tend to swell with the change of seasons, but would you say this is the first time you’ve noticed it?

  4. Kudos to you for writing about this! It’s a minefield isn’t it? Really sorry to hear of the trouble you’ve had with your projects, bummer. I’ve come to rely on a few products that haven’t let me down yet:
    (1) Zinsser BIN shellac primer for anything and everything that needs priming (from laminate to woodwork previously painted in oil based paint) – I clean brushes using Zinsser’s brush cleaner.
    (2) Dulux Pure Brilliant White Satinwood if woodwork needs to be white (after priming, if previously painted in oil-based paint) – this doesn’t yellow, it really does stay white. And it’s fast drying.
    (3) I second Little Greene’s brilliant oil eggshell in which I painted my dining chairs several years ago. They get a lot of wear and the paint hasn’t chipped at all! I used a pale stone colour so can’t speak for their white on whether or not it yellows.

    • Karen Knox says

      Excellent. Good to know, Meera. Thanks for the heads up on your paints of choice. I’ve never used Zinsser before, always thought it was only available in the US for some reason. Will look it up!

    • Sue says

      Hi Meera – could you tell me whether the Dulux Pure Brilliant White Satinwood is water-based or oil based. We’ve just used the Dulux Once Pure Brilliant White Satinwood – it has a terrible finish (brush marks – may be us of course!!) This is oil based though and we’re now reading that it will yellow very quickly!

      • Russell Howe says

        Note that there are at least four Dulux Satinwoods – the Quick Dry Satinwood is water based (and comes in ‘normal’ and Trade versions) and then there are oil based Once Satinwood and Trade Satinwood

  5. Oh god, so sorry to hear of all your nightmare projects – it’s a minefield! I take for granted living with a professional painter and so I’m aware of the differences between oil-based and water-based paints and have always had someone to advise what is best to use on what kind of pre-painted surface. I realise that this kind of knowledge is entirely specialist and on any woodwork that’s being painted gloss or satin, I will ALWAYS go for oil-based. Like Meera and as I said to you, I found Dulux’s Trade Satinwood to be really good with no issues of chipping or yellowing and I only used it because I was getting frustrated with the oil-based paints going yellow on me. So far so good. I am wondering if it wouldn’t be easier to spray your surfaces if possible with plastics adhesion spray (we’ve used this on a few projects and it works a charm on anything gloss or laminate with no chipping). You can get it in Halford’s and it’s for cars but it works really well on furniture too. xxx

  6. Ruth Kirkman says

    Great post, thank you. I’m just about to embark on painting a large expanse of woodwork painted by the previous owner – any idea how I’d find out what is currently on there? I need the next lot of paint to be extremely hardwearing as it’s in a high traffic area, so I need to get it right.

    • Karen Knox says

      Hi Ruth, i’m not 100% sure how you’d find out, but my first guess would be to put some white spirit on a cloth and rub the woodwork. If the paint starts to come off on the cloth, it’s going to be solvent based. Either way, I wouldn’t scrimp on the prep. So sanding back, priming and then painting. Either choose oil based or water based for the whole lot, don’t mix a water based primer with an oil based paint and vice versa. If in doubt, go directly to the trade counter and get some advice before you crack on. Good luck!!

      • Anonymous says

        NO that is water based (plastic) paint that cannot resist any solvent! Oil based paint will have hardened and probably WONT come off with solvent – except tri cloro ethylene.

        [I’m a retired picture restorer and know a tiny bit about paints]

  7. I’m so glad you’ve written this. It is a complete minefield. I was a decorator before starting my design business so have a lot of hands on experience that goes back to the introduction of VOC labelling (essential so we can see where the real nasties are) and introduction of water based alternatives by some companies. Not all decorators takes such great delight in research as you and I do 😉

    Here are my rambling thoughts:
    1) All oil based finishes yellow with time. Some more than others and this varies with position, so areas concealed behind furniture will yellow most. This means for the look you love, Karen, with matching walls and woodwork, water based is the way to go (once the experts can agree the right process). So it is worth finding a water based system that works.
    2) Water based paints for woodwork are so fast drying it can make smooth application harder as the technique of ‘laying off’ which traditional decorators would use to reduce brush marks cannot be done easily with water based as there is so little workable time for the paint.
    3)The correct brush is SOO worth it. Farrow and Ball came to the oil-free party earlier than most and their water based Eggshell was used by a decorator for me in the early days. He said he’d rather give up decorating than ever use it again. He was using the bristle brushes. I decided I’d rather not use him again. Oops!
    3) Priming / undercoating is vital to isolate between different types of paint. Of course each paint manufacturer will recommend their own primer be used. In the words of Mandy Rice Davies “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?” However Dulux have a very well established primer that I used for years to isolate between oil and water based products with fabulous results. It’s fast drying, reliable, easy to sand and available from every DIY outlet. Dulux Fast Drying Primer Undercoat.
    4) A word of warning. I once felt a piece of furniture I’d painted a beautiful blue could do with one last coat of varnish before delivery. I applied a matt acrylic varnish last thing at night for speed of drying (there was an oil based finish beneath). The next morning the cabinet was green! Eek!

    • Karen Knox says

      Awesome knowledge! Thanks for taking the time to share that with us all Linda. Appreciate it. Good to know about the Dulux Fast Drying Primer Undercoat, I shall keep an eye on that next time and try their water based eggshell as i’ve got A LOAD of woodwork to paint on our landing.
      I’ve still not gotten my head around different brushes for different paints etc.. but then i’m not a decorator. You’re not wrong when you say it’s a minefield. It really is!

  8. Trish Mahon says

    A look at paint performance for the DIY market is long overdue but to read your professional experiences make for sobering reading. The outlay for paint is often a large part of the budget and we all want the perfect result. I also use Zinsser BIN shellac primer for furniture re-vamps but may start using it on some skirting I need to do. I have used the Dulux waterbased satinwood with the Dulux primer over previously gloss painted doors. I am lucky enough to have a Dulux decorators centre close by and they always ask about the project and advise on what you need to use. The doors are great but the skirting has chipped in places. I will now only use it if I get back to raw wood.

    • Karen Knox says

      This is good to know, Trish, thanks. I do like Dulux as I always get good advice from their trade counters. Funny how your skirting board has chipped but not your doors. Just goes to show just how much wear our skirtings get I guess!

  9. Harriet says

    Strangely one colour of Dulux satinwood was fine but the other has chipped, streaked, peeled, you name it! This is one bare surfaces, primed, sanded down, straight on top, a whole mixed bag. Both were colour mixes, not off the shelf, so don’t know if it was one bad batch? By a 50% success rate.

    Wish someone had alerted the previous owners of my flat, too – they painted every single architrave to jazz up the place to sell and they’re ALL peeling, it comes off in sheets! (Don’t get me started on their decision to do the kitchen in non-kitchen non-scrubbable no-name magnolia; I’m about to start over with Farrow & Ball so will watch out for the paintbrush issue.)

    • Karen Knox says

      That’s so weird, did you go back and tell them what happened?

      • Harriet says

        I’m too lazy to ever sort stuff like that out! I will say their colour-mixed wall emulsion is totally fine and looks great.

  10. Rebecca cousins says

    Hi!
    A friend of mine was renovating a house and had exactly the same problems, she didn’t want to sand down and strip all the woodwork and did a bit of research …B.I.N BY Zinser (or however it’s spelt!) fit the bill. No need for sanding, you just apply this primer and you can paint straight over it with a water based paint!!

    • Karen Knox says

      Excellent! Thanks Rebecca. That’s two mentions for this product now. Good to know!

      • Just used the recommended (by the local paint specialist shop) Zinsser primer on mdf and it went on a dream….then put F&B estate eggshell on top, also as recommended….29 hours and still not dry.
        The old problems of this estate eggshell have not gone away….avoid it like the plague

  11. Stacy says

    This is hugely helpful, thank you!

    And also explains why I had a heck of a game trying to paint a fire surround with F&B eggshell this weekend… Gah, how many coats before it wasn’t a streaky old mess?!

  12. Steph says

    Really great post. We have used the oil based little greene eggshell for the last 4 years with no issues and cover stain for the undercoat/primer which is also made by Zinsser. We have used white and have recently repainted one room and redid the skirting boards that took a hammering after carpets were fitted. The fresh coat of white paint is the same colour as the other woodwork in the room which was done over 3 years ago, there hasn’t been any yellowing at all.

  13. Lesley_b57 says

    Great article, I live with an ‘expert’ works with paint manufacturers, his ethos is prep, prep and prep again! Sand, prime and undercoat he says! Zinser are good and would recommend, but aswell always go for trade paint, they still do oil based, never buy paint from the ‘sheds’. All our white gloss still looks good.

  14. Sue says

    I bought a brand new house 3 years ago. All woodwork has been done in water based Dulux trade. It was colour “matched” to all the selected Little Greene paint colours throughout , urgh.
    I would describe the wood finishes as delicate. The window sills/boards scratch or mark very easily and I am often doing touch ups. On the other hand I do love being able to clean the brushes in water.
    I recently had one of the rooms repainted- walls not wood-because of a water leak and bought the proper Little Greene stuff. Amazing difference – I love the subtle colour and the finish so much more than the Dulux.

  15. Excellent article – I made the error of doing 3 floors of ornate bannisters in water-based F&B woodwork paint on top of original oil based, and it peeled like crazy. I had to sand back and so the whole lot again in oil based paint. Gutting!

    Now I stick to deluxe oil based satinwood – either in white which does not yellow, or I get it mixed in the colour I need. Although it stinks and takes 16 hours per coat to dry, it is tough and durable, which is what eggshell and gloss is supposed to be – I have not found any water based oil/eggshell/woodwork paint which is tough enough yet.

    You can get BIN paint in the UK via amazon, I use their primer/stain blocker and it is amazing. But don’t drop any anywhere you don’t want it to be, it is a killer to remove.

  16. Well that certainly explains a lot! Thankfully I only used white water based over white oil based so although it’s a little ‘peely’ it’s only on a cupboard door in the kitchen which I will look at sanding back some day and using oil based again. It’s also great to know about the other brands as I was planning on repainting a couple of walls. Think I shall be looking into Little Greene when I repaint my blue wall darket. Thanks for the heads up on this as even the decorators I’ve used have never understood this. I spoke to two and they both had different opinions but not one explained the implications! I’ll do it myself from now on.

  17. Sue says

    The US podcast The Chaise Lounge has a few good discussions on paint as one of its sponsors is Benjamin Moore.
    It’s directed at interior designers , with lots of famous and not so famous US designers being interviewed. I’m a client rather than a designer but I find it fascinating. Great to listen to in the car.

  18. Rachel says

    Another vote for Zinnser BIN, it’s fantastic. I’ve bought it in B&Q and in Brewers. For a different issue their Peel Stop is also great – my first house had layer upon layer of paint on lining paper on laffin plaster walls, so this saved a fortune in prepping the surface well enough to paint without stripping and re-plastering.

  19. late to the party on this one sorry but finally had a chance to read. great post.

    have to concur that my decorator swears by Zinsser and uses it for literally everything that needs priming. we’ve even used it on radiators (which was a worry as these heat up and cool down etc) and tiles and the paint seems to stick.

    🙂

  20. Leila says

    I wish I’d read this 4 years ago when I painted F&B eggshell onto laminate kitchen cupboards! I used B&Q primer that said it was suitable for painting on laminate as I’d read that painting directly on top of laminate could be an issue. I specifically asked the sales assistant in F&B if I needed their primer and she said no, any primer would do. Two days later I picked up one of the cupboard doors to do a second coat and the paint came off on my hands – it hadn’t dried after 48 hours and was slightly bubbled all over! Nobody at b&q or F&B could advise, F&B helpline said I should have used their primer (and claimed the SA would never have told me not to use it!) in the end the paint eventually dried after about a week, so I gently sanded it to remove the bubbles, primed again with F&B primer and then painted again. I did a four step process with a few doors that hadn’t been started – laminate primer, F&B primer, paint. That worked and the cabinets have held up okay, not perfect though. I have since used F&B primer and eggshell paint straight on to old gloss paint on window frames and skirting done by previous owner and have had no problems with peeling or chipping. Incidentally, I was interested in trying Little Greene paint after the first F&B debacle, but the only local supplier charges £10 per paint sample, and I never got a straight answer on whether he was supplying LG paint or colour matching in other paint – and my experience of colour matching has been that it isn’t matched at all – so I decided I couldn’t afford it.

  21. great post – really interesting because in my house I have to worry about the husband’s wheelchair and crutches constantly bashing the walls and woodwork so I need something durable. Our decorator doesn’t like using F&B, he claims that using good old Dulux or Crown is the best way forward.

  22. Agree with the above comments: Zinsser B.I.N. is a great primer. Because it’s shellac-based, I use methylated spirits to clean brushes afterwards (turps/white spirits only work on oil-based products).

  23. Susan Sinclair says

    Zinsser BIN works wonders and sticks to everything, but high in voc. 500g/lt
    Low voc = less than 50g/lt
    Zero voc = less than 5g/lt
    F&B Estate Eggshell is hybrid alkyd, oil resin in water and their own undercoat/primer should be used or disasters could prevail (as mentioned in thread)
    Water based eggshell will need an appropriate u/c to adhere properly to previous (old) painted surfaces.
    Re discoloration – purchase a paint that is UV resistant.

  24. Oleg says

    Great post. Thanks.

    I am planning to paint a big in-built wardrobe in my bedroom in Timeless white (same colour as the walls) and my painter advised using oil-based paint for it (due to a better smoother finish). We have mixed the oil-based Timeless Satinwood paint in the Dulux Decorator centre and the painter has already applied Zinsser primer and oil-based Dulux undercoat.

    Having read the reviews about the oil-based paints, I am now concerned about the wardrobe turning yellow in some time 🙁

    Do you think I should re-paint it with the water-based undercoat and then paint with Water-based Dulux Timeless (while it is not too late)?

    Thanks!

  25. Oleg says

    Great post. Thanks.

    I am planning to paint a big in-built wardrobe in my bedroom in Timeless white (same colour as the walls) and my painter advised using oil-based paint for it (due to a better smoother finish). We have mixed the oil-based Timeless Satinwood paint in the Dulux Decorator centre and the painter has already applied Zinsser primer and oil-based Dulux undercoat.

    Having read the reviews about the oil-based paints, I am now concerned about the wardrobe turning yellow in some time 🙁

    Do you think I should re-paint it with the water-based undercoat and then paint with Water-based Dulux Timeless (while it is not too late)?

    Thanks!

    • Karen Knox says

      Hard to say really. I’d call the Dulux mixing centre and ask them directly for their advice. All oil based painted will change over time very slightly, but as Timeless is an off white already, I don’t think you would notice as much as you would with white.

  26. Hi I want to paint wooden cupboard doors in a grey colour (not dark) have u got any recommendations? I’ve sanded them very well. I really need help as I’m not an experienced painter.
    Many thanx🙂Xxx

  27. Nigel says

    I have used water based paint for years now and in most cases find it superior to the old oil based products. There are a few riles to follow though.
    1. Rub down gloss surfaces to give a good key for new paint.
    2. Clean well, I recommend sugar soap followed by plain water.
    3. If wood is dark or resinous seal with a shellac based sealer. Button polish has an alcohol solvent and stops colour bleeding through the paint.
    4. Use a good quality synthetic bristle brush and moisten it first. Not too wet though! I prefer Hamilton’s perfection – dearer but worth it. Use the largest brush you can to speed up application.
    5. Use one coat of primer/undercoat and two of gloss or eggshell. Do not over brush as the paint dries fast. I have found cheap brands of primer to be virtually as good as dear ones but cheap gloss not so good.
    6. For large areas, e.g. doors, wipe with a damp sponge immediately before painting so surface is slightly moist. This will extend the time the paint is workable and enable you to get a better finish.
    I have found that water based white gloss in my house is still virtually as white as new after eight years and wears quite well. Outside it seems more durable on fascias and soffits than oil paint and does not yellow as fast. It seems to flex with the wood better and not crack. The Farrow and Ball Estate Eggshell on my kitchen units still looks as good as new after over three years of hard use and regular cleaning. The paint dries fast and does not stink, brushes wash out easily with water – what more can you ask for?

  28. D coull says

    Thanks for this blog. I have just had the whole house decorated and it is looking old and fast. Coverage is not great on woodwork with natural wood tones smiling through and chips as soon as looked at! Decorator added coat after coat. Still not good so, I am now off to buy some little green and work through all the paint work and recover myself.

  29. Andrew says

    Zinsser BIN is great but not always necessary. Good prep will be enough in most cases including a clean with meths.
    Going from oil to water I always use Zinsser 123, it’s bullet proof and never let me down, also a one hour recoat.
    Benjamin Moore wood paints are superb now, there is the Aura range and Advance which are getting major love over here. They also do many primers which are awesome too.
    If you keep to a system and follow prep guide lines then most water based systems are fine.
    Some yellow slowly, some don’t.
    Bedec Aqua advanced system stays white and is very durable, also sikkens provides an excellent finish and stays white.

    Food for thought.

  30. Traditionalpainter.com have also commented on different brand paints since 2010. That year was a line in the sand for ‘before VOC’ and ‘after VOC’. Manufacturers have been very hit and miss. Little Greene’s paint is great for woodwork, and as it is a ‘known’ paint to me I will continue to use it, and perhaps when not so busy shall try a few others, such as ‘Benjamin Moore’ but it is a brand I’ve not heard of. I always use Zinsser 123 and agree with the comment above, and there is a Zinsser for any surface, regardless of what has been painted on it before. I used it over linseed oil paint and the results have been spectacular. Another brand of paint to consider for exterior wood is Sherwin Williams. It has a great finish. I also understand that some of the Swedish paints are amazing, and they are also available over here.
    Thanks for the heads up re Sikkens white. That’s one shade that is usually problematic as the oil based ones usually yellow and the water based ones are no good imho.

  31. Post Script to my post above. Reading through the comments above, it is evident that there are lots of unhappy people out there regarding the quality of water based wood paints these days. However, before all the VOC milarky, I discovered ‘Ecos’ paint, now trading under the name of Lakeland Paints (www.lakelandpaints.co.uk). I have never used anything else for walls since I discovered them. Their wall paints are absolutely amazing, and cover beautifully. They can get a bit thick in warm weather, but I use Floetrol to sort that out – this is available from good paint sellers by the way, or I think it can be bought on line. The end finish is very wow. I also want to point out that I am a veteran DIYer, and cut my teeth on our first house in 1972 when we first married. Since then, I’ve only had my house painted by someone else once, and that is when I moved to my new place in 2006 and a professional painter did it. My daughter is an amazing painter, and she is now redoing most of my house inside, and is shocked at discover of lack of standards by said professional. So, I did something right….teach my kids to decorate to a high standard!!!

  32. Frances says

    Over the last few years we’ve had terrible problems with emulsion as well. Two different houses, different surfaces, different paint manufacturers etc and it’s driven us nuts. We’ve had paint literally slipping off walls (well-known good reputation brand – at least previously!), streaking, terrible brush stroking visible, patchy drying, then within weeks or months marking terribly or beginning to look as if it hasn’t been painted for 20years etc etc. Absolute nightmare – never known this to happen with the old paints, both of us coming from families who self-decorated. This has all started with modern paints. Solution in new house – having tried the painting, the decorator is now anaglypta-ing everything in sight and then painting which so far seems to be working. We have masses of unpainted woodwork here which we decided to leave as is, so I’m slowly cleaning it all up and revarnishing it – that sorts out that problem. Having read your comments, I am so relieved we didn’t decide to paint the woodwork!! I’m nearly demented with the emulsions. As far as we’re concerned, modern paint and the painting industry is a big rip-off – and it’s double the problem when one is not in good health and trying to decorate is really exhausting anyway. The industry must be reaping the rewards of people having to re-do decorating so many times and that really annoys me.

    I do want to re-paint one cupboard door etc under the stairs, changing to gloss so will certainly look at Little Green paint – forewarned is fore-armed (can’t face trying to clean up lousy gloss paint!). However, we live in what is deemed to be a ‘remote’ area so knowing our luck won’t be able to source it anyway without massive delivery premiums! Since the door is already painted with matt emulsion, do you know if the Little Green paint will cover it OK or would we need to put something else on first?

    • Frances says

      I’ve now looked at the Little Green website and they don’t do the colour I want, so that’s solved that question!

  33. Frances says

    I forgot to say that we knew someone who used Farrow and Ball on their front door – within 18 months it was just bobbling and peeling off. oCmpletely useless, not to mention very pricey! It didn’t endear us to it even if we could have afforded it!

  34. James Davis says

    I am a professional painter&decorator,i can only comment on the paints i have used.On water based gloss for instance, avoid it like the plague!One only has to look at it & it falls off,hard wearing it is not.,you cannot brush it out,so cutting in is a no-no.Yes, you can use masking tape,but i was taught the proper way,so masking a 12 pane Georgian style door is out of the question unless money&time are not a consideration. Modern emulsions are another bug-bear for us painters,quick drying, yes they are,but again they cannot be brushed out.As you say,no-one told us the formulation of the paints was going to change,so when i first encountered the new”improved”quick drying emulsions,i thought some clever dick had been spraying dust around the room i was painting.Grrrrrr!!

    • Nigel says

      I would be inclined to agree when talking about some of the cheaper paints on the market but I have generally found the better quality ones to be perfectly acceptable. It is true that the gloss does not have the sheen of an oil paint but overall I believe the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Forget all you knew about painting and start again with new tools and techniques and, of course, a good quality paint. The white gloss on my outside woodwork has not peeled or flaked and is still a good white after six years of weathering. What oil paint would be intact and not yellowing after six years of sun and rain? Inside it is still going strong after nine years on the stairs. My solid wood kitchen was painted with water based paint four years ago and with a wash down with a mild detergent looks as good as new. With a lot of home baking that really takes a beating but has surpassed my expectations.

        • Nigel says

          I find that Zinsser bullseye 123 works well as a base on virtually all surfaces and for white gloss I use Dulux ecosure. For coloured paints my first choice has always been Farrow and Ball, which is very durable and hard wearing. Don’t forget to use a synthetic bristle brush that has been moistened and to wipe the surface to be painted with a damp cloth immediately before painting. Do not over brush the paint or you will have major problems! The technique is very different from oil based paints but once mastered gives good results.

    • Dave Haddock says

      I am also a pro decorator with over 45 years in the trade and I whole heartily agree with your post. Customers pay us good money for a first class job and we seem to be let down by inferior finishes.Pleased I am retiring in a couple of years, Rant over..

  35. Les says

    I found your blog after the disaster!
    The kitchen and hall doors haven’t been glossed for some time.
    In ignorance I rubbed down and painted the kitchen door with Crown Solo White Gloss.
    It was mid afternoon when I started and still wasn’t dry when i went to bed at 11am.
    This morning when I looked I was horrified at the mess.
    It looks yellow, some of it hasn’t taken and there a big white patches. it’;s run too!!
    Then I read about painting over old gloss surfaces and realised what had happened.
    Iv’e just gone out and bought the Zinsser BIN shellac primer and Dulux Pure Brilliant White Satinwood to go on top.
    It’s still not dry yet and it’s 12 noon, almost 24 hours on!!
    Let’s hope the Zinsser and Satinwood work.
    I’ll let you know.

  36. Peter S Farley says

    I have long suspected paint ain’t wot it used to be. Recently I had cause to redecorate my bathroom. The last time it was done was around ten years ago. Not bad service you may think. This time I looked around for some quality paint but was confused with what was on the market. As it happened I inherited some cans of paint from my late mother’s estate. (Aka coal shed!) I discovered a full tin of white gloss paint manufactured by ‘Crown’ paints. The tin is rusted on the outside and must be at the very least 15 years old. Anyway I remembered the advice given to me years ago that the finished surface of the painted article is only as good as the start. So I set to with coarse grade multi purpose sanding paper. By hand. I rubbed down the window frame and door casing. When I opened the tin of paint there was a layer of what looked like liquid oil floating on the surface of the paint sludge. I mixed it up thoroughly with an old screw driver until it became a uniform white. After painting the woodwork there was the familiar smell of wet paint. A smell I had almost forgotten from my youthful days. But the finish was superlative. It was the satisfying result that brought me to this web page. I wanted to know what the ‘oil’ was. Perhaps I could replicate it in future paint jobs. Now after that preamble I wish to say that I loved the colour scheme of the photos in this article. As I trolled through the various rooms I could tangibly feel the warmth emanating from the computer screen. Such professional arrangement of colours and equally professional photographs. The addition of a black cat in one of them added a touch of realism. The aerial shot of the opened tins of paint was another. I could readily live in the rooms of this electronically created house!

  37. Paul Steinson says

    I have just discovered this site by chance searching for answers after being brought to despair by the lousy finish I have been getting on a wooden door using Dulux Quick Dry Satinwood Mid Sheen pure brilliant white. The door was a new, unpainted one and I used a combined primer & undercoat. I think my technique is somewhat to blame – I was using the technique taught to me by my dad 40+ years ago, so was over-brushing. My question is, I am so sick of it that I would like to over-paint this mess with an oil-based paint (the Little Greene stuff seems to be very good from reading the previous posts) – can I just paint over the water-based Dulux with an oil-based paint or is this just a recipe for a different disaster? As several other people have said, I only wish I’d read this blog before I started!

    • Karen Knox says

      Whatever you do you will need to sand back the current paint finish in order for your next coat to take. Water based or quick drying paints have much less working time, so you have little time for “laying off” with the brush. Leaving brush marks etc if you over work the paint.
      Make sure whatever primer/undercoat you use has the same base as your top coat. So either go waterbased for everything, or solvent based. Buying paint from the big sheds is pretty confusing. If I were you i’d pop down to your local Dulux Trade counter and ask them for some advice at this point. Good luck Paul!

  38. alexander duff says

    would putting in just a wee touch of black into white oil based gloss enough to just knock it off the brilliant white but still looks white to the eye be an answer to the yellowing of the oil based problem

  39. Anonymous says

    I’ve always used cheap paints but decided to buy dulux.i bought Dulux pure brilliant white self undercoating oil based paint 2 years ago and it still looks brand new with no chips.
    Very expensive but worth it

  40. Mike says

    Hello All ,
    Ive found this a most informative and interesting site which has answered many questions . I know by reading this and other blogs / sites that the general rule of thumb when painting internal wood is that oil on oil or water based on water based is the ideal combination but I wonder if anyone can answer this question . I will be painting my MDF laminated / wrapped kitchen cupboard doors soon , I will be of course degreasing them first using sugar soap . I was thinking about using Zinsser 123 primer which I believe is water based ( for more ease of use ) instead of the BIN , followed by 2 x coats of Little Greene oil based eggshell ( sanding between coats ) . I have read somewhere that the 123 contains latex which acts as a barrier between the oil and water based products and would like to know if this is true / possible .
    Thanks Mike

  41. Hi Mike
    I have only just discovered the Zinsser primers and they are brilliant. You are right that the Zinsser BIN is an oil based primer whilst the 123 is water-based. The Zinsser BIN can be used with both a water-based or an oil-based top coat. I have used it with both Little Greene Intelligent eggshell,which is water-based, and with their floor paint which is oil-based. I was told by Brewers that the BIN is ideal for surfaces where varnishes have been used or on woods with high resin content, hence I used it on some oak units that had been previously varnished. The 123 has lower solvent content so is better for your health but I wonder whether you should be using the BIN given that you’re using an oil-based eggshell on top – a quick call to Zinsser who are really helpful might solve the problem. One other tip that Little Greene told me about is that kitchen companies using their water-based intelligent eggshells on their units often apply a coat of Polyvine heavy duty wood varnish http://www.polyvine.com/index.php/en/varnishes/water-based-varnishes/heavy-duty-wood-varnish#slider to prevent chips. I hope I haven’t confused things!
    Best

    Natasha

  42. Steve says

    I realise this is an old article – but relevant nonetheless – I have tried the modern paints and like most modern creations they are simply not up to the job – I still go out of my way to find real solvent based paints for any woodwork around my house – it gives a far superior finish that just isn`t achievable with “modern” paints – it can be a pain using “real” gloss due to drying times etc or kids being in the house but for myself it is not as much of a pain as trying to get a decent finish with the new types of paint…just my opinion and felt the need to give it…thanks for the article.

  43. simon gardiner says

    I have been using oil based wood paints for over 40 years. There is NOTHING left to compare with the old “Dulux Trade” undercoat for both coverage and brushing out – not to mention its hard finish, which could be sanded after 12 hours or so! All water based paint has the advantage of easy use and cheapness – but that is ALL. It will be a substitute for good quality oil based paint. And, of course, the two paints can NEVER be used together.
    You only get a SOFT FINISH and poor BRUSHING OUT with the new “Dulux” paints. These are NOT the old ‘ICI’ products, but a far inferior, imported product – read the tin carefully!. That is why it ‘yellows’ and dries slowly to a soft finish.
    You don’t need a CSE in ‘Business Studies’ to work out what has happened in the paint industry. An obvious massive ‘asset stripping’ operation, using a “European Regulation”, has been used by a big foreign operator to close down all British (and many foreign producers too) paint producers.

  44. Sue says

    Hi all,

    I’m decorating our new log cabin and dearly wanted to create a pinky 1990’s limed oak kitchen colour on the interior walls. (I love to see the natural wood but want a subtle pinky cosy feel rather than any of the traditional wood stains)

    So I was planning to do a very thin coat of watered down dusky pink emulsion, followed by liming wax.

    However, now that we’ve used a fire retardant coating it seems we have to use a solvent based product on the wood – water based products react badly with the coating underneath.

    I need to find a way of doing the pinky wash coat in a solvent based product.

    Any ideas please?
    Sue

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