Paint for interior wood

Choosing paint for interior wood generally comes down to a decision based on brand reputation mixed with affordability, as it is normally the case that the big brands have the higher price tags, and you as a consumer end up thinking ‘Can I get away with using the cheaper stuff?’ The other main consideration you need to make is about the paint system you want to use on your wood, which is a subject that I cover in greater detail in my guide – ‘Which paint for wood’. Therefore below, I simply want to cut straight to the chase, and give you my thoughts on water-based and oil-based options, why I think that there is a huge false economy in buying ‘cheap paint’, and which brands produce the best paint for interior wood.

Oil-based, or water-based paint for wood?

For me, walls and ceilings are made for water-based paint, and wood is made for oil-based paint. Therefore when you see the racks of water-based glosses, satins and eggshells in you local DIY outlet, I urge you to ignore them as in my opinion they:-

  • Require a greater number of coats to produce a good finish.
  • Are no where near as hardwearing as oil-based paints.
  • Produce a far inferior finish compared to that of oil-based paints.
Paint for wood

For me, oil-based paint is still the best option for painting wood in your home.

The increased availability and use of water-based paints for interior wood is indeed based on very good intentions as they are much more user-friendly, because they don’t smell as bad, have fewer ‘nasty’ chemicals (VOCs) in them, compared to oil-based paint, but the simple fact remains that as yet, they haven’t been formulated to a standard that compares to the performance of traditional oil-based options.

It’s also worth noting that since new legislation in 2010, the amount of VOCs in oil-based paint has been significantly reduced, so now, they’re by no means a ‘green’ paint, but they’re certainly greener than they were. Also, you may have read about increased ‘yellowing’ issues with white glosses since 2010 – well there certainly have been issues with this, but I think that the majority of manufacturers have sorted this out in their newer formulations. My preference is therefore firmly entrenched in using oil-based paint for painting wood.

One of the only water-based paint for interior wood that gets some sort of serious approval from me is a bit of a stand-alone ultra ‘green’ option, which is truly revolutionary, and you can read about it in my Mythic Paint review.

Cheap paint

Buying cheap paint for wood whether it be oil or water-based, is probably the biggest false economy that you can make when decorating. I’m constantly searching for areas of DIY where you certainly can make sensible savings, but paint for wood is not an area that I’ve ever found a cheap option that delivers good results. Quite simply, with cheap paint you always require more coats as it doesn’t cover as well as better quality options, so any savings in paint price are immediately lost as you require more paint to do the job. Coupled with this, the finish of the cheap paint will never be as good, or as hardwearing as quality paint, so you end up having to redecorate more often. It’s therefore a complete double, or even triple whammy!

A final short story here that reinforces my points about both cheap and water-based paints for wood…….

I was recently on a renovation project where the customer decided to do their own decorating and chose a cheap water-based own-brand white satinwood to paint their staircase bannisters. Although I diplomatically advised that this wasn’t such a good idea, they were insistent, and after the fifth coat of this stuff on the top half of the stairwell, it still hadn’t covered the creamy brown colour of the previous decoration. The customer had almost lost the will to live by this stage, and so changed to a quality oil-based satinwood that then only took two coats to cover the bottom half of the stairwell, and finished the water-based top half nightmare in one coat – Okay, that’s it, I’ve made my point – I won’t bang on anymore about my opinions on cheap paint!

Instead, I’ll move on to….

My paint for wood choices

Dulux Trade Undercoat, Gloss, Satinwood, and Eggshell

Some may say not an unsurprising choice, but I’ve pretty much always used Dulux Trade oil-based paint on wood, and have never found another paint that covers, applies, or wears better than the Dulux Trade systems. Whether your chosen finish is gloss, satin, or eggshell, they’re a dream to apply, and yes it’s not cheap paint to buy, but it will actually save you money in the long run, for all the aforementioned reasons.

Paint Library Eggshell

I should say that the above Dulux Trade choice is generally when white or brilliant white is the required finish. Where the woodwork needs a different colour, and specifically an eggshell finish, I find that the Paint Library colour cards offer a great range of tints and hues which for me provide a better depth of colour than the Dulux colour options. However, with Paint Library, I should stress that the price can get fairly ‘serious’, so if you’re willing to compromise on a little bit of colour depth, then stick to Dulux Trade.

….and to be honest, that’s pretty much it for me. Occasionally I test/try other brands – Crown, Macpherson’s, Johnstone’s etc. but I’m always happiest with Dulux, and an odd bit of Paint Library in the right circumstances. You can buy Paint Library eggshell online, and Dulux Trade paint can be found in some of the usual DIY outlets, Dulux Decorating Centres, and other trade outlets such as Travis Perkins.

Finally, remember that to achieve a good paint finish, you do need to put in the required preparation work, so please check out my guide ‘Preparing ceilings, walls and woodwork’.


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