Woodwork: oil or water-based paint?

Posted on Posted in Interior Painting

In the past, an oil-based paint was used as a matter of course for woodwork: it’s tough, waterproof and wipeable, ideal for skirting, banisters and doors etc that regularly get knocked and marked.

So why the change in recent years to water-based alternatives?

Environmental concerns about the chemicals called VOCs or volatile organic chemicals in gloss and satin paints led to new regulations reducing the amount and type of chemicals that could be used in these products. An unfortunate side effect of this reduction was an increase in the ‘yellowing’ that occurs. If you read the back of a tin of oil-based satin or gloss paint you’ll find there’s a warning about yellowing.

This yellowing of the paint is especially rapid and pronounced in rooms with little or no natural light, such as downstairs toilets.

So usually I recommend the use of a water-based gloss or satin paint. This paint doesn’t yellow at all, although it isn’t as hard-wearing or waterproof, and the finish is not quite as smooth. Brushstrokes are a little more visible.

I used to love using oil paint and getting a beautiful mirrorlike finish, although I don’t miss the fumes. And maybe in a room with plenty of natural light you may feel it’s still worth having this type of paint and plan to freshen it up every few years. Or maybe you don’t mind the slightly creamy coloured finish that will eventually occur.

The choice is yours.