Benjamin Moore Scuff-X Ultra Spec:
The Dog’s Danglies or The Emperor’s New Clothes?
It’s the dog’s danglies.
Oh, you want me to elaborate? OK…
I’ve been using Benjamin Moore Scuff-X Ultra Spec for two and a half years, and it’s never let me down. It’s available online by clicking here in Matte, Eggshell, Satin and Semi-Gloss, and can be tinted to all sorts of different colours. Personally, I’ve only ever used the Eggshell and the Satin; I’ve heard good things about the Matte, but the Semi-Gloss is apparently just that – somewhere between gloss and satin, and most customers want one thing or the other. In the UK most decorators use it on woodwork, but in the USA apparently, it’s used on walls as well. It can be applied by brush, roller or spray, it is touch dry in less than an hour, and can be recoated in 2-3 hours.
My Benjamin Moore Scuff-X Review
The advantages of water-based paints over their oil-based counterparts are well documented elsewhere on this forum: better for the environment, lower odour, quicker drying, non-yellowing. However, when they first appeared on the market decorators found significant downsides in the quality of the finish (both in terms of opacity and a tendency to drip and show brush-marks) and how hard-wearing they were (or rather, weren’t). Benjamin Moore Scuff-X keeps all the good things about water-based paints and overcomes the bad points.
It prides itself on how hard-wearing it is (“Scuff-Resistant”, “Extreme Durability for High Traffic Areas”), but honestly that’s not the main reason I use it. Sure, it’s nice to know that it will last well, but personally I just love how easy it is to use and what a lovely finish I can achieve with very little effort.
It really is a joy to use, and because it dries so quickly, I can get a coat of adhesion primer and two coats of Scuff-X on the woodwork in a typical bedroom all in one day, for example, and still have time to do some other tasks as well.
Photo (right): A bookshelf and cupboard unit hand-painted using Benjamin Moore Scuff-X Eggshell in Super White.
Having tried many other water-based products when I was gradually weaning myself off oil, I found Scuff-X to be far superior:
- Consistency: I found Scuff X a dream to work with. It felt like it had more “substance” to it compared to other water-based products I’ve tried, which I’m sure was a factor in overcoming some of the other negatives (see below)
- Opacity: I’m not going to say Scuff X is as good as oil, but it’s certainly better than most water-based paints I’ve used. And because it’s less runny, you can get away with putting more on without runs/drips. Covered really well in two coats to a solid white finish.
- “Ninja Runs”: None! Seriously. In this respect Scuff X was more like painting with an oil-based product. I’ve often found with water-based that I finish a door frame (for example), move onto something else because I’m happy with it, then come back an hour later to find random drips/runs appearing half-way down the architrave (others have called these “ninja runs”). That didn’t happen to me using this stuff – if there were any drips at all, it was in those places you’d expect to see them if you were using oil-based gloss, and anyone with any experience will know where to look out for these and catch them straight away before they get started.
- Robustness: Historically oil-based was seen as harder-wearing than water-based, but Scuff-X has built its name and its reputation on being hard as nails. I didn’t want to start destroying my customer’s newly painted house, so I didn’t test it myself, but I’ve seen demos online and at the P&D Show where people ended up gouging furrows in the wood without any damage to the paint.
Is Benjamin Moore Scuff X Too Expensive?
OK, so I think I’ve nailed my colours to the mast – I love Benjamin Moore Scuff-X because it’s a top-quality paint. But many people shy away from using it because it’s expensive. You can buy this paint online for just over £100 per tin. Part of the reason the pricing argument is largely irrelevant to me is the type of work I do; in my role as a professional decorator, most of my work is in customers’ houses, often one room at a time, e.g. painting Mrs Johnson’s spare bedroom.
The only regular exception is that every few years I paint our local village hall. Now, if you asked me if I’d recommend using Benjamin Moore Scuff-X Eggshell on all the walls in that building, I could achieve a satisfactory outcome for significantly less using something like Crown Clean Extreme Acrylic Eggshell. On a huge surface area like the village hall, the price differential is massive.
But in Mrs Johnson’s bedroom, I’m painting the window sill, the skirting, the door and the door frame. Two coats will take less than a tenth of a tin. So, one tenth of 3.75L = 0.375L, and costs £100 ÷ 10 = £10. Johnstone’s Aqua Guard or Dulux Diamond Satin currently cost around £60 for 2.5L (all prices are current PaintWell shelf prices including VAT before any discounts). So, 0.375L of either of those would cost around £9. So, what’s the problem?
It’s costing me (or Mrs Johnson) £1 more for what I consider to be a far superior product. It’s nothing in the great scheme of things, but I do totally understand why in a different situation (e.g. painting the walls in the village hall) the pricing issue would be much more relevant. Click here to see online prices.
What Do Other Decorators Think?
Having convinced myself that Benjamin Moore Scuff-X was as good as it gets when it comes to water-based paints for woodwork, I thought I’d get some input from someone whose opinion I really trust: my mate Phil, who’s now in his mid-fifties, has been a decorator all his life.
He did his City & Guilds when he left school, worked as a self-employed decorator for years, before moving into more general building work with a team of other lads, but he still insists on doing all the decorating on his projects himself. A lot of what I know, I’ve learned from him, but he hasn’t kept as up-to-date as me with new paints and tools that are available on today’s market. He has been using water-based paints (not exclusively) for a few years, but had never tried Scuff-X.
So, I let him borrow a tin from me to see what he thought. He finished the tin, I never saw it again! Here are his initial thoughts: “Very impressed, goes on really well, flows beautifully. Two coats on the woodwork yesterday and it looks great. There won’t be any left in that tin, so I owe you for that, and I’ll have to get some more for future projects”.
Photo (right): All white woodwork hand-painted using Benjamin Moore Scuff-X Satin in Super White
Do I need to prime before using Scuff-X?
An appropriate primer is needed before using Scuff X on bare surfaces. We recommend Stix on problem surfaces such as melamine, but normal acrylic primer undercoat should be ok when painting bare wood (remember to block your knots).
Stix is recommended when painting over oil-based gloss or satinwood, but it isn’t really necessary. The adhesion of Benjamin Moore Scuff X is brilliant, so providing your prep is done correctly, you can go straight on with Scuff X.
Is Scuff-X good for bathrooms?
As a durable emulsion and woodwork paint, Benjamin Moore Scuff X is waterproof, so it’s fine for most bathrooms. Use eggshell in bathrooms that suffer with bad condensation.
Is Benjamin Moore Scuff-X good for kitchen cabinets?
Benjamin Moore Scuff-X is a great choice for kitchen cabinets. It’s easy to use, leaves a fantastic finish, and it’s durable. Just remember to use an appropriate adhesion primer first.
I love Benjamin Moore Scuff X. If you don’t, fair enough, use something else that you do get on with. For me, it’s not about how hard-wearing it is; it just gives a fantastic finish, super-smooth with no brush marks or drips, better than any other water-based product I’ve tried.
And (most importantly) my customers love it too – I often see them running their hands over the woodwork because it just looks and feels so good! And one final thought – the first time I used Benjamin Moore Scuff-X two and a half years ago was in a three-bedroom house; I got all ten doors (both sides), stair parts and skirting and architraves in the hall, stairs and landing done (two coats) from one tin. The family have since moved. They asked me to paint their new house, and their only stipulation was that I used the same paint on the woodwork. That says it all for me…
Benjamin Moore Scuff X Review – by Robin Gofton