Do Not Use Contract Matt as a Mist Coat

Updated May 9, 2024 | Posted Feb 14, 2021 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 17 comments

Too many decorators are still using cheap contract matt to prime bare plaster. It’s an old-school approach and you shouldn’t do it in modern decorating. There’s no need.

I see it all the time on the Decorators Forum UK. People arguing that, “contract matt allows plaster to breathe”. Well yes, it does, until you coat over the top of it with something that doesn’t. So that argument is null and void.

Or another one I see is, “you don’t prime plaster with a paint full of vinyl because it creates a film”. A film? A vinyl or durable matt will adhere to bare plaster better than it will a contract matt. You’re literally giving the paint less chance of sticking.

The best one, “it’s cheaper than vinyl matt so you’re saving money”. Absolute poppycock!! If I’m using a vinyl matt and I’m faced with bare plaster, I give it 2 coats of vinyl matt. You give it a coat of contract matt and then 2 coats of vinyl matt. How is your way cheaper??


The Right Way to Mist Coat Bare Plaster


For the love of God, follow the manufacturer’s instructions!! They are there for a reason and no decorator is qualified enough to know better than the scientists who make the paint. Every vinyl matt I know of tells you to use a diluted vinyl matt to mist. With the exception of Tikkurila Optiva 5 and Farrow and Ball Modern emulsion, every durable matt I know of tells you to use durable matt as a mist coat. Even acrylic eggshells are the same!

Paint sticks better to bare plaster than it does a cheap chalky contract matt. The contract matt is your weak link. I don’t understand why decorators still want to use the stuff. The only time it is ok to use contract matt is when you’re house bashing.




What is contract Matt paint used for?

Contract matt is generally used as a “builders finish” on new build houses. This is for a few reasons;

You can use it on plaster that isn’t fully dry.

Contract matt is easy to touch up, or “patch” if other trades damage the walls.

But mostly because it’s cheap. Contract matt is less than half the price of vinyl matt, so a contractor is saving around £400 on materials throughout the house.


Can you use contract matt on new plaster?

You can use contract matt on new plaster, but as the blog above explains, you should not use it as a primer before applying different types of paint.


What’s the difference between vinyl Matt and contract Matt?

The difference between vinyl matt and contract matt is the “vinyl”. This is a polymer resin that is added to paint to bind all the other materials. Vinyl matt contains more polymer binder than contract matt, meaning it is more durable and less porous.


Final Thoughts


Some decorators are stuck in their ways and will carry on using contract matt as a mist coat. It doesn’t matter what I tell them, or what it says on the tin of paint. All you hear is “I’ve been doing it this way for x amount of years and never had a problem”, or “this is how I was taught in collage”.

However, using contract matt does cause issues. Maybe not straight away, but over time you’ll get flaking. Paint has changed, so the way we decorate needs to change too.

Updated May 9, 2024 | Posted Feb 14, 2021 | 17 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.


  1. Allyn

    You are absolutely right I’ve had this argument for years also many painters use white contract which is ridiculous when using colours as need an extra coat to cover the white

  2. David Crossman

    Another failing seems the use of contract matt to seal bare plaster before wallpapering. The wallpaper paste softens and lifts the contract matt.

  3. mark

    Hi so if i wanted to use john moores ceiling paint on new plaster 50 m2 what would you recomend.
    Is it worth usinng an armstead vinyl first or do i have to suck it up and just use more johnmoores.

    Is there any way of saving money here, end of home extension and busget is gone but want a decent finsh after all the hard work

    thanks mark

  4. Owen

    Hi mike can I ask what you suggest doing if you do in fact do a mist coat using the contract matt? We were misinformed and have done a coat with it, only to find out we shouldn’t have. The paint is not peeling but I’m keen to rectify the situation.


    • Richard

      It’s still a 3 coat system regardless if you’re doing it properly.
      I have never had any problems using contract as a mist, it’s what the paint is designed for, needs to soak into the plaster. The only problem i see is people not thinning it down enough. Oh well, after 20 years i’m better off sticking to what i know is tried and tested and worked.

  5. Sian Williams

    Hi I have just used a diluted contract Matt on my new plaster I have only done one coat which I thought was ok I want to use a durable Matt paint now on bathroom ceiling but have read this may be an issue as it may not bond to the diluted contract Matt. Please advise

    • Mike Cupit

      It isn’t ideal, but 9 times out of 10 you’ll be fine. Just heavily dilute your first coat of durable matt

  6. Stephen

    Isn’t it about satisfying the porosity of the new plaster to get a good key for the paint films to adhere too?
    A contract matt allows the plaster to dry and breath as well as provide a key for the emulsions to be applied too !
    All emulsions dry by coalensence and evaporation.
    I’ve used contract Matt for 30 plus years and never had a problem!


    Hi Mike
    We use contract Matt all the time on new plaster, like all other painters & decorators most paint manufacturers specify that process unless they ask for a specific finish, Dulux trade Supermatt is also a good product for new plaster

    • Mike Cupit

      Hi, which paint manufacturers? Sticking with Dulux, you’re supposed to use their vinyl matt to mist with their vinyl matt as a top. Their diamond matt to mist for diamond as a top. Armstead vinyl to mist when using it as a top. Armstead durable to mist, when using Armstead durable as a top.

  8. Adam

    Hi all… I have worked with many decorators over the years and we nearly all work the same way.

    Check data sheets before you start on all products materials And brands change.

    Mist coat in a trade white…
    Sand back
    Coat of Clients colour
    Second coat of clients colour.

  9. Anna

    Hi, am currenlty getting quotes to decorate a new extension – all new plaster throughout. One guy came to quote today and said that misting the new plaster is old hat. He uses two coats of the chosen paint and its all fine. Is he right?

    I’ve always beleived it needed the watered down caot first, regardless. Thoughts please

    • Peter the painter

      Always rub down new plaster with high graded number 600, helps to break down polished plaster. Seal with Zinsser Gardz and apply Zinsser All Coat. Works every time. PVA and Unibond solutions applied by plasterer react with the 1st coat.
      Mist coats of emulsion can work if you adopt this practice but follow advice above and you should have no problems.

  10. Joel Endersby

    Interesting post , thanks for sharing I’ve been in the trade 30 years shows your never too old to learn or change , thanks again 👌

  11. Mark Gayes

    yes and no. your correct can use almost any paint for mist coat. however bare plaster is a 3 coat system for me especially getting whites to a solid colour. so a coat of thinned contract matt and 2 tops is cheaper than 3 tops. plus filling/caulking and sanding should be done after mist. contract matt doesn’t cause adhesion issues and it’s not chalky where it will rub off on your hand. the stuff is literally designed for new plaster and then to be painted over at some point. it does remain porous so thin first top coat down 10%. never had an issue as a pro decorator for 25 years.

  12. Warren Scott

    Great advice.thank you

  13. Matthew Dawe

    If you have used contract matt as a mist coat, What is the best way to remedy poor adhesion with your final coat


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