There are many advantages to using water-based paint on wood, especially now, as paint manufacturers have really pushed things forward in recent years. In this blog I’m going to talk about the best water-based paint for wood. I’ll take you through the different finishes available and recommend the best products for each one.
Why Use Water-Based Paint?
10 years ago there weren’t very many good water-based paint products available. However, I think like diesel cars, oil-based paint is slowly being phased out. Regulations on the chemicals that manufacturers are allowed to use in paint gets tighter year on year.
This has led to manufacturers advancing water-based paint technology as quickly as they can, and now there are some brilliant paints on the market. A lot of the products now out-perform their oil-based counterparts in terms of finish, durability, and longevity.
Water-based paint is better for the environment, and unlike oil-based, it will never discolour unless bleached by the sun.
For me, as a Professional Decorator, there is no reason to use oil-based paint in someone’s home now. It stinks, takes a long time to dry, and takes longer to apply. Providing you choose a good quality product, water-based is far superior.
The Different Finishes Available
There are really four different finishes of water-based paint you can use on wood. I’ll take you through each now, and the pros and cons of each, then we’ll get into the best products further on in the blog.
- Matt – A very contemporary finish that is often used when matching the colour of your woodwork to your walls. The advantage of using a low-sheen paint on wood, is the imperfections are not highlighted. This means it is better suited for old wood that has taken a few knocks over the years.
- Eggshell – Eggshell has a sheen level of around 20% and is often more durable than matt. It looks like it has a “dull sheen” if that makes sense, so “Brilliant White” wood never quite looks very sharp. However, it is still a very popular finish in a lot of homes and is probably the most popular finish to use on painted kitchen units.
- Satinwood – This has a sheen level of around 40% and is by far my favourite water-based paint finish to use on woodwork. Brilliant White satinwood looks Brilliant White, and it can look very sharp on skirting boards and other trim. You also get a sense of ‘soft luxury’ from this paint finish, that gives me great job satisfaction every time I use it.
- Gloss – This has a sheen level of 80% or over. Gloss used to be very popular when I started out some 20 odd years ago, but most people opt for satinwood now. This is probably because it’s very difficult to find a good water-based gloss, and oil-based gloss tends to discolour very quickly.
The Best Water-Based Matt Paint to Use on Wood
For a long time, I advised people to avoid matt paint on wood, especially on doors and windows. I found it scuffed too easily. However, recently I tried a product called Tikkurila Intact 8, which completely turned things on its head. This paint has an 8% seen level, so it’s close to matt.
You must use Tikkurila Intact Primer to get the best results from this paint, but providing you do, you’ll find the overall performance brilliant. Plus, if buying online, it’s very easy to get a match to a different brand’s colour.
Opacity, ease of use, and durability are all spot on, and it’s easy to use too. It has great ‘levelling’, which basically means brush marks melt away after you’ve applied it.
The Best Water-Based Eggshell Paint to Use on Wood
Crown Trade Fastflow is my favourite water-based eggshell paint to use on woodwork. This is quite an interesting paint too. It’s an ‘alkyd emulsion’, meaning it contains a very small amout of alkyd oil. There isn’t enough alkyd in it to make the paint discolour (not that I’ve ever seen anyway, and I’ve been using it for years).
It’s still very much a water-based paint, and it’s perfect for wood.
The alkyd in this paint helps to make it durable and gives it a better ‘open time’. You’ll find it very easy to use and looks absolutely flawless once applied. Colour matches are no issue when purchased online. You should use an undercoat for adhesion and opacity reasons before applying this eggshell.
The Best Water-Based Satinwood
I’m going to give you two options for a water-based satinwood. One is a reasonably priced, easy to use trade version. The other is a high-end, ‘the best money can buy’ option. There are loads of good satinwood choices around, so narrowing it down to two was quite the challenge.
This is the reasonably priced trade option. WRX Satinwood is fully water-based, and can be applied to most surfaces, including old oil-based paint, without the need for a separate primer. That said, it doesn’t cope very well when applied over caulk or filler, so I generally spot prime these bits before applying the satinwood.
You can buy WRX Water-Based Satinwood online from Amazon, making it readily available. As with the other products on this list, you’ll find WRX Satinwood very easy to use, and it’s very durable. You don’t experience any of the annoying paint drips like you do with some other water-based paints either.
I love this satinwood. I probably use it more than any other.
Benjamin Moore Scuff X
This is the ‘high-end’ option, so it is a lot more expensive than anything else on the list, but it is a very good quality product. You’ll be able to tell the difference as soon as you walk into the room! Benjamin Moore Scuff X Satin is fully water-based. Most people apply this paint to previously painted wood without an adhesion primer (including me).
Two coats of Scuff X are easily enough on most jobs. It absolutely flies on and seems to go for miles!! The finish is luxurious and has a real sense of depth. I really do like this paint. They don’t make a “Brilliant White”, but there are several softer whites available.
The Best Water-Based Gloss
Unlike satinwoods, there are not a lot of good quality water-based gloss options available. A lot of the products around look cheap and stringy once applied. This is because it is the alkyd oil in traditional gloss that gives it it’s high sheen, and water-based products struggle to compete.
There is one I really like, and that’s Teknos Futura Aqua 90. This is another alkyd emulsion, and you will need to use an undercoat first to reach your desired finish. However, you will achieve a good finish, it’s very durable, and it keeps its colour well.
Some Decorators feel that oil-based gloss has had its day for interior use because it yellows too quickly. This is the only water-based version I’ve used that gives you a comparable finish.
I hope I haven’t waffled on too much, but the products mentioned above are what I genuinely believe are the best water-based paints for wood. Just choose the finish you want, and then go from there.
If this is the first-time using water-based paint on wood, or you’ve tried it before and didn’t achieve good results, then don’t worry. It’s all in the quality of the paint. Providing you use a good trade product you can’t go wrong.
The Best Water-Based Paint for Wood – by Mike Gregory