What is contract matt paint used for?

Updated May 18, 2024 | Posted Apr 29, 2021 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 7 comments

Contract matt is often a cheaper alternative to vinyl matt and contains less polymer binders. This gives the paint certain qualities. But what is contract matt paint used for? I thought I’d put pen to paper and explain.


Using Contract Matt to Prime Bare Plaster


A “mist coat” is the primer you’d apply onto bare plaster. A lot of decorators have used contract matt as a mist coat for decades. Because of the lack of polymer binders, contract matt is breathable and once diluted, will bond quite nicely to plaster.

Using contract matt as a mist coat is a bit “old school”. There was a time when every decorator was taught to use a coat of contract matt, and it can still be effective now. However, a lot of manufacturers will either advise you use a specialist primer, or just heavily dilute the same product as you’re using as a topcoat and apply directly to the plaster.


 Using Contract Matt to Paint a Ceiling


Contract matt can be used as a finish coat on a ceiling. In fact, it is ideal in some cases. The opacity is generally very good, meaning fewer coats are needed. It is often flatter than some alternatives, meaning less problems with picture-framing and flashing.

The downside of using contract matt on a ceiling is it’s durability. It is useless in a room if you’re about to wallpaper the walls, as you will not be able to wipe paste residue off your finished ceiling. It is no good in a kitchen or bathroom either, as grease and moisture will penetrate and lift the paint.

Using Contract Matt in a Newbuild House


Contract matt is often used as a “builders finish” on a lot of newbuilds. This is mainly due to price!! But other factors include the breathability of contract matt, meaning it can be applied to bare plaster walls which are not fully cured or dried out.

Contract matt is also a great base for additional products, so a homeowner can come in and apply whatever paint finish they like over the top of the “builders finish”.


The Best Contract Matt Emulsion


This section is easy as we have a separate blog for the best contract matt emulsion on the market. As far as “where to buy” goes, the first thing to remember is always buy trade paint!! Get yourself down to a proper trade counter. If you need a good Online supplier, then try The Decorating Centre Online. Click here to see their range of contract matt emulsions.


Best Tools for Applying Contract Matt


Contract matt tends to drag as you apply it, so having the correct tools will not only make life easier for you, but you’ll also avoid defects such as flashing and picture framing. A long pile roller and a brush with a thick stock will help massively.


I like using the Purdy Colossus paint roller when mist coating. You will need to de-lint it before you start, but it has a thick, dense nap which is perfect for this type of work. Available online here.

As for the brush, I’ll go with Purdy again. The Monarch Elite XL is fantastic for new plaster. It holds its shape and spreads loads of paint. Available online here.


Final Thoughts


Contract matt probably isn’t the ideal emulsion for walls, simply because it isn’t very durable. However, as per this blog, it does have it’s uses. Not just that, but contract matt is generally cheaper than its vinyl or durable counterparts.  It also has great opacity, meaning you can cover a wall or ceiling in fewer coats. This makes contract matt a favourite with landlords, as well as builders.

Updated May 18, 2024 | Posted Apr 29, 2021 | 7 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.
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  1. Ky

    Can you use contract Matt as a mist coat and top coat on a newly plastered kitchen?

    • Vince Robinson

      Definitely use it for the mist coat but I would always recommend finish coats be durable matt or soft sheen.

      • Sian Williams

        Hi I am in a dilemma I was always told to mist coat with diluted Matt emulsion I used a contract Matt but want to paint over with a durable Matt in the bathroom ceiling but have read that you cannot put a durable Matt over a contract Matt. I don’t know what to do now do you have any advise

    • Jack

      is cintract matt good to cover dark colours

  2. Zo

    I used contract matt for my new plaster ceiling in bathroom is it good for bathroom?

  3. Ruby Jones

    I’m confused! My house has been completely re-plastered throughout. I was going to use contract paint right the way through and then paint each room in my preferred coloured vinyl paint. Reading through your tips and questions I’m understanding that if I use contract paint on the New plastered walls and ceilings I won’t be able to use ordinary vinyl paint on walls or ceilings in colours of my choice after as it will just peel off?

    • Mike Cupit

      You’ll be fine applying vinyl matt on top of contract…. but have you checked what the manufacturer recommends on your chosen finish product?


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