9th Dec 2022 -

While oil-based paints were once the main choice for professionals, in the modern decorating world water-based paints have made clear advances, lasting longer, looking better, and coming in a wider range of finishes. However, oil-based paints remain the choice for many, offering a clean and durable finish for wood, metal, and masonry elements. In this guide from Building Materials Nationwide, we explore the benefits and drawbacks of oil-based paints alongside their various applications.

What is Oil-Based Paint?

Oil-based paints are the traditional choice compared to water-based options, having long been favoured by many professionals. They are made from pigments suspended in a slow-drying oil, alongside thinners. Additives will also be added to give additional benefits.

Oil-based paints will typically offer superior durability to emulsions, though recent innovations have narrowed what was once a wider gap. They are also seen as easier to apply, giving a great finished look to walls or features. There are some drawbacks to keep in mind with oil-based paints, however. These include the fact that they can have issues with yellowing over time, while water-based options will keep their colour. Emulsion paints are also far quicker to dry, with many options allowing multiple coats to be applied in a single day.

Another issue to consider with oil-based paints is their release of VOCs when drying. The total amount of Volatile Organic Compounds will be restricted by law, but if you are looking to avoid them it’s worth noting that they occur in far smaller amounts within water-based paints. This will mean that they give off a strong odour while drying, and can also cause health issues. Indoor rooms where oil-based paint is being applied should be thoroughly ventilated.

What Types of Oil-Based Paint are Sold?

Oil-based paints are rarely used for interior walls and ceilings in modern decorating, and will instead be available for wood and metalwork inside and outside of a building. They can also be used for masonry, and as flooring paints. Oil-based primers and undercoats will be available for use in conjunction with paint. Thanks to modern advances, the majority of paints sold today are water-based.

Spray paints remain predominantly oil-based, explaining the need to use a protective mask when applying them.

What Sheens of Oil-Based Paint are Sold?

While water-based paints are now available in the full range of sheens, oil-based options tend to range from the low-sheen eggshell to the high-sheen gloss. Higher sheen options will boast better durability to impacts, but will also bring attention to the defects of a painted surface.

  • Gloss: Boasting the highest levels of reflectivity, oil-based gloss paints will offer great resistance in high contact areas, or can be contrasted with matt walls to create shiny skirting boards and other elements.
  • Satinwood: A mid-sheen option, satinwood can give a modern look to wooden features within a building, such as doors, window frames, and skirting boards.
  • Eggshell: A lower-sheen choice, eggshell can help obscure bumps within an uneven surface. It is also a popular choice for furniture.

Is Solvent-Based Paint the Same as Oil-Based?

When the term solvent-based is used within the UK it means that the paint is oil-based, and the terms can be considered interchangeable.

Oil-Based Paints for Different Materials

As interior walls and ceilings are now almost universally painted with emulsion, oil-based paints are largely sold for specific surface types, offering a durable painted surface on wood, brick, and metal – both inside and outside of a building.

Oil-Based Paint for Wood

Offering a tough and glossy finish, oil-based paints can be a great choice for high-impact internal wood such as skirting boards, bannisters, doors, and windows. You’ll also find a selection of oil-based paints for exterior wood, which can be used for external features, wooden furniture, fences, and for sheds. It’s important to use durable paint externally, as it’s designed to withstand all weather types and fluctuations of temperature. 

Oil-Based Paint for Masonry

Masonry paint is designed to be used over bricks and concrete, making it perfect for giving a protective and attractive coat to the exterior walls of a house. There are many oil-based options available from trade brands like Johnstone’s and Armstead.

Oil-Based Paint for Metal

Oil-based paints adhere well to metal surfaces and are available for both interior and exterior metal elements like furniture. This will give a durable finish, without the risks of rusting that can come with water-based paints.

Applying Oil-Based Paints

The most important thing to keep in mind with oil-based paints is the odours they will release while drying. If painting internally, make sure to use a paint that is designed for this, as exterior paints could be more dangerous. When painting, use a mask and ventilate whenever possible.

You should also use a paintbrush specifically designed for oil-based paints. This will be indicated in the product description. Oil-based paints tend to require a longer window to dry, which will also be shown in the product description.

Cleaning Oil-Based Paint Brushes

Oil-based paints have a more difficult cleanup process than water-based. You’ll need to use paint thinner or white spirits to remove the paint from your brush. You’ll also need to use these to remove any paint that dripped onto unintended areas.

Get The Paint You Need With A Trade Account

Our trade accounts give you exclusive access to over 45,000 building materials, including the oil-based paints your projects require. We know that professionals need specific paints to get the durable, quality finish the job demands. That's why your dedicated Trade Account Manager will work closely with you to source any oil-based wood, metal, or masonry paint you need.

With decades of combined experience in the building industry, our Trade Account Managers have the product knowledge and supplier relationships to track down the perfect oil-based paints, even if they're not listed on our website. And they can organise speedy delivery or collection at your local depot.

On top of paint sourcing, a Building Materials Trade Account offers great benefits like discounted trade pricing, flexible credit options, and knowledgeable advice whenever you need it. We aim to save you money while making your work easier. Register for an account today and get the oil-based paints you want, hassle-free.

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