Types of Paint

Type Finish Ingredients Uses Features

soft distemper

very matt

ground chalk is dissolved in size and pigment added

damp or dry plaster

not washable
water permeable
also called 'size colour' or 'builders finish'
dries quickly, washed off before redecoration
very useful for fresh plaster

oil-bound distemper

very matt

pigment is dissolved in size with linseed oil added

damp or dry plaster

not washable
water permeable
can be wiped lightly

limewash

very matt

burnt limestone, slaked in water

damp plaster; dry plaster should be moistened before application

water permeable
takes a long time to dry

oil eggshell

slight sheen

white lead mixed with linseed oil, turpentine and thinners

internal woodwork

impermeable
washable
tends to yellow because of linseed oil content

flat oil

very flat

oil paint

internal woodwork
dry plaster

impermeable

emulsion - permeable

matt

modern emulsion

plaster

permeable

emulsion

vinyl matt or matt

modern emulsion

plaster

impermeable

acrylic

very flat

 

internal woodwork

apply only to bare wood; remove any oil-based finishes

Water paint was used extensively during the early part of the 20th century. It was outmoded by modern emulsion paint in the 1940s and 1950s, although it was itself a true emulsion, being a mixture of oil and water. The most popular brand was 'Walpamur', known to the old decorators as 'Wallop'.

You should not use impermeable paints for damp plaster or plaster on walls with no damp course or where it is not effective; you will seal the damp into the wall. Above all, avoid textured wall coatings; if you suffer from damp problems, these paints are prohibitively expensive to remove. Typically they have a bonding coat and a paint layer. Whilst chemicals can remove both layers, in some cases the bonding layer can only be removed by chipping it off, resurfacing the bricks and repointing.

Linseed oil-based paints are traditional and long-lasting but are difficult to apply. Make sure you mix the paint regularly. Be prepared for the paint to take a long time to dry.