Progression of our Trade

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Doors completed on job

Doors completed on job

Another door glossed

Another door glossed

Being in my part of the Country can make you a little insular, I used to firmly see myself as a traditionalist, it’s how I learned my trade and for many years afterwards the way I continued working had not altered. Gradually as I became involved in more things I became better connected and seen there was a myriad of diversity available to us.

From that moment on I began to open my eyes, I would explore new decorating products and equipment. Not all where successful but at least I had the opportunity to make that judgement myself. Sometimes new things would be incorporated into the way we work, other times dismissed as a gimmick.

Around 2007 I heard the news about the upcoming changes due in paint formulations because of VOC changes  .Following this information I made a conscious decision to move my business more towards water based paints.

In those early days it was not easy, many customers still wanted a high gloss finish, which simply wasn’t available in any water based finishes at the time, so we continued using traditional undercoat and gloss where it was requested.

Even the Satin or Eggshell finishes of the day had serious issues; a major problem was getting them to adhere to a traditionally finished surface. No matter how well you abraded the substrate early water based finishes had problems “sticking” to a previously oil based painted area.

This often meant an additional coat of an adhesion promoting primer was required to bridge the gap. There were also several of those emerging in a big way so it was a matter of trial and error learning which one worked best in a particular situation. Zinsser had produced several primers that were ideal BIN acted as a stain block and adhesion primer on most surfaces. While 1-2-3 was ideal if you just wanted to go over old gloss and remain with water based finish.

Most manufacturers also came up with variations, as I mainly lean towards Dulux I found Super Grip or on some occasions Ultra Grip to be worthwhile products to keep in the van.

Once again don’t be tempted to cut corners using these primers, good as they are you still need a full system to go with them, they are not in lieu of an undercoat as the primer would be detrimental to the top coats finish. Also proper preparation is essential everything needs a good abrade down, degreased if required and dust kept at a minimum.

Before the 2010 dead line I was experimenting with more water based trim products, the Satin finishes were easier to convince as the look was similar, just not the touch. I could produce fair results using Dulux Ecosure Undercoat and Gloss on certain surfaces it worked great.

It was almost as good as oil on the compressed paneled doors that were popular and most skirting and architraves didn’t look bad in it.

What I discovered in those early days is the need to rethink how we do things, old oil paints needed a good bristle brush and you worked from the stock, laying of once your area was covered. As oil paints developed you could use longer brushes but still usually a natural bristle one was preferred.

Water based finished require a softer synthetic bristle and lighter touch; you mainly work using the points of the brush. Along with being methodical as overlaps are not very forgiving on water based finishes. I have made it no secret that Truestar MF and Master piece brushes are my preferred weapons in water-based systems.

Over the last few years I have tried to perfect the system we use. I personally have found I prefer quite a soft synthetic bristle, but again it’s down to personal preference and what you can make work. The best solution is to try various brushes until you find the ones you prefer.

Likewise with the products you choose, don’t expect you’ll achieve perfect results first time, or even every time, at first it takes trial and error to educate yourself. You learn some surfaces will need perhaps another quick undercoat or a second top coat. Although I encourage you to stick with a product for a little while, don’t dismiss it at its first outing then you have more chance of learning its characteristics, every manufacturer does things slightly differently.

Never stop learning and progressing, water based paints are improving all the time and we will get to the point when oil paints will just stop being viable or available



  1. Chris clinton  March 15, 2016

    Absolutely old gloss needs deglossing.bu we are using the dual binder hybrid satin finish QD .especially on our new builds which is mdf in the main. .but yes all need to find a suitable product & quick

    • Sean  March 18, 2016

      Thank you Chris,
      There has been products available for the last 10 years or so, only recently has there been a major improvement in their abilities. Wouldn’t say water based is up to the standard or traditional oils in some areas but in my opinion the pro’s out weight the cons. Customer education is a definite requirement but on the whole they can see the advantages.
      Kind regards

  2. Chris Graham  March 15, 2016

    A great blog about the importance of change. I have been using acrylics for over 10 years ago when they were introduced to Mark Wilkinson Furniture.

    Was not easy at the start, coverage was an issue as well as adhesion. I stuck with it and now love the fact that every kitchen I do Im not flooding the clients home with oil based paint fumes.

    My preference are Tikkurila feelings and Helmi, Ive had great results with both.

    I do still use some solvent based primers where a specific bond is required, shellac based primers work well and Otex by Tikkurila which is a good oil based adhesion primer although thet do a water based which I have yet to try,

    • Sean  March 18, 2016

      Thank you Chris, yes similar time scales to me. I think the health benefits are also a huge draw to change the way we work also, imagine not only flooding a clients home with the fumes of oil based finishes but our bodies as well. I don’t miss the days of using oil eggshell in confined spaces that’s for certain, gave you a thick head for a few hours afterwards.

      Yes I use shellac based primers too, but not had the opportunity to try Otex and only used Tikkurila externally to date

      Best wishes and thanks again for your kind words


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