Can You Paint Wood With Emulsion?

Can you paint wood with emulsion

As a professional painter and decorator in North London, I often come across questions regarding the compatibility of different paints with various surfaces. One such common query is, “Can you paint wood with emulsion?”. Somewhere in your home, you’ll have a surface made out of wood that you will want paint. Whether it’s a fence, skirting boards, or your kitchen cabinets. In this article, I will provide you with a comprehensive answer to this question, discussing what emulsion paint is, its compatibility with wood, potential issues, and alternative paint options for woodwork.

What Is Emulsion Paint?

Emulsion paint (or latex paint) is a water-based paint most commonly used for interior walls. You can find emulsion paints in various colour and sheen levels, such as matte, eggshell, satin, and silk. Emulsion paints are a popular choice among DIYers and professionals alike due to their ease of application, quick drying time, and low odour.

Can You Use Emulsion On Wood?

The short answer is yes. You can use emulsion paint to paint wood and adheres well to woodwork. However, the primary purpose of emulsion paint is to paint walls. Therefore, you can encounter several potential problems using it on wood.

So while you can technically paint wood with emulsion paint, the real question is, Should you?’. Let’s look at the issues with using emulsion paint on wood.

Potential Issues with Using Emulsion on Wood

So what are the problems you may experience if you paint your woodwork with emulsion paint:

  • Lack of durability: Emulsion paints are not as durable as paints formulated for woodwork, resulting in sub-par protection for these surfaces. Therefore, using emulsion paint on woodwork can be less than ideal because woodwork is often subjected to more wear and tear, requiring a type of paint that can withstand these conditions.

  • Absorption and adhesion: Wood is a porous material. Therefore, when you apply emulsion paint to these surfaces, it may get absorbed by the wood fibres, resulting in poor adhesion. As a result, you may end up with an uneven finish and the need for multiple coats to achieve satisfactory coverage.

  • Moisture resistance: Emulsion paints are not inherently moisture-resistant, and woodwork is susceptible to moisture damage. In areas prone to high humidity or moisture, using paint with better moisture resistance is crucial to protect the wood from warping, swelling, or mould growth.

Best Emulsion Paints In The UK For Woodwork

Over the years, I have used hundreds of emulsion paints – literally. Here’s my favourite to use:

Dulux Quick Dry Satinwood

Dulux Quick Dry Satinwood

This paint offers excellent durability and a smooth satin finish suitable for woodwork. It dries quickly and provides a tough, long-lasting coating.

Pros: Quick drying times and provides a durable finish.

Cons: Limited colour options.

Farrow & Ball Estate Eggshell

Farrow & Ball Estate Eggshell

This luxury paint offers a beautiful eggshell finish and excellent durability. It is available in a wide range of colours, allowing for customisation.

Pros: Elegant finish and extensive colour options.

Cons: Higher price point.

Johnstone's Aqua Water Based Gloss

Johnstone's Aqua Water Based Gloss

This water-based gloss paint is suitable for both interior and exterior woodwork. It provides a high sheen finish and good durability.

Pros: High sheen and low odour.

Cons: Longer drying time compared to solvent-based gloss paints.

Best Paint Types for Woodwork:

While emulsion paints can be used on wood, there are alternative paint types that are better suited for woodwork:

  • Oil-based paints: These paints provide excellent durability and moisture resistance, making them suitable for woodwork. They may have a longer drying time and stronger odor compared to water-based paints.

  • Acrylic paints: Acrylic paints formulated for woodwork offer good adhesion, durability, and moisture resistance. They have a faster drying time and lower odor compared to oil-based paints.

  • Enamel paints: Enamel paints provide a hard, glossy finish and superior durability. They are commonly used for trim, doors, and other high-traffic woodwork areas. However, they often require longer drying times and proper ventilation during application.


So, we have seen that it is possible to use emulsion paint on wood. However, if you want the paint finish on your woodwork to be as durable as possible, you may want to use a type of paint, for example, oil-based or acrylic paint, with better resistance to wear and tear.

Therefore, you should always consider the unique characteristics of wood when selecting paint for your woodwork.

Also, before you paint, you must prepare the surface. Preparation involves filling, sanding, and sometimes even skimming the surface before painting. Following these steps will help to ensure your paint finish is smooth!