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Best oil-based gloss paint for exterior woodwork on period property

What is the best oil-based gloss paint for exterior woodwork on period property? Is that even a relevant question in eco friendly times?

Increasingly, decorating specialists who repair and paint exterior woodwork on period property (sash windows and front doors etc) use premium acrylic paint and hybrid paint. However, oil-based gloss paint still has its place, for instance, where you want to achieve a superior shiny gloss-painted front door, aka the Number 10 look,


you are a traditionalist, and simply prefer the aesthetic and the performance of high gloss oil paint on your windows and doors, please!

or you live in Holland where all exterior work tends to be oil based.

However, for UK users, not all oil-based gloss paint nowadays is created equal, and with a few notable exceptions listed below, much of the standard trade oil-based high gloss paint and accompanying oil-based undercoat is proving problematic. Basically, since the 2010 VOC regulations were imposed, most trade oil paint is taking longer to dry, which affects how you work in two ways:

you have to wait longer between coats to sand, because the oil undercoat may be too tacky within normal / accepted as normal timescales.

you might have problems closing doors and windows at night, if you don’t get the oil paint on before lunchtime.

Best approach to high quality finishes with oil-based gloss & undercoat

To deliver high quality oil-based gloss finishes in a timely fashion, you have to think a bit beyond going to the store and asking for your perennial favourite brand gloss and undercoat. The following approaches should keep you on track, however, on your quest for oil-based perfection.

1-Oil-based Zinseer Cover Stain as the primer/undercoat, followed by oil-based Sikkens AZ gloss will provide an enamel-like finish.

2 – To paint exterior doors to a Number 10 quality finish to gloss a front door, I would also use Sikkens AZ gloss as the finish, but since the 2010 changes have tended to use Sikkens Rubbol BL Primer, a water based primer/undercoat which dries fast and flat.

And to achieve the harder and exaggerated shiny finish for the Number 10 look, you need more than just undercoat and gloss paint, and that is where a full skim or two of an oil-based fine surface filler and surfacer like Gras a Laquer comes into its own. Not dissimilar to Swedish Putty or Kodrin Spachtel it is the secret… As Patrick Baty pointed out, the Dutch have been using this technique for years, as witnessed by the superb doors in Amsterdam.

There is a whole raft of information on the assorted oil based filler-surfacer products on the market.

Prestonett Gras a Lacquer
Oil based filler summary
Using gras a lacquer and a brushing putty recipe

3 – Painting exterior woodwork on period property with designer oil-based undercoat and oil-based gloss. Using designer “posh” paint from companies like Little Greene and Paint Library is like a calm step back in time, when all was well with the world of oil paint. They look great and behave as expected ie they apply and dry. From undercoating, through to top coats, in normal conditions, the undercoat can be thoroughly sanded next day, and a topcoat, if applied in the morning, should tack off nicely by closing time the same day.

4 – Scandinavian oil paints The weather doesn’t get much more extreme than Finland, and the Tikkurila Otex and Miranol approach to durable and high sheen exterior oil paint certainly translates well to UK conditions.

Those 4 options work reliably, in an unreliable paint world to give you a top quality finish! And in Holland, exteriors are painted in oil gloss, no ifs or buts, so look at Sikkens and Sigma and Wijzonol (the paint behind US-based Fine Paints of Europe.).

So in summary:

If you use standard trade oil-based gloss and undercoat on exterior woodwork, and want to maintain high trade standards, especially where filling and sanding between coats is concerned, you will probably need to allow longer between coats than ever before.


use quick drying basecoats and finish oil glossing before lunch time / leave doors etc ajar till very late.


The above approach and information will probably hold true for a good while, but as acrylic paint gathers momentum, there will be a shift and fewer and fewer decorators will stay familiar with the finer points of using high gloss oil paint. However, decorators specialising in period property painting and decorating will be keeping oil paint firmly in their sights, specifying and applying it professionally, when the occasion demands.

Or should we roll over and let nature take its eco course and forget how to use oil-based gloss? What do you think? When was the last time you used oil gloss? It would be interesting to hear from US painters how they found it, adapting to the decline, and near extinction, of oil paints in their market.

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37 comments to “Best oil-based gloss paint for exterior woodwork on period property”

  1. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Thanks for tweeting this post. Glad you found it useful.

  2. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    There is that! Tarps and a big team doesn’t hurt in the battle against the rain.

  3. Charles Budd

    Brilliant! Thanks for that. I’ve been wanting to improve on the standard Dulux Weathershield system for some time, and your Coverstain plus two coats of Sikkens AZ seems to be a perfect solution. Just one question – products specifically designed for exterior woodwork are designed (so they say) to be flexible to take into account the greater expansion and contraction of woodwork outside. Do you think the Coverstain and AZ solution gives this flexibility. And how do you think it would compare in terms of finish, durability and cost to a good water-based system such as Bedec MSP Gloss?

  4. Wobs

    For exterior woodwork, I nearly always go for linseed paint, as it is the best for breathability, and longer lasting than any gloss on the market.

    Currently in the process of comparing Allbacks (Holkams) and Linseedpaintcompany. Each seem to have pros and cons, but still better than gloss.

  5. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Thanks for that perspective. We are being introduced to a couple of novel linseed oil based products, and historically, no reason to doubt the claims of the basic premise. How long have you been using linseed oil paint?

  6. Wobs

    Only about 5 years, although we just moved, so the first lot of painting is on a house I no longer own. I do go past occasionally to see its state though, as the front is south facing, and a good indication of its longevity.

    I also go on the Period Property forum, which has many advocates for linseed paint. (some don’t use it of course, as its not a law!).

    I have used Dulux and Sikkens before, and found Dulux to crack and let water in after a short number of years, even when I have stripped down to bare wood and following instructions to the letter. Rot has of course followed.

    If you google the subject you will also find articles pouring scorn on the idea that these modern exterior glosses are microporous, and therefore breathable. Such claims must be taken with a pinch of salt.

    I would still use Sikkens on wooden gutters though, as linseed doesn’t like such levels of damp, but for all other exterior woodwork, its linseed all the way for me.

    I have noticed the Allback is more matt (or sometimes silk) in texture depending on which colour you get, whereas the Linseedpaintcompany (LPC) is more gloss.

    However, the LPC paint dries quicker owing to certain natural additives (he adds pine resin among other things).

    The Allbacks seems to cover better, which is a particular advantage with very light colours (I tried an off-white and needed 5 coats) (apparently I should have added a white wash to the first coat), whereas the Allbacks would take about 3.

    So swings and roundabouts between the two. But they are longer lasting than gloss, and this makes it cheaper in the long run, even though they cost a lot more initially. Expensive paint is cheap paint.

    Mill dew: Many have had experience of mill dew with linseed paint, although I never have. Allbacks does sell a zinc oxide additive to combat this, and the LPC paint claims to be immune to it.

  7. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Appreciate the info you have added. Thanks. There is a good indepth article written here about microporous paints, they are everywhere and nowhere, depending! http://paintsandinteriors.blogspot.co.uk/

  8. Wobs

    Cheers for that. An interesting read.

    Some links discussing this issue further:

  9. Paints and Interiors

    Re Linseeds – yes brilliant product when applied correctly and used properly – correct amounts of coats and observing drying times etc. As an alternative to pure linseeds look at Osmo Country Colour too http://www.osmouk.com/previewpage.cfm?bookid=book001&chapter=5&page=115
    linseed and natural oils combined and a really great product or Klassisck Oljefarg which is a mixture of oils http://www.paintsandinteriors.co.uk/?p=solidopaque.stains

  10. Andrew C

    Hi there, super helpful thread, very interesting read.

    Can I just add my situation and hopefully get a little professional advice please.

    Have a 1920’s double bow windowed semi with overhanging facias & UPVC windows fitted. All other woodwork original & rock solid with cast iron gutters.

    Three years back did a total heat gun strip to base wood, refinished, primed, 2 x base coated & 2 x gloss with Weathershield. Refinished at each coat & spray gloss hamerited the cast work. Although not a professional I have to say it’s a very good finish…should be, took me 6 weeks non stop to do!

    Just about to redo it…not because of any failure or significant deterioration but because daughter No. 3 gets married in the summer and leaves from our place!

    Read your article and keen not to miss an opportunity to take it to the next level upwards finish wise…as far towards the No. 10 finish you describe. I’d hate to have to strip off the solid & level base I have but was considering to wet & dry it all down & use a couple of coats of the Sikkens AZ gloss product you mention.

    Would that be a sensible way to go or a waste if not going down to base level again with the wood? As I say the finish is very clean, solid and unbroken and even though I say it myself, a finish that I was told by a professional that he could never get…not because he could not do it but because he would never make any money if he did.

    Would appreciate your advice before I set off on another decorating crusade. First time I saw a thread with this degree of data…very very useful. Many thanks in advance

  11. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Hi really good to hear a homeowner pushing the envelope, well done. Your pro decorator should be able to replicate it and make a living, if he charges accordingly and doesnt get caught up in the idea that nobody will pay good money for fantastic finishes. Simply not true.

    To move forward and upward, I would say that Sikkens XD is the next step up. So after matting everything down one coat of Rubbol Primer, and two topcoats. For super mirror finish, use the Kodrin Spachtel or Gras a Lacquer oil based fine fillers, VERY thin coats. Sand back with wet n dry and clean off thoroughly. Just be warned, XD is a heavy paint.

    Hope that helps you on your quest. cheers

  12. andrew c

    Hi Andy, many thanks for that advice. I’m sure the decorator was just being polite in reality. I know I spent an insane amount of time doing it but I guess if you a professional then you could achieve what I tried to do in a lot less time. Probably the same of a gearbox change on our old Peugeot 106….anyone can do it…me a week, a decent mechanic…2 hours! :-)

    Just to check, I would not need to strip back just flat down or key in the existing surface…is that correct? Then the primer, then the XD? And the XD..is available in white and black I can see…are colours also an option? There is not so much colour, only in the top section above the bay but this part does take a beating from the sun and is always the joints the of this that cracks and moves a little and dulls…rest stays fairly well perfect.

    Was just looking at the Gras a Lacquer….it’s essentially a fine spread filler, is that right? And is it an easy apply or will take require a lot of sanding afterwards? I guess not if its after the two XD coats?

    And when you say the XD is a heavy paint, do you mean to apply thinly as might sag/run?

    Sorry to have to qualify everything but this is a step into a slightly new world and keen maximise my chances :-)

    Appreciate you taking the time to advise Andy…is a big help.

  13. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    All decorators are polite by nature :)

    Flat down, dust off, prime. When dry, use a good filing knife and scrape on a very thin layer of Gras a Lacquer over al flat surfaces, it is like a paste. When dry, apply a second thin coat and leave to dry. If it is applied too thickly it will take forever to dry and defeats the object. When dry , sand it well 240 paper, it will feel like glass. Then finish with 2 coats of gloss. XD is sticky, so push it out. Best to have a trial when not up a ladder :)

  14. andrew c

    They certainly appear to be so….and very helpful :-)

    Brilliant I think I got it now….have ordered all materials so will go back to clean down and flatting down in readiness for the work.

    Yes will definitely have a go ‘off ladder’ before the main event.

    Many thanks again. Really interested to see the comparison with the Weathershield previous expectations. Have a good Easter

  15. andrew c

    Hi Andy, just to let you know how I got on with your directions….in short, great.

    I flatted back to quite a good level and did a little repair work…probably more than I thought I needed. I then changed direction a little bit and used the cover stain product suggested earlier up the thread….partly because I jumped the gun and ordered stuff before I read properly and partly because there was some knots that were weeping a little bit. It went on fairly well and then I flatted that down a bit.

    Then used the Rubbol primer as recommend. Nice finish. Then the spachtel. Bit of fiddle to get on without thin grooves working their way in but with a bit of practice not such a problem. Then sanded back with wet and dry and glossed.

    Wow, very good surface. In fact I should have used two coats as you said…I used one and there were a very few small scars visible that could have been avoided with some more sanding. But that aside, very impressive.

    I’ve only put one coat of the AZ gloss on and I see what you mean about the drag but it is reasonably forgiving I thought and the finish is nice.

    Having tried a bit and learned a lot, I would confirm to use exactly the approach you suggested…two coats Spachtel and more wet and dry effort. Very confident in that way forward.

    Just one question Andy, color wise I can see Sikkens do quite a range but difficult to identify our choice of color from the on-line color wheel/chart. Are there any locations were we can go look at the Sikkens hard copy color options?

    Thanks again for the advice….although I was happy with the finish I had, the use of these products and definitely the Spachtel is a big step forward….hopefully they last well as well. Cheers

  16. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Hi, glad you achieved the results you were after, or close enough :). It is a system and it works. For nearest stockists plugin your postcode here http://sikkens.trade-decorating.co.uk/information/stockists/index.jsp If you have a photo of your end result it would be interesting and encourage others to follow suit. cheers

  17. andrew c

    Brilliant, many thanks for that…going up to our local stockist later today. Have to say the spachtel product is a revelation. It’s a twist on what I always understood…I always spent a lifetime sanding the paint and building up/sanding…building up/sanding (repeat forever)…..but this stuff is so forgiving once you’ve developed a good application technique. It actually is saving me time now after a few days working out the technique.

    Yes will get some photos….I don’t know if the camera is capable of picking up the surface quality but I’m going to give it a go. Will be later this month before we have something good to show but will definitely be doing that.

    I can’t tell you how much improved the result is and I’m actually enjoying doing it for the first time in some years!

    And just looking ahead, given the wood base was good (house wood 1920’s), that previous strip to base was 100% and that we have followed the system and added the cover stain base….do you have feel how long we might expect that to last? I know … how long is a piece of string but was wandering given the Weathersheild looked “Ok…ish” after 3 years. Also what (if any) maintenance might be worthwhile going forward. Thanks again and will come back with photos later.

  18. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Sounds like you have nailed the Spachtel, gras a lacquer, Swedish putty approach!

    As for how long it will last. Maintenance is the key to extending the life of the job. Many years ago, Sikkens used to do a 25 year plan, ie back to bare, start again, full system like you have just done. Return the following year to wipe down and check for any issues in settling down, usually none, but worth doing. Then every 2 years recheck, wipe down and touch up, and 5th year, denib and a full coat. Repeat this cycle and they were looking at 5 cycles before starting again. It is a bigger upfront cost and effort but the longer it goes, the bigger the labour savings over the lifetime of the job compared to letting paint fail by year 5 and keep re-doing “well” 5 times.

    Why they stopped the scheme, I don’t know. You need a premium proven product to go this route, “proven” being the operative word, which discounts a lot of popular trade paint on the UK market, which has been fiddled with too much or is showing great promise but is too new to have a reliable history behind it.

    Other options are to go for the premium water borne Scandi paints, with 8-10 year cycles.

  19. andrew c

    Is perfect Andy, thanks for that.

    Just a couple final questions please (at the risk of becoming a pest). The gloss coat has come up great, really great, but I can see some minor scars in the early part of prep that def needed some more sanding. If I re-sand the gloss with 240, would it be ok to reapply the spachtel to the very small flawed areas & re-gloss or would that compromise the system overall?

    Also I’ve been using wet & dry 240 which works fine but leaves a huge mess that will need jet washing. using dry 240 i guess would work just as well? is there a mechanical/electric sander that I could source that would speed that part up? I have had a small bosch angle sander but it’s not great and the propitiatory sanding sheets cost a fortune and clog very quickly. Would be interested to buy a decent piece of gear to do that if I could identify the right thing.

    Many thanks the link for the sikkens center….we went, checked it out and ordered…will be here Monday. Mind you is hammering down here right now so think rain has stopped play for the next couple days.

    Again Andy I appreciate you spending the time educating the ‘great decorating unwashed’ :-) all the best

  20. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    No problem. Touch up filling and 2 coats gloss To protect it.

  21. Amateurhour64

    Still smiling my ass off at the quality of the result of using this system although my shoulder feels like its going to drop off doing overhead fascia…..50% done!

    After a few silly problems due to bad cleaning & fixed (via advice from one of the other guys on TP) using clean cloths & Tag Rags, I have a great finish with the first XD gloss coat….in reality is the second coat with extra very small spachtel patches added & sanded.

    But I also discovered (as you rightly said) that XD is heavy. I got a few (very minor) sags in the vertical face through applying too thick in the learning phase….since adjusted. I’m going to flash those small areas over & apply the 2nd XD coat. Have left a good week to harden as well.

    But question there, will it compromise the result to thin the XD down a fraction to get it flow a little better on those small vertical surfaces for the finish coat? I think I can flow it on a little better with a fractionally thinner coat (having got it nearly spot on save the sags). Or better to avoid doing that & improve my brush technique? Subsequent sections I’ve mastered the application method….as you said a few posts back, better to learn that off ladder. Many thanks for your help.

  22. darlic

    Getting the cleaning preparation right is the key,brush technique comes with experience,when i went to college,i struggled with gloss,but we worked on large surfaces,i took all the interior doors off and used them for practice shots ,until i got it right,gloss is tuff stuff,and will be phased out in the future,What i use but check with paint manufacturer,is paint conditioner,owetrol,have a good product,if its a water based paint say dulux emulsion a wizz off water will be fine,make sure you got got youselve a good brush,i like the coronas,lovely brushs for glossing,and its worth investing in a Wooster pelican and liners to go in with it,when finished,just empty your paint back in the tin ,and by yourselve some freezer food storage bags with the zip,throw the liner in the bag job done,no cleaning no hassle,i also used the bags for,storing brushes,in between coats,or if i take a door lock off use to store pieces,keep pressing on,welcome to the great world off decorating.

  23. Amateurhour64

    Hi there and thanks for the pointers. I’ve got pretty good brush technique in the main but the XD oil based gloss which is super in coverage is a bit stick as Andy mentioned in an earlier post. So whilst I’m getting good finish in the main, I had a couple of sags…think I was just putting it on too heavy.

    And now having said this, I’m just becoming aware that the problem only occurred in the XD white gloss, not in the XD black or custom mixes…odd? The colours go on fine and the finish on spachtel is stunning, but the white has been the one with the heavyness…and in two different cans…odd.

    Just took a quick look at the paint conditioner but they steer away from gloss if I read right.

    Totally agree your comment about the Wooster pelican kit, was just reading an article on TP about that and think will invest in that when I go back inside….my immediate future is a life on ladders outside!

    Brush wise I just invested in the Purdy XL elites. They look lovely and have definitely proved much easier to use. I do need to work on my brush maintenance and clean up routines for sure, especially at the price of the brushes. However I’m going to try a couple of the Corona’s as well.

    Thanks for the pointers, very much appreciated and will be acted upon for sure.

  24. darlic

    Sounds like your learning,when i gloss,i don’t overload brush and give it two taps,Wooster pot,i don’t get runs and if i did i would do it again,you could try thining with white sprit the coronas are top brush s use them myself,for brush maintenance,i use a combe,have a paintmate worth there money saves cleaning brushes,store and go ,even better i have one off them also,and brush cleaner made by krudcutter is very good,i have a few ways to look after my brushs,if i do clean them i spin them then shake up and down,then wrap in tissue,or put in plastic freezer bag,but i don’t clean many,good luck.

  25. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Good info Darlic, I would add that conditioner in water based emulsion is not to be under rated, and isn’t expensive as 1 litre of Floetrol creates an extra 1 litre of usable paint.

    Storing brushes in bags, we are trying to move on from there with an assortment of options from Brush Vest and Paint Brush Cover to Store and Go and Brush mates

    I would advise against pouring finish paint (eggshell and gloss) back into the original tin, it will be contaminated and then you have the fun time of straining it the next time. A slops tin makes more sense.

    White spirit is the thinner of choice for most using oil paint, but it degrades the paint. Owatrol oil has many benefits and the only drawback apart from cost is it will extend the curing time, but you can’t have everything.

    XD goes on better with a stiffer bristle brush like the Arroworthy Red Frost or a natural bristle brush. A plug for the Fox, it can handle XD too.

    If possible when recommending kit, please help us by specifying which model. Corona have lots of brushes many of which are good many of which don’t do the job of spreading oil based gloss. thanks.

  26. Amateurhour64

    Hi Andy, will try the Fox brushes, I saw the article on them just after I’d ordered the Purdy ones. Weird thing is the XD colors go on beautifully, is just the white I struggled with a little….was still good but not perfect.

    Yes I’m keen not to compromise the paint quality, Owatrol oil is a good alternative you say? Not heard of that but hey 5 weeks back I’d not heard of any of this stuff and now how a kitchen full of stuff. And that available on MPB?

  27. darlic

    I use owatrol oil in my gloss,very good,it certainly makes a difference to flow of paint.

  28. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Owatrol UK sell Owatrol online, also any good decorator merchant should have heard of it by now :)

  29. simon m.

    Thanks very much for this site, always interesting and informative. :-)
    Can anyone tell me what the difference is between Sikkens AZ plus and Sikkens XD gloss? On the subject of exteriors, anyone come across Jotun Ultimate? And anyone time tested a water based finish, where the original finish was old oil based?

  30. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Confirmed by Sikkens,-

    XD Gloss is of a higher specification. It is even higher in sheen compared to the AZ and lasts longer (up to 8-10 years), compared to the AZ gloss which is up to 6 years.

    The XD gloss is also a great choice if you are painting areas where the environment is more demanding, such as properties near the coast due to it being more durable.

    XD is a tough ole paint to move about.

  31. simon m.

    Thanks Andy. :-)

  32. ann

    hi i am going to use johnstones stormsheild flexible gloss but a bit unser of what it says on tin it says 2 top coats but use the stormsheild primer undercoat to use on bare wood so if the window say has already been painted before and its sanded down does that mean i dont use undercoat or have i read it wrong thanks

  33. chris911

    Hi I want to use sikkens rubbol satura plus on new factory primed(do not know what the primer is)windows & trim.what specification should you use? Hope you can help guys?

  34. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    All the details are at Holmans I would use the waterborne primer undercoat instead of the oil. On previous experience the oil undercoat has all the disadvantages and none of the advantages.

  35. Sue

    Can I use Dulux trade gloss paint on modern wooden sash windows?

  36. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Sikkens AZ and Sikkens XD are regular and proven oil based gloss favourites, as are Tikkurila Miranol, and are all a step up from the norm. In general, modern Dulux paint seems to be a permanent flow of new formulations, so always best to ask what length track record they have, before accepting a paint is great.

  37. Andy S

    A very interesting blog. I have an external job that has to be started in December so I will be battling with the elements. There will be a number of sash window to paint. Do you think the Sikkens Rubbol undercoat and AZ gloss would be a good option or should I opt for the quicker drying water based products? Has anyone used Zinsser Allcoat Gloss?

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