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Another “I’m having trouble with Farrow and Ball eggshell” questions

Listed under Blog, paint Posted Nov 09 2011

Had a call today from a painter in Hertfordshire who sounded very experienced, a former coach painter by all accounts. He was having terrible trouble with the Farrow and Ball eggshell. Not the drying issues which seem to have befallen 3 separate master painters around UK at the same sort of time. This time it was bubbles.

They had used the Farrow and Ball primer undercoat per the instructions on a new custom made wooden kitchen. No problems. Then applied the eggshell. First time seemed OK – apart from the flashing edges, and difficulty laying it off nicely! I suggested they change to Wooster brushes, as one thing I cannot criticise F&B eggshell is the quality of the finish. It is pretty nice.

However, as they progressed, the paint that had been applied by foam roller and laid off with a brush started to bubble, like airpockets. The marks dried back down to a certain degree, but left a rough bubble mark.

If they had used a fluffy roller I could understand the air pockets, but they had used foam. I suggested they try the dense foam rollers from Fat Hog or Wooster, as I haven’t seen that sort of bobbly issue with those high spec sleeves.

Wrong primer
Farrow and Ball insist on using their primer undercoat with their eggshell. (From a trade point of view, this is certainly an unhelpful requirement. No single primer fits all surfaces and situations, not even the best of the best problem-solvers, and even if you could make a case that Zinsser BIN, or Classidur do deal with every single problem, I certainly wouldn’t consider F&B primer undercoat to be a substitute for those sorts of products… so the trade is obliged to add an extra coat of F&B primer regardless of how well the surface has been prepared with the “right” primer for the job.)

Back to the problem at hand, did they get caught out by inappropriate primers and invalidate their warranty, so to speak, using a different primer? No. They used the F&B primer and topcoat system, even down to the F&B brushes, so it surely can’t be a simple matter of incompatibility between topcoats and base coat.

Contaminated paint
They thinned the paint a touch with water to try overcome the drying edges (which is sort of incorrect thinking, I believe. Thinned paint flows on quicker but dries even quicker and increases chances of a wet edge?) Anyway, being a water borne paint that cleans out in water, would thinning with water have caused the air pockets? Shouldn’t do, if it came straight out the tap and if it was stirred properly.

(I do remember Mark Nash saying that he can feel the difference in how water-borne paint performs if he uses different sorts of water. But he was talking about when he spritzes the surface before applying the top coat to help make the paint flow out – not adding hard water or soft water or distilled water to the actual tin. But maybe it was the water the Herts painters added?

I couldn’t give a definitive answer. They were waiting to hear back from the tech support, and maybe the tech support have come across this before, and will provide a simple solution? Either way, these top professional painters are really disgusted with the F&B paint playing up like this, and are at the point of throwing the paint away and going to buy some Dulux!

Andy, do you hate Farrow and Ball, or what?
It is more a case of – or what!

I regularly get calls or emails like the above from exasperated painters asking if I know why this that or the other is going on with F&B eggshell, or why it won’t cover, or why it won’t dry or why did it peel… Those painters do hate Farrow and Ball, in fact there is an another acronym for F&B that comes up regularly, but it is only fit for use on building sites, you understand!

There is a lot of disappointment, because many pros used the F&B oil based eggshell without any issues, then out came the new formula, no warning that it would be different to what is expected… kaboom. The premium price paint has cost a lot of painters time and money when it hasn’t performed as they hoped. And most of the time, their customer support stone walls or tells them it is user error.

Personally, I am not a fan of F&B eggshell, but not because it is hard to apply – I don’t find it treacly, even straight from the tin. I like the finish, it does lay off beautifully. And I don’t dislike it because of coverage. I thought the coverage of light colours was fine. (The emulsion is a different matter, but the eggshell seems OK coverage.) And the finish seems like it should be durable. So, I am not in the camp of anti Farrow and Ball painters based on its propensity for flashing, streakiness, or poor coverage.

The main reason I avoid F&B eggshell is because of the company’s marketing stance that the new hybrid eggshell is a direct substitute for their oil based eggshell. It just isn’t so. Oil based eggshells were (and some still are) constant and predictable to use. Not so, the hybrid eggshell.

It is the inconsistent results that I am not willing to take a chance on, especially with hand-painted kitchens. I’m in the middle of a non-drying “discussion” that I experienced myself, no rhyme or reason. Two rooms in same property, one boiling hot, one next to an open door, in neither room did the eggshell dry properly even after 36 hours. Changed to the F&B undercoat, still clogging the abrasive paper. For a fast drying paint, go figure. And the oil eggshell paint on the same job drying exactly as expected, ready for sanding next day.

I have received emails, phone calls, and read so many threads on forums about misfiring F&B paint, and the only logical conclusion is that Farrow and Ball eggshell behaves differently in different situations. But those situations are all common or garden and typical working environments. Painters don’t work in labs, and they can’t be doing with that inconsistency. They need to turn up at 3 jobs, do the same process 3 times and achieve 3 identical results. Me too! When Farrow and Ball job A might go fine, job B might not cover, Job C may not dry…

I can’t afford for a kitchen to go wrong because of the vagaries of a paint! I love the consistent results of Little Greene oil eggshell. Completely reliable every time. And as long as F&B default position is that there is never any issue their end, and it is the user’s error, I can’t get excited about using their eggshell.

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2 comments to “Another “I’m having trouble with Farrow and Ball eggshell” questions”

  1. remya

    is it cause fungal? is it dry properly?

  2. E.Pendry

    I have a tin of external f&b primer pain it was stored outside and has been very cold. On opening the paint I found it has become solid what should I do to restore it to its proper consistency.

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