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Job Site Diaries

Job Site Diaries

Oil vs Latex Paint for Millwork (Ben Moore Aura Review)

comments (9) January 27th, 2014 in Blogs
Matt Risinger Matt Risinger, Blogger

Video Length: 3:40
Produced by: Matt Risinger

When I interview with a prospect for a new custom home build, I often talk about how the paint job on my houses stands above my competition.  It's hard for an attorney/doctor/CEO to judge a good frame carpentry job, but with paint, just about everyone can pick out a sub-par job!  I often refer to this fine paint job as a level of "crisp-ness" that is an intangible difference between Risinger Homes and other builders.  

With that in mind, I'd like to talk briefly about why I've used oil based millwork (trim, doors, etc) paint over the years.  

Oil has been a winner for millwork because it lays down and makes for a very smooth, fine finish. It also sands well and doesn't gum up sandpaper like latex paint does.  Here's a list of quick pro's and con's for oil based paint.

OIL Based Paint PRO:

  1. Lays down for a very smooth finish
  2. Sands well between coats
  3. Durable, scrub-able, long lasting finish

 OIL Based Paint CON:

  1. Cleans up with solvents (environmental issues, recycling issues, expense, etc)
  2. Takes a solid 24+ hours to dry before workers can return or put on a second coat
  3. High VOC content (that "new car" smell is basically VOC's and they aren't good for you)
  4. It yellows if left in the dark. (pocket door left inside a wall will yellow)

 I've tried water based (Latex) paints for Millwork in the past with a few different brands but I've had trouble finding one that mimics the PRO features of oil. In this video I'm using a latex-based millwork paint from Benjamin Moore called Aura. The house we're using it on is a remodel with a tight time frame, but no less desire for excellent quality than a project with a longer schedule.

Watch the video and see for youself.  I think this Ben Moore Aura is a really terrific paint and I think I've finally found an oil killer! 

PS: Here's the link to the Graco Rac X fine finish sprayer tip Mike the painter mentions in the video. 


Matt Risinger

- Risinger Homes in Austin, TX

Risinger Homes is a custom builder and whole house remodeling contractor that specializes in Architect driven and fine craftsmanship work. We utilize an in-house carpentry staff and the latest building science research to build dramatically more efficient, healthy and durable homes.

Be sure to check out my video blog on YouTube, and follow me on Twitter @MattRisinger 


posted in: Blogs, green building, remodeling, kitchen, restorations, painting, Risinger Homes, Benjamin Moore, paint sprayer, Latex Paint
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Comments (9)

deadnuts deadnuts writes: I primarily use the SW Pro-classic 100% acrylic for most trim work, windows and doors and the SW Chem-Aqua for custom casework and cabinetry. All of our casework finishes are sprayed with HVLP equipment. I find airless throws out too much paint even with a FF tip for this type of work. It is okay for flat trim and doors however. The Pro classic brushes okay as well, but there is nothing like a spraying for getting a quick, factory finish. Thus, I rarely use a brush for trim.

I find the downsides of new generation water based finishes are that they are best suited for spray equipment (I'm fine with that as a custom remodeler, but production home painters are usually not willing to invest in expensive spray equipment for their crews) and lack of a true high gloss finish (at least I've yet to find one rival high gloss oil) which is/was more easily obtained with oil based finishes. I've had suppliers tell me the best way to get a high gloss finish with water based enamels is to top coat with water based high gloss clear coat; basically finish like an automobile. Seems like that would work but be problematic for touch up and repairs. Luckily, most of my customers are satisfied with a good quality semi-gloss factory finish with contrasting walls in a flat or eggshell finish.

The upside for current waterbased finishes are quick curing speed, sandability, durability, environmental friendliness, and easy clean up.

Lastly, lower VOC requirements means water based finishes are here to stay; so we might as well tool up and get used to it. Also paint prices have skyrocketed over the last 10 years. It doesn't seem like all that long ago that I was buying pro-classic for $19.10 a gallon. My guess is that this is a result of R&D costs for VOC compliance and enhanced performance demands. I'd like to see more competition bring the price down, but I'm not holding my breath over it. For now, increased costs have to be passed on to the customer.
Posted: 4:30 pm on February 16th

Matt Risinger Matt Risinger writes: @RichieRich: The can has a SW label because it's a color match to SW. BM does have a great color selection but I find most Interior Designers in Austin use the SW fan deck. Thanks for all the great comments guys and advice on brushing. Best, Matt
Posted: 2:07 pm on February 3rd

couriousTom couriousTom writes: I'm a home owner too. So I'm not planning on buying a sprayer any time soon. I've used Flotrol on other manufactures (cover the earth brand??) hi end latex and yes you do have to work really fast, on new crown molding.
My question is, can you use this Aura on top of old paints like the junky cheep latexes that I see around my house.

Posted: 1:16 pm on February 3rd

VirginiaGuy VirginiaGuy writes: 'Acrylic latex' full gloss with some Floetrol (around 4-6 ounces per gallon) brushes like the oil of many years ago.

It levels, sands, and dries faster than oil ever could to a hard high gloss finish.

After using gloss oil for many years and finder it harder and harder to obtain, and the performance suffering from tighter VOC rules (mostly to thick to level well) I finally switched.

I prefer S-W but have used others.
Posted: 12:40 pm on February 3rd

RichieRich RichieRich writes: Aura rules! But you gotta be able to work fast!

Question: Why does the can's sticker say SW when its BM? I'm assuming its color matching a SW color? Huh...still surprising seeing the selection BM offers.
Posted: 12:20 pm on February 3rd

fpratt fpratt writes: Sometimes you want a brushed look & it works very well for that. The paint flows out nicely leaving just a light brush pattern. But as I noted earlier, it dries quite fast so you gotta watch it with back brushing. I found that when doing large surfaces, like a frame & panel door, I have to work quickly to avoid nasty semi-dried brush marks.
Posted: 12:10 pm on February 3rd

fpratt fpratt writes: I'm not a painter, but as a homeowner I've used Aura for many projects in the past few years. It brushes on a lot like oil but it dries faster so you have to be careful there. Coverage is very good, probably the best of any latex I've used. It's pretty much the only interior latex I use.
Posted: 11:55 am on February 3rd

Matt Risinger Matt Risinger writes: @JSSL: Good question. I would assume it would work well with a brush too. Do you often sand between coats when brushing? My concern with brushing it would be having the finish "lay down". In my custom homes I always spray the millwork, but in past remodels on my own home I've used Floetrol and had good success. I'm not sure the extra cost is worth it if you're using brush only. Any Pro Painters reading this that care to comment based on your experience?
Posted: 11:52 am on February 3rd

JSSL JSSL writes: This looks like a fantastic product. However, how does it perform with brush application v. spraying? Is it worth the extra costs when brushing on?
Posted: 5:54 am on February 3rd

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