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by • January 27, 2014 • Finish Carpentry, Cabinets, Trim, & PaintComments (4)3154

Oil vs Latex Millwork Paint

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. 

Nothing finer than a sprayed finish on your trim, millwork, and doors!

My painter Mike does a ton of sanding, and the final product is beautiful as a result.

Wood ceiling painted with Benjamin Moore Aura Semi-Gloss.

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
  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 quality than a project with a longer schedule.


In summary, 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 mentions in the video. 
  Best,
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 

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  • BM “Aura” is no doubt the Rolls-Royce of paint. But at nearly $75/gallon, it can be cost prohibitive for some. I’ve had great luck with “Clark + Kensington” Satin and adding “Flotrol” to remove brush strokes. I’ve painted nearly 1,000 linear feet in my own home using this combo with good luck. http://www.homedepot.com/p/Flood-Floetrol-1-Qt-Clear-Latex-Paint-Additive-FLD6-04/100198078

    “Clark + Kensington” is sold at Ace and rated #2 only to Aura. I’m told the same plant that manufactures Valspar also makes C+K.

    • Amy, I’ve used that method for my personal house many years ago and I agree it’s a good way to go. It’s not quite as smooth as my clients are demanding however, and it’s not as fast in a large custom home with miles of trim to paint. Appreciate the recommendation to my readers. matt

  • Grant Tanner

    Great info about Aura and the graco tip. Would you recommend the same setup for painting kitchen cabinets?

    • Grant, Yes this is a great setup for cabinets too! Thanks for commenting. Matt