Can you paint wood with emulsion

UK Home Improvement

Can You Paint Wood With Emulsion

If you’re embarking on a bit of DIY or interior design, you may be wondering about the best ways to paint objects and features within your home. 

In addition to painting walls and ceilings, you may consider giving skirting boards, door frames and wooden furniture a fresh lick of paint. But if this is the case, you might find yourself wondering ‘can I use emulsion on wood?’ And it’s a fair question.

With so many different types of paints out there, it can be tricky to know which ones are most suitable for your home’s wooden features. And you may not always want to purchase a brand new pot just to paint wood.  

With this in mind, in this blog post we’ll explain what emulsion paint is, how it works and whether it’s possible to use it to paint on wood.

What Is Emulsion Paint? 

Before we go any further, let’s take a look at what exactly emulsion paint is.

We’ll start with a bit of science. Emulsion paint, also sometimes referred to as latex paint, is a water-based product which contains small polymer particles which have pigments inside them. The reason the paint is called emulsion is because it is a combination of the water and these particles.

The particles that contain the pigment play a vital role in the painting process. When the paint is drying, the particles combine with one another to create a film of paint on the surface which helps it to bind to whatever it is you’re painting. 

Emulsion paints are most commonly used on interior walls and ceilings, and are popular because of how easy they are to use, their quick drying time and the smooth, even finish they offer a surface. 

Can You Paint Wood With Emulsion? 

While emulsion paint has a whole host of benefits, they’re generally not the best choice when it comes to painting wood. 

This is because they’re not primarily designed to be used on wooden products and will not offer the same level of durability as other paints, such as satin or gloss. With this in mind, you’re likely to notice that it’s more susceptible to bumps, scratches and marks and will possibly require going over again more regularly to hide such eyesores. 

Despite not being the recommended choice, this does not mean that they’re impossible to use on wood. Ultimately, it is your choice what paint you go for but just be prepared for repainting if you do decide to use emulsion on wood- particularly in areas that are likely to experience greater volumes of wear and tear. For items that are less likely to experience marks and scratches, for instance, wooden cupboards, furniture and decorative pieces, you may find it’s not so much of an issue. 

However, painting wood with emulsion outdoors is not possible. Due to it being water-based, emulsion paint is only suitable for interior use and will quickly crack and peel if applied to outdoor wood.  

Why Do People Use Emulsion On Wood? 

Despite not being recommended, some people may still choose to use emulsion paint on wood. 

This may be because it offers a modern, stylish aesthetic to surfaces it’s applied to, or simply because the individual doesn’t wish to invest in a new pot of paint just to go over their wooden features. 

Whatever the case, if you do decide to use emulsion paint on wood there are some steps you should take to ensure you achieve the best results.

Read on to find out more. 

Tips For Painting Wood With Emulsion 

While we’d always recommend using an alternative to emulsion paint when it comes to painting wood, if you insist on doing so you should always follow the steps below to ensure you’re giving yourself the best chance of a positive outcome.

Sand The Wood First 

Before you apply any paint, take some time to sand the wood. This will eradicate any lumps or bumps on the wood’s surface, ensuring you have something smooth to work with. This will give your emulsion the best chance of effectively adhering to the wooden surface. 


In addition to sanding the wood, you should also clean it. Use a degreaser or white spirit to remove any stains, scuffs or oil marks from the wood. If there are no visible marks that need cleaning, it’s still worth simply wiping the surface with a damp cloth before getting started. This way you’re beginning the painting process on the right foot.   

Proper Paint Brush Or Rollers 

When painting any kind of surface it’s important to use the correct equipment. This is particularly the case when it comes to using emulsion paint on wood. Make sure your brush or roller is in good condition so the paint can be evenly distributed across the surface of whatever you’re painting. If you’re painting a large object, using a roller is recommended as it’s better at covering large areas. Whereas paint brushes are more suitable for being more precise, and getting around the edges of an object. 

Two Coats 

Due to emulsion being less suitable when applied to wood, it’s advisable to give it two coats in order to maximise the chances of the paint properly sticking, and maximising its durability. Remember to make sure your first paint is fully dry before giving it a second coat.  


Finally, using varnish on top of an emulsion paint will further enhance the durability of the paint. The varnish will act as a sealer, which will also make the surface perform better and offer greater protection from wear and tear. 

Despite this process being the most suitable way of applying emulsion paint to wood, if you know what you’re painting is prone to wear and tear we would still recommend seeking an alternative type of paint.

Gloss paint is excellent for wooden items that experience regular use. You can find a whole host of great paint products and emulsions at your local DIY or hardware store where professional staff will be able to direct you to the best options for your project. 

For more home improvements or home decor tips, check out our collection of other blogs on a range of interior design topics. 


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