What Paint To Use On Skirting Boards?

The humble skirting board has a long history in our homes. In fact high skirting was something of a status symbol in Victorian times. While dado rails might well be coming back into fashion in certain corners, skirting boards never left. Protecting your plaster and paint from wear and tear and covering up untidy joints between wall and floor, well painted skirting boards can bring the finishing touch to your decor. It’s essential to choose the right product when painting them.

What Paint To Use On Skirting Boards According To Professionals

Shabby or scuffed-up skirting can really negatively impact the look of your room and these boards do meet with a lot of daily wear and tear from vacuum cleaners to children’s toys and boisterous pets. So while it may seem a slightly tedious or unrewarding task, it’s worth keeping them in good shape and looking great by using the best finish and applying it right.

Although not a job that requires a great deal of expertise, painting skirting boards means some labour intensive furniture removal and disruption so you will want to achieve a good hard-wearing finish that will last for many years. If you’re taking on the job yourself, whatever your budget, it can be useful to look to the experts when choosing a suitable and cost-effective paint.

Professional painters and decorators seem to agree that Johnstone’s Aqua Satinwood is a leader in this area. This water-based product has the look of a traditional satin finish but applies like an oil-based gloss. It’s a quick-drying trim paint with low odour.

Depending on drying conditions you should be able to apply a second coat after approximately 6 hours which means you can get both topcoats finished on the same day. As it’s water-based it’s also the more environmentally friendly option.

It’s generally recommended to apply a Johnstones Aqua water-based undercoat for durability and better adhesiveness on previously painted skirting boards. An undercoat is especially advised when using the alternative, fully water-based Johnstones Aqua Guard.

It’s worth noting that Johnstones Aqua Satinwood, although labelled ‘water-based technology’, does contain a certain amount of oil so it’s really more of a hybrid paint. This oil will lead to a certain amount of yellowing of the paint over time, slightly more than other fully water-based options, but significantly less than fully oil-based paints.

Another firm favourite with the professionals is the fully water-based, satin finish, Dulux Diamond Satinwood. Widely recognised for its durable finish, Dulux Diamond can take a lot of wear in high traffic zones in your home and gives good protection from stains, grease and scratching. If you’re going for a colour change an undercoat is highly recommended.

Dulux Diamond Satinwood is quite thick out of the tin and can be thinned down with up to 5% water according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Thinning it a little helps with application. Drying time with this paint is also about 6 hours but it can be touch dry in under an hour.

Oil Or Water Based Paint For Skirting Boards?

When it comes to choosing between oil-based or water-based paints for skirting boards there is a range of factors to take into consideration.

Application: Opacity is usually superior with oil-based paints and water-based paint requires extra coats compared to oil-based ones.

Drying time: Considerably less drying time is required for water-based products, which means a more time-efficient job compared to the longer wait between applications for oil-based products.

Odour: Water-based paints generally are less strong smelling.

Durability: Oil-based finishes are longer lasting than their water-based counterparts

Discolouration: Compared to water-based or hybrid products, oil-based gloss, and to a lesser extent, satin and eggshell paints, do yellow and discolour over time, especially in areas that don’t get a lot of natural light.

Control: The thicker oil-based paints are easier to control in application and brush marks do not show through the paint like can happen with water-based.

Finish: Oil-based paints can provide a rich finish with less effort but modern water-based technology can give a great finish too with proper care in application.

Clean-up: Cleaning up tools after using oil-based paints is more labour intensive and the disposal of hazardous waste products is a consideration. With water-based paint, warm soapy water will do the job easily, making it the better choice for the environment too.

Hybrid paints, like Johnstones Aqua Satinwood, offers a good compromise on many of these issues


Selecting skirting board paints often comes down to a toss up between the two most popular options. Satin or gloss. A satinwood finish is a semi gloss with a final result that is less shiny than gloss but not as matt as eggshell. It’s a good easy maintenance choice and the colour lasts well. A nice matt finish will complement bold colour choices on your walls.

Satinwood finish does not reflect the way a gloss finish can, which lends a crisper look to the end result. You do generally need to apply an undercoat to achieve a high-quality finish.


Gloss paint has long been the traditional choice for skirting boards and it is inarguably durable and hard wearing. The tough shiny finish makes it a good option for skirting boards that deal with heavy foot traffic.You can get quick-dry, water-based gloss paints which reduce the amount of time needed between coats.

If you choose an oil based gloss, however, take note: the yellowing effect of the oil has become more problematic in recent years, since certain chemicals used in the paint to minimise discoloration are no longer permitted. A high gloss paint can also draw attention to flaws in your skirting boards so it’s a good idea to prepare them before painting.


Eggshell paint has gained a degree of popularity for skirting boards and the effect can indeed complement certain interior decor well. More durable than emulsion, an eggshell finish is also relatively easy to keep clean. Eggshell has a very matt finish with no sheen.

Matt Emulsion

A surprise contender when selecting skirting board paint and possibly the cheapest choice is Matt emulsion. With the proper preparation, including abrasion/sanding of the wood surface, to ensure the paint adheres properly, you can get a good finish with this option.

Matt emulsion can look quite attractive on skirting boards but you do need to consider the durability in the long run. For example, this paint will chip easily if knocked by a vacuum cleaner and it is not really scuff resistant.