Can You Use Emulsion Paint on Wood?

The versatility of emulsion paint makes it an attractive choice. You can use emulsion paint on wood as a primer, base coat, and even as a final finish. If you want to use emulsion in this way, it is a good idea to understand the best methods.

Emulsion works well on some wood projects. For a successful project, preparation is always key.

Here’s how to get the best from the use of emulsion paint on wood.

What Are the Benefits of Using Emulsion Paint on Wood?

One of the main advantages of water-based emulsion paint is that it is quick drying. It doesn’t have the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) associated with gloss paint.

Emulsion Paint is Safe

Emulsion paint does not smell as bad and does not give off the fumes that other wood treatments do that might require ventilation.

It is classed as non-toxic and is safe to use in any interior location.

Emulsion paint mixes well. If you require a specific colour, either tailor-made at the DIY store or at home with your own pigments, emulsion makes a great base for your design inspiration.

Emulsion Paint is Affordable

It is affordable and simple to use and can easily clean up with soap and water.

Emulsion paint does not deteriorate in sunlight. White gloss paint can turn yellow when exposed to direct sunlight for long periods.

Overpaint emulsion with little preparation. As long as emulsion paint is clean a coat of paint will adhere to it with ease.

Emulsion paint has a wide range of off-the-shelf colours that are ready to go.

Where Can I Use Emulsion Paint on Wood?

Emulsion paint can be a terrific primer for wood.

Using Emulsion Paint as a Primer

Water-based emulsion paint can rapidly soak into the open-pored grain of pine and will give the wood a good base for finishing treatments.

It will lift the grain, making it more pronounced, so may require more sanding than acrylic-based primers if you want a flat finish. Otherwise, water-based emulsion can enhance the definition of the wood grain.

Emulsion Paint Colour Range

If you want to update that cottage dado panelling on the lower half of the wall, then the emulsion paint range at your local DIY emporium will probably have just the right, on-trend colour you are looking for.

Not only does emulsion make a great base for other paint finishes, but it also comes in a wide range of colours.

Emulsion Paint on Furniture

If you have a furniture project, be it shabby-chic, or a smart upcycled creation, emulsion paint could be the best way to bring it to completion.

If your wardrobe, chest, or table is oak or another hardwood, use a stain block product over the primer coat. Hardwoods sometimes produce tannins that can bleed through and discolour paint finishes.

Where Should You Not Use Emulsion Paint on Wood?

You can use emulsion paint on wood anywhere in the home as long as you prepare for the higher level of maintenance it will require when compared to other paint products. Here are some of the areas that are not recommended for coverage with emulsion paint.

Skirting Board

The boards that run around the bottom of the wall are there to protect the plaster. Skirting boards finish the wall to the floor.

The skirting takes a lot of abuse from furniture and vacuum cleaners. In this instance, consider using a gloss, or satin paint. These paint types are more robust.

Use Varnish to Lock in Colour

If it is important for the colour scheme to use the wall emulsion on the skirting board, protect it with a coat or two of matt polyurethane varnish.

Choose a water-based varnish and twin it with a matt emulsion. High-sheen emulsion paints don’t let varnishes adhere to them very well.

Doors and Architraves

Your doors work hard when you’re at home. They are transition spaces with people moving through them, carrying items, coming into contact.

The area around a door handle gets a particular amount of wear too. Emulsion paint on wood doors will quickly become chipped, dirty, and begin to flake off.


You can use emulsion paint as a primer for external wood, but it will require a weatherproof finish. Emulsion paint is formulated for interior use and not guaranteed for external applications.

The best timber primers for exterior wood are acrylic based. Acrylic primers are not expensive. If you use emulsion paint on wood exposed to the elements it is probably a false economy.