Giving the woodwork in your home a lick of paint can transform it from tatty to terrific, says Julia Gray

WITH the festive season coming up, you may be looking for quick and easy ways to make your home smarter and more chic than shabby.

Repainting the walls is the obvious answer, but repainting the interior woodwork can make just as much of a difference, especially if it’s seen better days.

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If white solvent-based paint has been used on your home’s woodwork, which is usually the case, it will have discoloured over time – sometimes only in a matter of months. Wood paints were traditionally gloss, but these days lower-sheen satinwood and eggshell are more fashionable finishes.

Shiny woodwork isn’t the done thing any more.

As well as specific wood (and metal) paints, you can get multi-surface paints, which are really useful because they can be used on walls and ceilings as well as wood and metal, ideal if you’re painting where a skirting board or doorframe joins the wall, for example.

These multi-surface paints are becoming increasingly popular – B&Q does a good own-brand one (Colours Everywhere, from £13.98 for 2.5ltr, B&Q) and even Crown Kitchen & Bathroom emulsion (from £19.98 for 2.5ltr, B&Q) comes into this category.

In addition to causing discolouration, solventbased wood paints have other disadvantages. They often dry slowly so it can take days to do the job, give off fumes, are prone to runs and drips (although non-drip versions are available) and are hard to get off your skin, clothes, carpets and anything else you get them on accidentally. Even the paintbrush is hard to clean.

Because of these problems, I would always recommend using water-based wood paints. These dry quickly, even at this time of year, and although you need to do quite a few coats, the paint goes on more easily than solvent-based alternatives and becomes easier and quicker to apply the more coats you do, so it’s possible to do several coats in a day.

You rarely get a run with water-based wood paints, and they’re relatively easy to clean off.

They also give off fewer fumes and are better for the environment because they contain fewer harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Best of all, white water-based wood paint will stay white for years, long after a solvent-based one would have changed colour, so you won’t have to repaint nearly as often.

Filler, sandpaper and paint can work wonders with woodwork that seems beyond repair, but if you do have to replace the wood, make sure you seal the knots (with knotting solution) in the new (bare) wood first to ensure that the resin in them doesn’t bleed through and ruin your paintwork.

It’s also essential to use wood primer – again, a water-based one is your best bet – on bare wood, or wood primer/undercoat, which obviously saves you time compared to using separate products.

It’s a good idea to apply this to previously painted wood, too, because it helps the topcoat to adhere better, so it should last longer, saving you work in the long run.

Product of the week

DAMP stains always reappear, no matter how many times you paint over them, but not if you use Ronseal One Coat Anti-Damp Paint (from £8.98 for 250ml, B&Q) before your topcoat.

While you should definitely remedy the cause of the damp first, this paint can be applied to damp surfaces and allows trapped moisture to escape, which is really good because damp walls and ceilings can take ages to dry out.

Ronseal Anti-Damp Paint often covers in one coat, but some stains require a couple of (thin) coats – don’t apply it too thickly because you’ll get a poor finish.

It dries very quickly for this type of paint – it’s touch-dry in a couple of hours and can be over-coated in four – and works on other types of stain, too.

It isn’t as thick and hard to apply as many stain-blocking paints, so once you’ve painted (or wallpapered) over it, you’ll never know it was there.

How to...

IF you’re painting large areas of flat wood, such as doors, a small foam roller will give you the best finish because you won’t get brush marks.

The problem with using these rollers is that you don’t get as much paint on the wood as you would with a brush, so try painting it on with a brush and then rollering it out for a smooth finish.

To get the best possible finish, lightly sand the wood with fine sandpaper between coats of paint (and wipe clean afterwards). This enables you to remove anything stuck to the dried paint, such as hairs and dirt, and to minimise any runs and brush marks. It also provides a key for the next coat of paint, helping it to adhere.