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Interior Walls & Ceilings

Which is Best, Matt or Silk Emulsion?

I would like to paint over walls which have Dulux Silk Emulsion with Dulux Matt Emulsion. Would you advise I paint Matt over silk?

I also wanted to know if there was any issues with painting Matt paint onto a wall which has silk emulsion? Do I need to do any prep on the walls beforehand? I’ve read online some people have had issues with Matt paint cracking when painting onto a silk emulsion wall and others have said they have had no issues with this at all.

Thanks, Hemant


You’ll find it easier to use matt paint and it usually produces a better result. I would only use silk if there is a likelihood that you’ll need to wipe any marks off the wall. For example, in a kitchen or, maybe, a room where kids play?

With silk you can also have a problem painting large areas because it is drying while you paint and if you are not quick enough you can get unsightly marks across the wall where you have a double thickness of paint on the drying edge. This is what we refer to as ‘flashing’ and it can be a problem, even for professional painters. You do not get this effect with matt paint.

The only reason I can think why the paint would be ‘cracking’ is if the surface was contaminated with grease or residue from old wallpaper paste? [some relevant questions here…]

Since your walls are not wallpapered we can rule out wallpaper paste. As for grease, it is always a good idea to wash-down the walls first to remove any traces of grease or other contamination that can build up other the years from finger marks and such. You should use a mild sugar soap solution and then rinse with clean warm water.

If you don’t want the extra expense of sugar soap, just clean warm water is preferable to household cleaners such as washing up liquid which can leave a residue behind causing further problems.

That said, for a normal domestic situation, cleaning the walls in such a way is possibly excessive but does help ensure you get the best result.

Also, I should add, you can always start with a the smallest area first; then let it dry and check the result before going any further.

28 thoughts on “Interior Walls & Ceilings”

  1. All the walls in our flat give off a white chalky residue when you brush them with your hand or clothes, I think its probably because its been painted with trade matt white paint with no vinyl content by the previous owner who rented it out. We’d like to paint all the rooms with new paint but where we’ve applied samples it scratches off really easily – how do we prepare the walls to make sure the paint will adhere properly? I’ve read about Zinsser Peal Stop but it would be very expensive to use that throughout the house, is there another option? Would just sugar soap and rubbing down be enough? Any advice greatly appreciated!

    • You are on the right lines with Peal Stop although a penetrating sealer such as Zinsser Gardz would be better. A cheaper alternative is EverBuild Water-Based Stabilising Solution. (Both available from amazon).

      The product is literally like water so 5 litres would be enough for 2 smallish rooms. I appreciate you may have to treat the whole house and it isn’t going to be cheap but it’s only going to be a one time problem if you do it right.

      The only thing you need to be careful of is that it can be messy and will splash all over the place – so it’s essential you cover up any flooring and wipe away any splashes on skirting boards and architraves before it has chance to dry.

      One coat should be enough but if the problem is particulalrly acute it may need two. Best do a small trial area first.

  2. Hi – I’ve applied an acrylic primer to our ceiling and noticed soon after that the paint has started to crack or blister in some areas. Is this because the paint underneath may have been oil based? It’s not cracking everywhere but I’m not sure whether to just scrape back/sand and patch the areas or can I apply a bonding primer to the whole sealing to stop anymore flaking? Appreciate any help! Thanks

    • What you describe sounds like surface contamination, most commonly in kitchens and bathrooms. Ideally, you should wash down the surface with sugar soap solution first but, since you have already painted the ceiling this isn’t going to work.

      It really depends how bad the problem is now, you may get away with scraping off the affected areas and repainting until you get a decent coverage. If it’s really bad then you may have to try and remove the whole lot, which is going to be messy.

      Covering the ceiling with lining paper is another option although you may need to pay someone to do this for you. It isn’t a perfect solution but will get you to an acceptable finish.

  3. I’ve put two white coats onto a wall to hide yellow and a coat of gray which is colour I want but the paint has literally ran off the wall six inch from bottom in a line back to the yellow??? What would cause this to happen?

    • Did you wash down the wall before painting? It sounds like the surface has been contaminated with something that has prevented the paint from drying. Any traces of oil or grease will do this.

  4. I completed a painting apprenticeship when I was young then joined the army. I have now left and decided to start my own business back in painting. Everything is going well apart from a job I have just recently started. It is a new plastered living room. I had always been taught to mix my mist coat at a ratio of 80/20. I applied the paint to the new plaster. I then went to apply a second coat to the ceiling and it was very dry. It went on but felt it pulling. I then scratched the service and it doesn’t seem solid. I fear that I needed to add more water to the paint. I am going back tomorrow to carry out the job. I am wondering if I would be able to second mist coat it. This time with a more watery ratio?

    • There isn’t a fixed rule for thinning paint down since every brand will be different and some need thinning more than others. For new dry plaster it’s best to do a trial area first. Ideally, you want the paint to be so thin that it soaks into the surface but not so thin it just becomes coloured water.

      Assuming you have already first-coated all the plaster, there is nothing you can do now that’s going to correct your mistake since any coating is only as good as the surface you’re applying it to.

      Rather than try and 2nd coat it right away I would give it a couple of days to cure and you may find it doesn’t peel away so easily, if at all.

  5. Hi I want to paint my living room navy and white. What is the best white emulsion to buy. I would like it as flat as possible. Thanks

    • The best paint really depends on what properties you need, all paints are a combination of a few basic products and the ratio of each will result in better/worse qualities in one way or another.

      For the flattest finish, a paint with a high percentage of pigment will achieve this but it is a compromise over scrub/washability so be careful of using in high traffic areas.

      Farrow & Ball is one particular brand with a high pigment content but please note I am not saying this is the best paint, just that it’s probably most likely to produce the finish you are after.

  6. hi. i have a stud wall that was previously painted over 10 years ago with good quality paint – Colourtrend interior soft sheen. As the room needed a fresh coat of paint i repainted the room in an another neutral colour – Colourtrend interior matt.

    All walls were fine except for stud wall. I have now ended up putting on 5 coats on the stud wall and the wall still looks patchy and when i apply the paint the wall is eating the paint i.e. paint is soaking in quickly.

    Can you recommend any ideas of what i can do? Do i need to put a primer on it? and what is the best primer for this problem?

  7. Should I paint the picture rail and skirting board ( eggshell) before, or after, the walls ( matt emulsion ? Or does it not really matter

    • You are likely to get splashes from the wall (assuming you’re using a roller) so it’s advisable to do the walls first and picture rail/skirting last.

  8. I have some hot water pipes that have been channeled into a wall and plastered over. They give off a fair bit of heat, the wall can be quite hot to the touch. I wondered what the best solution is with regards to painting that wall. It will be just an ordinary emulsion but is there any other product that i should use first that will help protect the emulsion and stop it being affected by the heat?

    • There isn’t much you can do since the heat is going to transfer to the paint covering regardless. A non-vinyl based emulsion will be less likely to be adversely affected though.

      For instance: Dulux Trade Supermatt, Armstead Trade Contract Matt, Crown Covermatt, Leyland Trade Contract Matt, or Johnstone’s Jonmatt Premium Contract Matt are all suitable choices.

  9. Hi I ha e used a dark red homebase duracoat in my hallway and want to paint over it. What is the best primer/ u undercoat to use. I have also been advised to scratch the surface using a metal scooter or sandpaper. Will this help?.

    • Paint as normal although you may need an extra coat. Obviously, use the best quality paint you can afford to minimise the need for multiple coats.

      Lightly rubbing the walls with fine sandpaper between coats will produce a better finish but don’t get carried away trying to remove the existing finish. You only need to remove any bits and nibs to make the surface smooth.

  10. Probably a daft question.. but is it best to emulsion first and then do woodwork with gloss after, or the other way ’round

    • Ideally do the walls first and then the woodwork, otherwise you’ll get splashes of emulsion on the finished woodwork.

      But, really, whatever suits you best.

  11. I’ve got some hairline cracks in painted plaster walls and ceilining. I’m planning to rake out and polyfill but was wondering how deep to rake out to be sure of a good adhesion? They are really fine (thin) cracks. Also is there an easier way without having to rake out? Spray filler?

    • You need to scrape back to surface of the brick or stone behind the plaster. The only easier way, if there are lot of cracks, is to line the walls with a decent grade lining paper. You can also buy lining paper with a scrim backing for severe cases.

      • Really, that deep, Darren? The cracks are literally the width of a hair – less than a millimetre, but it goes across whole room. I only saw it on ceiling when on a stepladder

  12. We have built a single room extension to a Victoria Cottage the three new walls are plastered and painted. We have retained the original external wall and want to keep it’s original soft red brick appearance making it a feature wall.

    However the bricks do produce dust/wear & tear. Can you recommend a primer or sealer to put on the bricks to keep the wall “clean” but should we wish to paint it in the future will still allow us to do so?

    • Assuming this brick wall is a single skin you’ll need a sealer which is microporous and, because you don’t want it to react with any paint you might use later on, it should also be solvent-free.

      Kingfisher Brick and Dust Sealer fits the bill on both counts.

      You could use a standard water-based stone sealer (available from B&Q or Wickes) as a budget alternative but only if it specifically says ‘solvent-free’ or ‘acrylic based’ on the label.

      In either case you should only apply a single coat so it’s enough the seal the surface without resulting in a sheen finish. Do a small trial area first so you can gauge exactly how much to apply.

  13. I have an old barn conversion that was constructed from natural stone and lime mortar. When we converted 15 years ago we were advised that we had to paint the inside walls with a mineral based paint to allow the lime mortar to ‘breath’. We spent a fortune using a German product that has served us well, but we would like to change the colour & I was wondering if we could use a normal interior paint or an exterior Weathershield type product? The external walls are either bare stone or have been limewashed.

    Could you advise me what product I could use to over paint the inside?

    • You could use a regular matt emulsion, not a vinyl based one. Dulux Trade Supermatt or Crown Trade Covermatt are OK.

      However, the performance in terms of ‘breathability’ isn’t going to be as good and you may get odd patches that don’t adhere well or begin to stain. This, of course, depends on how much moisture is in the walls and you may not have any problems at all?

      The only caveat I would add is that it’s always wise to try a small trial area first just in case there are any compatibility issues. There shouldn’t be, as the emulsion paints mentioned above contain pretty basic ingredients, but it’s best to play safe.

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