As I begin to write this article I know two things.  I know that somewhere out there, if I look hard enough, I could find a good article aimed at house painters that would be of value to them in selecting and using paint for interior trim.  I also know, speaking of somewhere out there, that there is a hidden army of painters who specialize in new construction homes and who receive very little attention or support on what would be the best coatings to use for interior trim.

Bless their hearts, those house painters are pretty much in their own little world.  They get up and go to work each day and use a small arsenal of coatings to do what they need to do.  That arsenal may not be the best but it works well for them.

I think that today’s exterior coatings are really good coatings.  I think that the coatings used for walls and ceilings inside the home are really good coatings.  I don’t want to talk about either of those.  This article will be limited to the paint used for interior doors, door trim, base moldings, and window trim.


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I live in a brand new house.  We’ve been living here for two years as of December 2015.  Since then, there have been two more homes built in our little neighborhood.  As a coatings guy who normally deals only with kitchen cabinet makers and finishers, I learned a thing or two watching those other two houses go up and become completed.

I’m also a guy who appreciates excellent trim carpentry.  I got my merit badge in trim carpentry long before I got my cabinetmakers badge.  Back in “the day,” I used to build houses and I installed the trim in them.  So, when I go in a new house, my eye is drawn not only to the kitchen and bath cabinetry, I also check out the trim.

I don’t know how it is in your part of the country.  But here in the Northwest I see that painted trim is the norm.  I’m not seeing a lot of homes with stained and clearcoated passage doors and trim.  I am sure that they are out there.  But they are probably the exception rather than the rule.

This is going to be a comparative article.  I am going to take three houses and compare them.  In each house a different coating was used for the trim.  Across those three houses there were two different general contractors and three different painting contractors.

The three coatings that were used were:
•    M. L. Campbell Agualente Plus Water Borne Pre-Cat Pigmented Lacquer Satin W136254
•    Sherwin Williams Southwest Builders Interior Latex Semi-Gloss B31WJ0351
•    Sherwin Williams Southwest Builders Fast Dry, Yellow-Resistant Interior Alkyd Semi-Gloss B47WJ0661

The Agualente Plus is available from any M. L. Campbell dealer.  The SW Builders products are available from any Sherwin Williams store.

All three of these products are trim paints that can be spray applied by airless sprayer.  Brush application is possible on small areas if necessary.  Of the three, the SW latex is probably the most compatible with brush application and, I think, the Agualente is the least.
Both Sherwin Williams and M. L. Campbell have appropriate primers to use with their products.  I have used the M. L. Campbell W123859 Agualente Stain-blocking White Primer.  It not only helps to block tannins, etc., it powders beautifully when sanded.  That can’t always be said of a water borne primer.  Between the two SW Builders products, Sherwin Williams has multiple primers recommended.  I would ask your local store what they recommend for your specific application.

In all three houses, the pre-primed MDF trim was installed throughout the house, puttied, and caulked.  Masking was done as necessary and then a primer was applied.  Sanding of that primer is always recommended to insure that blemishes, putty spots, and rough areas have been attended to.  Then, the color coat is applied.  I always recommend two coats.


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Regarding colors, among the three, the SW products come in a white base only.  Therefore, the lightest three to four paint chips on each page of the fan deck are all that are possible.  Mid tones and deep tones requiring a clear base are not possible.
The alkyd SW Builders is described as a “yellow-resistant” coating.  That means that there may or may not be a change in color over time.  I asked my buddy, Dave, if he has noticed any discoloration in his house.  His trim was painted 10 years ago with this exact coating.  He tells me it has not changed.

Alkyds, however, do have a tendency of some degree to yellow over time.  Sherwin points that out so that the buyer may be aware of this issue.  One must appreciate their honesty.
The Agualente Plus comes in either a white or a clear base so any fan deck color is available.  The Agualente Plus is advertised as “resists yellowing.”  The brand new “Plus” version has improved stain resistance characteristics over the original Agualente of years past.  The SW Builders Latex should not yellow over time.

It is worthy of note that with the advent of more tightly sealed houses, LEED requirements, and concerns for indoor air quality, the use of any kind of solvent-based coatings inside the home is being more and more regulated.  The SW Builders Alkyd is a fast dry solvent-based coating.  To retain those fast drying qualities, Sherwin Williams recommends the use of 15 to 20% reduction for airless application with VM&P Naphtha as opposed to mineral spirits.  Mineral spirits, being slower to evaporate, will increase the open time.
Speaking of LEED compliance, the Agualente and the SW Builders Latex are both LEED compliant or Greengard Certified coatings.  The Alkyd is not.

I have seen all three of these coatings in my neighborhood.  I can tell you that the Agualente and the SW Builders alkyd spray out very well and produce a smooth feel under the hand and an even sheen as long as care is taken with priming, sanding, and application.
The SW Builders latex is the trim paint that was used in my house.  All that I can say is that there are issues here and there regarding how the coating laid down and dried.  In some places things look as though they were roller applied.  It’s not that smooth and there are some sheen issues as well.  Perhaps those places are the result of repairs having been done just before we moved in.

Speaking of repair work, my new neighbor had a great job done on his interior trim with the SW Builders alkyd.  But, as so often happens, the carpet installer came to the job next and messed up some doorframes bringing the carpet into the house.  The best repair process, in my opinion, is to mask off the damaged piece, scuff sand, and respray the whole piece.

You need to know that the SW alkyd has a recoat window.  Repairs should be done within 18 hours of application or wait 30 days.  If you do recoat work within that window of time, the chance exists that the original coating layer may wrinkle.  That probably translates to mean that repairs should wait until final punch list time so that the coating can cure properly.

Rating them 1 – 3 as far as look, hardness and durability, and blocking issues, I would rate the Agualente as the best and the SW Builders Latex as #3.

The Agualente is a water borne pre-cat lacquer product and cures into a very durable coating on which nickel mars are minimal.  There is no recoat window and blocking is not an issue.

The SW Builders Alkyd is going to be second in durability and abrasion resistance.  Color availability may be a small issue as is the recoat window.  Because it is a solvent-based product, its use may be regulated in interior application in some jurisdictions.

The SW Builders latex is the softest coating of the three after complete cure.  That speaks for itself regarding durability.  In my house, we have blocking issues wherever two painted surfaces come together.  In particular, we have had sticking issues with passage doors that remain closed and with bypass closet doors where they come up against the jamb when closed.

That’s pretty much the issues that I see with these three coatings.  I hope that this helps you and gives you some information that you can use to pick a paint for your interior trim work.

I encourage you to try new or different products.  As I said at the outset, I know that we all have the tendency to keep our heads down and just keep on working.  But in the course of trying something new you just may find something better!

Until next time…spray on!


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