DIY master Craig Phillips explains what paint to use on your shed

Want to transform your shed into a good-looking garden feature? DIY master CRAIG PHILLIPS explains whether it is best to use oil or water-based paints

  • Is it better to use water-based or oil-based paints on sheds and garden offices? 
  • Big brother winner and builder Craig Phillips advises about the best paint types
  • Craig says there have been big advances in water-based paints available today 

What would you do if you were a DIY master and wanted to make your shed a good-looking garden feature? 

Property makeover expert, Craig Phillips, who was the first ever winner of Big Brother, explains which type of paint he would use on sheds, outbuildings and garden offices – and gives some tips on getting the job done.

Big brother winner and builder Craig Phillips advises about the best paint types for sheds

Knowing which type of paint to use on a particular surface can be tricky – and perhaps none more so than on sheds.

This is because, historically, oil-based paints were always used on these type of external surfaces as they were considered more hard wearing and sheds bear the brunt of the elements.

But there have been huge advances in water-based paints in recent years, which means they are much more appealing today, not least as they can be more environmentally friendly.

Craig says: ‘I’m often asked about whether to use oil or water-based paint on sheds, outhouses or garden offices, which can often be finished with tongue and groove wooded cladding.

‘Well, if I was asked this question 20 years ago, I would’ve always answered that it has to be an oil-based paint for outside use. At that time, oil-based paints were so much stronger and would last longer.’

But the technical side of paint manufacturing has ‘come on in leaps and bounds’ during the past decade, says Craig.

He said: ‘The industry has now development water-based paint far better than they used to make, which can now last as long as the old oil-based paints we used in the 90s.’

Jade Shaw, of retailers My Tool Shed also advises using water-based paints as they offer good coverage and are ‘harmless to pets and plants’.

And she suggested using synthetic brushes over natural bristles as they don’t absorb water or swell, which makes them ‘ideal’ for working with water-based paints.

She added: ‘Water-based paints are easy to apply, offer good coverage which is turn is good value for money from a tin. Oil-based are often thicker, can be harder to get an even application and not as environmentally friendly. However, they may last longer.’ 

Craig addresses if it is better to use water or oil-based paints on sheds and garden offices

Which paint? Craig explains that water-based paints are much better than they used to be

Craig is pictured covering the door frames on a garden shed before he starts painting

Craig is a fan of water-based chalk paints and likes using them with a hand held paint sprayer


Craig’s advice on why water-based is better to use on sheds than oil-based:

  • Odour free
  • Less preparation
  • Easier to apply either with a brush, roller or paint sprayer
  • Quicker drying times
  • Easier to clean equipment
  • Easier if you need to touch up 
  • Cost effective

When Craig is asked to recommend a shed paint, he suggests an Al Fresco water-based chalk and mineral paint. 

He said: ‘Not only is this better for the environment, but it is so much quicker, easier and even cleaner to apply.  

‘It makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable.’

Craig claims that one of the advantages of using water-based chalk paints is that not as much preparation is required.

However, that said, you still need to do some basic preparation.

This includes cleaning down surfaces and giving sheds a quick light sanding.

Craig said: ‘This kind of basic preparation is always essential.’

Other advantages include no priming coats or undercoating being required before you finally get to gloss the finished surfaces. 

And you should find a time and cost saving from taking this route. 

That’s because there is a slow drying time between the three different coats of three different types of paint when using oil-based products to consider, which means it is also going to cost more to buy. 

Craig advises on cleaning surfaces and giving sheds a quick light sanding before painting

As for the application, painting with oil-based paint is physically harder as it is a heavier product. It creates more drag on a brush than with water-based paints.

Craig added: ‘You also have the dreaded cleaning up afterwards and most of us that have tried cleaning oil-based paint from their brushes, rollers or paint sprayers know that it’s time consuming and difficult.

‘Anyone who followers me on our social platforms @MrandMrsDIYtv will know I’m a lover of water-based chalk paints as I’m always using them with my Wagner hand held paint sprayers.’

Colours that Craig recommends include Frenchic’s Wise Old Sage on tongue and groove wooden shed cladding with Greyhound on the corner trims, windows and doors.

  • Please click on the link for Craig’s ‘How to video’ about applying water-based paint to his own wooden cladded office garden 

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