Design & DIY

Cottage Q&A: How to keep paint from chalking

A woman painting a chair white By StockLite/Shutterstock

We have several older wooden chairs that could use a fresh coat of paint. The paint that’s currently on them is an exterior grade oil-based gloss white paint, which, of course, is no longer available. But we’re concerned about repainting with latex paint because of chalking concerns with the latex paint surface.—Charles Buckingham, Big Rideau Lake, Ont.

Exterior oil-based gloss is actually still available, says Mike Mundwiller, the end user product experience senior manager with Benjamin Moore & Co. But he admits it may be hard to find. “Its usage has been declining for years. The formulas have had to change drastically to comply with VOC regulations.”

That’s good news for the environment, but maybe not for you, if you want the chairs to look exactly the way they used to. We understand why you’re nervous about chalking (the process where, over time,  a fine powder forms on top of the paint surface). It’s a common problem with exterior paints, including oil-based paints, and it can be hard to avoid completely. It’s thought to be caused by UV radiation from the sun breaking down the binders in the paint film.

5 painting tips that our experts swear by

Happily, latex paints have gotten better. “They’ve made great upgrades in formulations, and in many cases, new paints give equal-to-superior advantages over traditional oil-based paint,” says Mundwiller. “In years past, oils had the advantage, but that isn’t the case anymore.”

We assume you want to repaint these white chairs white, which is a good plan, because chalking is much less obvious with light colours. And you can minimize chalking altogether by cleaning the chairs at least once a year and, if possible, storing them out of direct sunlight when you’re not using them. Finally, try to choose a higher-quality latex paint over a low-grade product, says Mundwiller. Since paint manufacturers don’t make it easy to determine whether their product is low grade or not, Mundwiller recommends checking online reviews or getting suggestions from painters you trust. 

This article was originally published in the June/July 2023 issue of Cottage Life.

Featured Video