Paint by The Number – What a Dip

What a Dip

By: Loree Wallace

Painting new cedar or pine shake? For long-lasting results dip the shakes in paint prior to installation (coating both sides have proved to give extra life to shakes). Set up a drip collection system so there is less waste, as the paint drips off. Use a paintbrush about 15 minutes after you dip to brush away drips and runs on the end of the shakes.
You will need to decide if you want to dip them once or twice. It is advisable to do the first coat with a primer and the second coat using 100%Acrylic Latex. This particular paint product expands and contracts and therefore lasts many years in our harsh environment. After they are dry nail the shakes up with the painted area exposed

Above: A wallpaper tray and clothes-pins make a perfect drip-catch system. Set aside on the edge of a large table after brushing off excess paint to free-up the drip tray

Water-Based Paints of Old

By: Loree Wallace
Photography By: Cooper


In the last issue, I discussed traditional oil-based paints used by our forefathers.  Recall that a paint is generally made up of three main ingredients: pigment(s), a binder (this holds the pigment particles together and also binds them to the surface to which the paint is being applied), and a thinner (water or spirits) which allows for easy application and spreading of the pigment and binder mixture.  The thinner will evaporate as the paint dries leaving behind a film of the pigments and binder.  Some of the water-based paints are also known as “Distemper”, “Limewash”, “Tempera”, or “Milk Paint”.

You probably recognize these paints of yesteryear and think of them as oldfashioned paints which no longer have a place in modern décor.  On the contrary!  Milk Paint produces a much-sought-after dead-flat to matte finish (produced with 100% environmentally sound ingredients) that appeals to many people.  This type of paint also has unique properties, one of which is its high porosity which is valued by restoration enthusiasts who understand that some surfaces, like lime plaster walls, need to breathe.  We now realize how debilitating damp related issues, such as mould and rot, can affect houses and the people who live in them.


Also called “soft-distemper” it is made of a whiting (chalk, or calcium carbonate) and size (a glue made from animals).  Pigments can be added to make a variety of colours.  This matte sheen paint was used only inside, often on ornamental plaster and ceilings, as it could not be exposed to water.  It was not washable — in fact, washing it would remove it.  This economical paint was often only a temporary décor solution used to give a blush of colour to new lime plaster walls whilst they were setting.  Since it took months — even a year — for the plaster to carbonize (cure), this breathable paint would allow the process to continue allowing you to live in your home with a hint of colour until you could hang your wallpaper, the reason lime plaster walls were created in the first place.  Some recipes called for the addition of some oil and an emulsifier such as “borax” to create a washable Distemper


This is one of the oldest paints used; it is found within tombs, temples and palaces.  It was prepared using pigments, egg yolk and water.  The binder in this case was the egg yolk and we can understand why it worked so well; have you ever tried to wash a dish that has dried egg yolk on it?


This traditional paint was made of pigments, lime and water.  Simple whitewash was lime mixed with water.  Various limewash recipes could result in paint coatings that were either extremely hard or somewhat flexible depending on the ratio and type of ingredients.  This porous paint was used inside and outside the home to, surprisingly, provide a strong paint in a variety of colours. Some recipes, for instance, called for animal fat (tallow) which could be added to make the paint somewhat resistant to water (and subsequently less porous). It was primarily used outside for this reason, and since the fat doesn’t truly dry, the limewash would easily rub off onto clothing.  Alternatives to tallow were other oils and waxes.  Another ingredient found quite useful was casein (protein from milk), which increased the binding properties and adhesion quality of the paint.


As the name implies, milk is one of the ingredients of milk paint.  When mixed with lime and some pigments a paint is produced that can be used on a variety of surfaces.  The protein (casein) within the milk acts as a binder and the water portion of the milk becomes the thinner.  There are many different recipes, including some that called for chalk and or clay to be added.  Remember, it is the lime that plays a big role in both the Limewashes and Milk Paint.  When lime dries it becomes very hard (as it converts back to limestone!) and the result is  almost  like  having  a  thin  layer  of  reconstituted  stone  on  your  project. Another additional benefit attributed to lime is that mould and mildew do not grow on this slightly alkaline material.

These paints were inexpensive and easy to make on the homestead.  Milk paint was used in the home, on furniture, and outside.  Sometimes oil would be mixed into the paint or be applied after the paint had dried.  This was done to seal the porous milk paint surface on furniture or exterior applications where water resistance was required.  Interior walls, however, would not be sealed. Milk paint is used today on a variety of items and its use continues to grow. When used on a porch or fence or grayed wood, for instance, it soaks into the wood fibers to never peel away as modern paints ultimately do.  It can also be applied  to  any  porous  surface  such  as  plaster,  wood,  masonry,  etc. Reproduction furniture makers use milk paint to achieve an authentic appearance.  It is truly unique. Today milk paint is produced in powdered form to be simply mixed with water

Homestead House Paint has Milk Paint available in over 50 colours; however, the choice is limitless as the colours can be intermixed to achieve the desired colour. To protect certain projects and augment the patina on furniture, Homestead House Paint has various products available for purchase such as the Hemp Oil Wood Finish,  Beeswax and a Satin Sheen Varnish.

Pot Luck


By: Loree Wallace
Photography By: edifice



Cans with a bit of paint in them, take up precious storage space, downsizing into touch-up pots is not only practical but tidy.


Drill a 1/8” hole in the centre of the lid.


Screw a self-tapping Robertson screw into the hole.




Make sure to note which room the paint is from, then fill it 7/8 th of the way full.

Touching-up is made easy by backing out the screw and pouring out the desired amount of paint

You are finished painting your old house, you have followed the rules of painting soft wood and restoring your beautiful hardwood, but a year down the road you notice chips and scratches on your architraves and skirting. After rummaging around for that gallon of paint with the half sealed lid, you puncture the thick skin that has formed over the whole of the remaining paint. Then you ask yourself, “I have a quarter of paint left. What will happen two years from now when I need to do more touch ups because the lid will never seal again?”

Think ahead! After you have stood back to admire your beautiful finished paint job, have the foresight to make a touch-up pot. Purchase a 250ml paint can or two (depending how much paint you have left) and fill the cans approximately 7/8th of the way full. (Leave a little shaking room.) With a 1/8” drill-bit drill a hole in the centre of the lid, then screw a Robertson self-tapping metal screw (oversized) into the hole, and then seal the can with the lid. Be sure to label the can to show to which room the paint belongs.

When you want to such up your chips and scratches, give the little pot a good shake, and remove the screw and pour out a little bit of paint on to a foam or coated paper plate and touch-up to your heart’s content. When you are finished, simply drive the screw back into the lid, the bit of paint around the threading will now create a seal around the screw, sealing the can permanently until you need to touch-up again. This little hint can keep the paint from drying out for up to 10 years.

Loree Wallace is the co-owner of Homestead House Paint Co. of Toronto.  Edifice Magazine exclusively uses their superior paint for our restoration projects and recommends the use of all of their first rate products.

Painting a Raised Panel Door

Painting a Raised Panel Door

By: Loree Wallace

In the last issue we restored an early six-panel wooden door. Painting it is not as easy as one may think. If you paint across the grain, the finished product looks terrible. The raised panel door is made of many pieces of wood with grain running in different horizontal and vertical directions. By studying the door before you paint, you can see how to follow the grain to provide a beautiful finished coat.
The graphic of the door to the upper left indicates the order of the sections in which to paint. The trim (at #1) around the panels should be the first to be painted following the grain both vertically and horizontally (see direction of arrows). The centre raised (or flat) panel (at #2) is painted next – again painting in the direction of the grain. The vertical centre stile(s) (at #3) broken by the horizontal rails is next, followed by the horizontal rails (at #4). Finish off with the vertical hanging and locking stiles (at #5).
The idea is to allow the grain to be accentuated in the wooden door not masked; this allows texture and interest and keeps the door historically correct. If you have a straight flat-ledged style door, you will simply follow the grain of the wood. Study the door and it will tell you how it should be painted.
Happy Painting…..Loree

Loree Says
Never paint an exterior door in-situ, always remove the door from its hinges. Painting a door in direct sunlight will blister the paint because it dries too fast.
On an exterior door you should always use an oil based primer first, and provide several coats of traditional oil as a finish coat.
Remember good preparation makes for a great paint job, providing long-lasting results!

Loree Wallace
Homestead House Paint Co.

Paint by The Numbers

Colour It Up!

By: Loree Wallace
Photography By: Cooper

Enjoy exploring older neighbor-hoods filled with such buildings as churches and homes. I like looking at the older homes since they have so much character. Some of the houses in such areas are often deteriorating through neglect. The fabric of those that have been maintained, however, hardly shows the passing of the years. I pay particular attention to the colours used, as this is my special interest.

Some of these old houses look very boring because of the lack of colour on the painted exterior. For instance, recently I noticed a brownish-red brick “Queen Anne” that had the window trim and front door painted in a colour similar to that of the brick. Oh! And then I noticed that the same brown-red colour was on the fascia and ginger-bread features! At a distance, there was no part of the house that stood out. The closer I got, the more I realized there were a ton of architectural features that were not emphasized! Worse yet, some other houses in the area had the similar blasé palette. Was there a deal on brown and beige paint at the time, I wonder?

Why do we do this? Especially at a time when we can get any colour imaginable. I think it’s time to bring back colour, to show how much we appreciate our old homes particularly all the interesting architectural details which are lost amidst a blur of dull colour.  We should accentuate the unique features of these old styles.  Let’s spice it up a bit, shall we? Is repainting the outside of your home in your near future? Researching everything from what type of paint to apply to what colours to use is no easy task.  You might want to use colours that are appropriate to the time period of your house.

Then, of course, comes the challenge of combining them so that you use a distinct feature colour along with a couple of accent colours.

A meeting with a colour consultant who specializes in exteriors of historic homes could be worth every penny in saving time and keeping the whole process focused. If you plan to proceed on your own, start by gathering colour chips and pictures of painted houses that appeal to you. Then you might draw a quick sketch of your houses and using coloured pencils, doodle some ideas to help narrow down your selections. You can then purchase small-size cans to paint large colour swatches, using cardboard, for example. Lean these painted swatches against the house and look at the effect from a distance. You might find yourself saying, “that’s not what I thought it would look like!” It is amazing how different a colour can look in the store from its effect when seen out in the actual setting. Most of this difference is due to light: for instance, a cream colour that you choose inside may appear as an off-white outside. You might have pushed aside some colours earlier on, thinking they were too dark, whereas outside they could be just right. So don’t be afraid to show some deep bold colour for big detail or, possibly, multi colours that are similar to show more detail. The idea is to use colour to celebrate the unique features of your house and remember to use a good quality paint for protection.

Copyright 2009 Edifice Old Home Magazine All Rights Reserved