Cottage painted in Milk Paint!


Exterior Milk Paint Cottage

With summer finally approaching us after what seems like the longest winter ever(!), we are starting to think about painting exterior projects. Decks, porches, bird houses, sheds or plant beds, Milk Paint can be used on any size project. If you’re going to invest your time in a project for the exterior, and don’t want to have to worry about re painting it two years down the road, then Milk Paint is your new best friend!

Question: “I was wondering if milk paint has been used to paint exterior wood clapboards? I am restoring a 1860’s house and am replacing the siding. The wood is unfinished right now. Will milk paint protect the wood? How long will it last in direct sunlight? What prepwork is required to repaint when needed? What treatment would you recommend for the backside of the trim?”

Why Milk Paint outside?

It will never chip or peel! We have all experienced painting a project outside, and after a few years, mostly all of the paint has peeled right off, leaving you a big project to tackle to re paint it.
With Milk Paint, as long as you apply the paint to a porous wood, one that has no finish on it, the Milk Paint cements itself to the wood, binding with it creating a very durable hard wearing paint that will last decades. Over time, with much physical abrasion, for example on steps, you will notice gentle wearing away in those areas only. However there is no prep work required to re paint over it, simply apply the paint and go! If you were using a conventional paint you would be required to fully remove any and all of the chipping paint and sand down the surface! Vertical surfaces painted in milk paint fair extremely well and almost never need to be repainted in our life times!


Why does paint fade outside?

Depending on the quality of the pigments used, most pigments are not rated to withstand years of UV rays. Car paints are typically the most UV resistant, however most conventional house paints will fade quickly. The beauty of the Milk Paints. UV Rays do not affect the Milk Paint colours, they will retain their vibrancy for many years!

Why do paints peel in the first place?

It is important to understand the most basic chemistry of conventional paints and how they are not breathable. They are essentially a by-product of the petrochemical industry, similar to a plastic. (A conventional paint is anything that comes premixed in a can/container.)

If you apply a conventional paint, let’s say for example on a deck, within 1-2 years you will have major peeling and “paint failure”. Conventional paints are not breathable, but what does this mean? When you have moisture seeping into the wood from the ground, the sun hits the wood, it starts to heat up, and that water or moisture trapped under the paint will force its way out, resulting in peeling. With Milk Paint, there is no synthetic barrier therefore it is completely breathable, allowing the moisture trapped inside the wood to evaporate right through the Milk Paint without harming the finish.

Really quite simple isn’t it?!

Exterior Milk Paint Cottage 2

What is the best top coat to use outside?
Tung Oil! It is the most water resistant of all of the natural oils on the market. Our pure Tung Oil is 100% unpolymerized, and not cut with any thinners or solvents like most are on the market. For your first coat, adding a thinner makes it easier to penetrate into the wood and dry a little faster, however it is not 100% necessary to use a thinner. You will get a very pure, clear matte finish that is water resistant. This oil is natural and breathable therefore you will not have the issues with trapping moisture within. Using waxes or other poly coatings will lead to many problems outside.

A few more answers to the Question of the Week!

-Milk Paint itself will not protect the wood, therefore a coat or two of Tung Oil, a natural breathable non peeling oil should be applied on top of the milk paint to protect it from water spots. If you decide not to put a top coat natural oil, then the colour will not achieve its true vibrancy, and you may see water spots from rain.

-There is no prep work required is the wood is already unfinished. If it was coated in something you would need to remove it down to the porous bare wood.

-I would not recommend any treatment at all on the backside of the boards, nothing is required when using Milk Paint for prep.

*Colours Used- Algonquin and Bard Red from Homestead House Paint Co.

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.