Linseed Paint Good or Bad?

You know how it is, you are looking at Instagram, and up pops an advert. This one was for Linseed paint. I am intrigued by linseed, keep debating using it on our old quarry tiles. The linseed paint was for a company that produces paint from flax seed in Yorkshire (ooooh even more intrigued).

I looked around on the web to see what people were saying about Linseed paint and I was surprised to find I was quite late to this party (country life – future of paint) . I wanted to join the party.

Brouns and Co. was the name of the company so I dropped them a line to ask a few questions and watched all their videos. Linseed paint is a big deal in Scandinavia. In Sweden, Denmark and many other parts of Europe, there’s a long tradition of painting the interiors and exteriors of buildings with linseed oil paint. Original coats of linseed paint have survived perfectly well on houses which are well over 500 years old.

Use in Historic buildings

Recently architects in the UK have started using it on historic buildings such as Chatsworth House. Also the glass houses at Tatton Park and the Garden Museum in London.

Chatsworth House Linseed paint

Exterior Paint

The exterior of our house was re-painted when we first moved in (4 months after, which was as soon as the weather allowed) I could not bare the colour of the house it made an already run down house look dilapidated. It needed to be black.


It cost a fortune to get it painted £4000 which was the cheapest I could get. The other quotes came in between £4 and £6k. It is now 4 years later and I know that the house will need painting again in a couple of years.

Why am I telling you this?

Supposedly the miracle of linseed paint is that it lasts forever! They say that after ten years it loses its shine but then you just wipe with a linseed oil cloth. This sounds perfect, not only this but it is also brilliant for historic buildings as it still allows the wooden framed windows to breathe and expand and contract in the weather.

As always there is a problem. to get these miracle properties you need to strip all the old paint off, it must be painted on to bare wood. Anyone with a house over 40 years old will know that stripping paint is a dodgy business.

You can burn it off with a heat gun but not if you suspect lead in the paint (which was used up until the 1980’s in external paint), you can scrape it off with carbide blades (have done this it is quite fun) but if you slip you take half the wood detailing away too. I used it on the painted handrail.

Thisck gloss painted banister
during paint removal
Stripped mahogany bannister

You can use paint stripper, but this never seems to cut through our 140 years of layers of paint and it also leaves a nasty residue on the wood. You can sand it off but this has the same lead dust issues.

Instead, in most places including outside, we had just painted over the existing paint, losing just a little bit more of the detailing of the carpentry.

Speedheater paint stripper

The linseed paint company not only opened my eyes to magic everlasting paint but they also have a safe and environmentally friendly paint stripping tool. Using infra red it softens the paint allowing you to remove it without heating it up enough to release fumes. Downside is that it costs £325 which is a lot of money for a paint stripper.

We have not bought one but I am going to go visit Brouns and Co. to have a go (they are also in Leeds so this is not much of a schlep). I will report back.

The idea is to buy one and slowly work our way round the outside of the house stripping off the paint and re painting in linseed.

Test and Learn

Before we invest all this money into a speedheater (which I will no doubt have a go at once and then decide it was boring, too hard and never want to do again ), we thought we should try some linseed paint on a small project.

An external coldframe that had been a birthday present (whoop whoop) seemed like the perfect test. It was a nasty pine orange and obviously we wanted it painted black.

I bought a sample of Blackout. This is a very dark almost black colour which is made from the organic pigment derived from burnt animal bones. The sample was £5 which included postage which seemed like an okay deal to me. The first coat has to be a primer coat which means mixing together a 1/3rd paint , 1/3rd raw linseed, 1/3rd turpentine (proper stuff not turps substitute). I settled myself down and painted. I did one coat of primer then the next day a coat of paint and the third day a final coat of paint. It goes on very nicely and has a pleasant smell (of linseed)

The results

After leaving it another two days to dry it still was not fully dry. I had read about how it can take up to a week as the paint is cured through UV rather than a drying out process.

The cold frame looks great and was more enjoyable than gloss paint. There are no paint fumes and it is also great to use in the garden as it is plant and wildlife friendly.

We are going to buy some more to use on a galvanised water trough (once I check that it will cover galvanised metal, which it kind of says it does but want to double check).

Note – we were not approached to write this article or paid or given anything. I really am just intrigued in using a natural paint with everlasting qualities.

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  1. Pingback: Linseed Paint Good or Bad?
  2. Avatarsays: Patricia

    Thank you for your write up. I am currently researching using linseed paint for my external wooden furniture ( namely benches, a summer house and a tortoise house) It was the paint stripping which was interesting to me, as we are struggling to get every last bit off ( we’ve been using vinegar for the hard to reach places!) I’ll be very interested to gear how you get on with the very expensive paint stripper

  3. Avatarsays: Matthew Skan

    Hi there,
    Great site documenting your renovation journey. I wish we had started something similar…. i guess we could start one..
    Anyhow, we too are reviewing linseed oil paint, mainly for the new orangery extension which will be fresh new timber so much easier to apply, but also, if successful, we plan to gradually. strip the old windows using the aforementioned expensive IR light and see if we can get more than 2 years from a decoration job! The last decoration of the entire house was nearly £10,000 including scaffolding around the entire place… so very much hoping this linseed paint is the answer. Can you provide any update on the success of the paint since the trial on the cold-frame? How many years has it been out in the weather? Have you continued with it? Many thanks and good luck with the rest of the work. Looks great thus far.. well done.

    1. Happenuponsays: Happenupon

      Hi Matt,
      The cold frame is holding up well. We are renovating the coach house and replacing some of the rotten doors with cladding which I am going to use linseed paint on and any new timber I will use it on. Previously I looked at SPAB to see what they say about old paint on the outside of houses and they seem to be, very much leave it alone. They suggest a light rub down and repaint as required however our outside windows (like yours I suspect) are now 1cm thick with old paint and I would like to go round and strip this off. I would definitely use the Linseed on the Orangery extension. Let me know how you get on I would follow Brouns on Instagram as they are always posting up pictures of their paint being used in situ. They were even used on Grand Designs.

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