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The ubiquitous colonial red timber buildings

Along with all types of cultural aspects, the first European settlers brought with them ideas of architecture and building techniques and materials. This also included paint, like linseed paint. It was typical for old timber buildings to be treated with linseed paint, very often a red iron oxide ground in linseed oil.

They had been using this paint for hundreds of years and knew it worked exceptionally well to protect timber from all types of climate. In Europe, they had been using it from the north of Norway and Sweden all the way down to Italy and Spain, in all different types of climate and weather conditions.

Skansen open air museum, Sweden

This is an example of a timber house in Skansen Open Air Museum, Sweden ©


The buildings they started erecting from the 1700s onwards, were typically timber frame and timber clad, all painted in linseed paint.

Colonial Home in Killingworth, CT

This is a stunning example of a colonial home in Killingworth, CT, built c. 1700, reposted with kind permission @old_beautiful

The history of the color is very interesting. During the War of Spanish Succession, the future Ling Frederick I of Sweden, fought alongside the Dutch in several sea battles. During his stay in the Low Countries (what is now The Netherlands) and saw the brick-built mansions in cities like Amsterdam, Haarlem and Alkmaar, which belonged to the wealthy traders from the Dutch Golden Age.

When going back to Sweden, he wanted to have that same look of red brick. The problem was that brick-built properties were the epitome of wealth and Sweden wasn’t particularly wealthy at that moment in time.

As a solution, he thought timber properties should be painted in the iron oxide red color, so similar to the red brick. As luck would have it, Sweden happens to have a rich supply of iron oxide in the ground. At a squint, one could see the similarity and what he was trying to emulate.

Johannes Vermeer's The Little Street

Vermeer’s The Little Street, c. 1658 (c) Rijksmuseum

New England, in particular, is littered with beautiful examples of this type of building vernacular. Here are some more examples:

Colonial building in Guildford, CT

Guildford, CT, reposted with kind permission from Instagram @strolling_the_shoreline

Winterport, ME

Winterport, Maine, reposted with kind permission from Instagram @thewoodfactorymaine


Why use Linseed Paint?

It is important to understand how important the use of a moisture-wicking paint on a timber building is. These buildings are still standing because of the use of traditional materials, not despite it. Modern, non-breathable or non-wicking paints trap moisture and make timber rot.

Another reason to use linseed paint is that when using a traditional product, the colour palette and, therefore, 'look and feel' of the finish is automatically in line with the original historic one. The color and feel of modern paints never feel quite right because of the inherent differences in molecular structures.

We have 2 colors which are usually used for buildings of this type. One is the traditional Barn Red, the other the slightly more earthy brownish Dark Iron Oxide Red. Very often, the red gets used in combination with a neutral white. Yellow Ochres and Dark Greys also work well.

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Finally it's here: our Interior Range

It has taken a while, but I'm pleased to announce that finally, our brand new Interior range has arrived. 

Linseed Paint Interior Range

The development has taken a good few years; you wouldn't believe how much time and effort goes into getting a product from concept to shelf-ready. From the development and testing of the product to designing and printing the labels, the safety test, website updates... the list is endless.

We would never launch anything unless we are absolutely happy the quality and ease-of-use are guaranteed. I believe that we have managed to encapsulate the quality, durability and environmentally responsibility you have come to expect from us into the new interior paint range. 

Image Interior Linseed Paint Nr 22 Pimlico

It comprises of 42 colours which are mostly based on historic interiors. As always, we don't really follow trends but want to offer materials to create timeless design. Which is actually more difficult than it may appear. Our colours are also not called Crocodile Tears or Tarantula Bite. Inspiration comes mostly from nature and spending a lot of time in The Yorkshire Dales and Colorado, mostly on the bike.

Linseed Paint Interior Range Nr 22 Pimlico

As always, the starting point is quality: we never cut corners on ingredients. As with the Exterior Oil paint, for this Interior range, we use nothing but the highest quality ingredients. The interior range is based on linseed oil but we have used a natural cellulose-based emulsifier so you can thin it with water. Tools can also be cleaned with water but best of all: you can apply it by roller. We recommend a good quality microfibre roller with a large pile (17mm if you can get it).

Always work away from the light source (i.e. doors and windows) and do one wall in a go. Don't go around the room doing all of the cutting in first but try to apply the paint wet-in-wet, which means that you can do the edges of a wall with a brush but only go as far as you can catch up with the roller before the edges dry.

The paint can be used on plaster walls (you can paint straight onto dried fresh plaster, no need for a primer), but is also suitable for use on (bare) timber. However, this is a matte paint and not as strong and durable as our Exterior paint. So, if you have a household with kids and animals, you might want to consider our exterior range for skirting boards and doors.  

We always like experimenting with applications and techniques and actually painting a wall, skirting board, door and doorknob all in the same white (Nr 1 Albion in the image below), left a very satisfying finish. And, pretty hard wearing too. I'm not sure we would currently recommend doing this in a household with kids and/or pets, but boy, does it look and feel good. We'll update on the wear in a while.

 Linseed Paint Interior Range Nr 1 Albion.

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Which timber works best?

Pine vs Hardwood

For clarity, this article was written from a point of view of timber used in Northern Europe and North America. When referring to hardwood, it refers to tropical / exotic hardwoods, rather than indigenous hardwoods like oak and rosewood.

So many people ask us 'which timber works best with linseed paint'? There has been an enormous influx of exotic (or tropical) hardwoods over the last 3-4 decades and the jury is out on whether this has made any difference to the lifetime of windows and doors. The often-heard argument in favour of timber variations such as Padauk, Accoya, Mahogany and Teak is that they last longer than indigenous timbers such as Douglas Fir. 

The problem of rotting timber is caused by non-wicking or non-breathable products which are applied to timber. If moisture cannot wick out and timber remains saturated, it will eventually rot. This process just takes longer in exotic hardwoods. I have seen hundreds of windows in historic buildings where the timber was actually in pretty good nick but the paint looked cracked and peeled.

Medieval timber treated in linseed oil and linseed tar

This is a medieval cabin in Kulturen open-air museum in Lund, Sweden. The pine has only ever been treated with linseed tar and linseed oil. Imgage (c) Kulturen.

Kulturen in Lund

Imgage (c) Kulturen.


FSC regulations

FSC regulations have meant that we no longer use slow-grown pine, however this is irrelevant. As long as the new pine has been stored for at least a year (and preferably kiln-dried), and is treated with linseed oil and linseed paint, the moisture will be able to wick out. This also means that timber should NEVER be tanalised or treated with non-permeable products.

I recognised that for decorative purposes, tropical hardwoods can offer something pine doesn't. But why are we shipping tropical hardwoods 6,000 miles across the globe when the intention is to paint it anyway?

Airmiles, embodied energy, deforestation which will take many decades to regrow... the arguments against not using tropical hardwoods is endless. And the 'alternative' is just as good if not better.

Sample tests

Recently, we tested our linseed paint on Padauk, Douglas Fir and a piece of original pine glazing bar for a conservatory for which an architects practice were deliberating on which timber to use.

I carried out the following work on the samples they provided:

0. (on glazing bar sample only, stripped the existing paint off using the Speedheater Cobra)

Sample test on various types of timber

1. Sanded the samples down using 100 sandpaper. This is essential as it helps to open up the surface for the linseed oil.

Sample test on various types of timber

2. Applied a primer coat, consisting of 50% Restoration White : 35% Raw Linseed Oil : 15% Balsam Turpentine

3. Sanded  lightly (200-240)

4. Applied 2nd coat of paint (colour Restoration White), undiluted, straight from the tin

5. Sanded  lightly (200-240)

6. Applied 3rd coat of paint (colour Restoration White), undiluted, straight from the tin

Sample test on various types of timber

These are the finished samples:

Sample test on various types of timber






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Don't be fooled into using Linseed Oil Emulsion....

When is Linseed Paint not Linseed Paint ?

We are aware that "Linseed Oil Emulsion" is being produced by petrochemical paint companies in response to the emerging popularity of pure Linseed Oil Paint. We want to make sure you are not being conned into using an inferior product that won't give you the results you want.

Emulsions contain water, emulsifiers, drying agents as well as oil, and even if that oil base is Linseed Oil, mixing it with these other ingredients will not give you the same results as pure linseed oil paint, and you will see cracking and flaking in the same way you would if you had used other petrochemical paints.

So-called "Linseed Oil Emulsions" are cheaper, inferior products that will not perform as you would expect.


Don't be fooled into using Linseed Oil Emulsion



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How to avoid mould growth on exterior surfaces

Historically, lead was very often added to linseed paint to combat mould growth. Whilst it's fair to say that it was a very effective addition, we of course now realise that its use is not desirable for health reasons.

Thankfully, the addition of a mix of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide superb levels of mould protection, with none of the health downsides of lead.

You could add this mix into paint, but you will lighten the colour as a result, so it's best to chose paint and colours that already have these compounds added.

The good news.....all of our linseed paint contains pre-mixed zinc oxide and titanium dioxide so you can get the true colour you want with all of the benefits of mould protection.


Black Mould

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Linseed Paint & VOC's....what you need to know

You may have heard about VOC's....but do you know exactly what they are and how harmful they can be to you and the environment ?

VOC's (or Volatile Organic Compounds to give them their full name) are substances which boil, or release vapour, at low temperatures. In the paint world, synthetic products are added to some paints to aid vapourising the liquids in the paint to get to a hardened finish in as short a time as possible. These vapours are very harmful to you and the environment, especially if used indoors, and exposure to them should be as limited as possible.

So what do you need to know about VOC's and our paint ?

Pure Linseed Paint only has two ingredients - linseed oil and pigment - and does not release any vapours as it dries in a totally different way. We can't stress enough just how environmentally friendly and healthy it is in comparison to petrochemical paints.

Drying happens by oxidisation (exposure to UV light and oxygen), so we have no need for solvents. No solvents means no VOCs. Linseed oil paint is oil paint in its purest form - it is not oil paint in the conventional sense (acrylics with added emulsifiers and solvents).

In an effort to drive down the VOC content of petrochemical paints, there’s has been a massive push to come up with a water-based version. A lot of big paint brands will offer water-based paints for exteriors. Don’t be fooled though, these paints are not water-based at all. They can be diluted with paint because emulsifiers have been added to make this possible. There is absolutely nothing natural about this process or ingredients. Even though it may mean that there is a reduction in VOC in these paints, the ‘new’ chemicals added to make this possible are sometimes even worse. Time will tell just how bad these new paints are in terms of impact on environmental and personal health.



an example of a VOC label on a conventional (petrochemical) tin of paint

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The History of Linseed Paint

The use of Linseed Paint can be traced right back to the ancient Egyptians, and whilst it's almost impossible to say when it was first used, it's clearly been around for thousands of years.

Over the last century, new paint recipes were explored, driven by a consumer requirement for a cheaper product and faster drying times, and these petrochemical paints soon dominated the market, and as a result, by the end of the 1980s, Linseed Paint had almost completely disappeared.

Paint failure was almost unheard of historically, and it's only a phenomenon that's existed as a consequence of the use of these petrochemical paints. Since the introduction of these paints, reports of relatively new wooden windows, doors and facades rotting after only a few years of use have become commonplace. Such incidents do not occur when linseed oil paints are used and as a result, questions are now rightly being asked concerning the use of the newer, modern plastic paints.

Linseed oil paint allows any moisture in the wood to easily escape, which eliminates any chance of paint failure (paint flaking & peeling). Linseed paint preserves the wood very well and we can see proof of this in several hundred-year-old buildings in Europe and in the United States.

It's only recently that we've realised that we've needed to look back to this historic product to get the performance and results we really want.

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Harvesting the UK flax crop

This year has seen a good flax crop in the UK, and we've been out in the fields near Wetherby to watch the harvesting take place.

Although the way Linseed Paint is produced hasn't fundamentally changed over centuries, having an enormous Massey Ferguson harvester certainly speeds the job up a bit !

As you can see from the pictures below, the seeds are very carefully collected, ready for pressing into Raw Linseed Oil, which is a key ingredient in our Linseed Paint.


Linseed Paint - Flax Crop

Flax Crop - Linseed Paint

Flax Crop - Linseed Paint

Flax Crop - Linseed Paint

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UK Centre of Excellence for Linseed Oil Paint

As you may have noticed, we've recently moved to a new facility near Leeds, that gives us the room we need to expand and meet the growing demand for Linseed Oil Paint.

This office and warehouse space has been designed specifically to meet our needs, and also gives us room to meet architects and contractors to discuss new products and projects. We are committed to making the new premises "The UK Centre of Excellence for Linseed Oil Paint".

To go alongside the new facility, we're also giving the website a revamp, to make your experience as easy and informative as it can be....but more news on that soon. Watch this space.....



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