Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.
Painting Doors and Trim with Behr Semi-Gloss Enamel
Normally I use Sherwin Williams paint for most of my projects, but occasionally I have a customer who wants to supply their own paint. For this project, my customer wanted the trim and doors in the room painted with Behr alkyd semi-gloss enamel, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to review this paint. This product is not a pure alkyd enamel, but instead, a urethane alkyd that cleans up with soap and water, which is definitely a plus, because I hate cleaning up with paint thinner.
I've used Behr Premium Plus paint before on walls, and while I'm not a huge fan of the brand, the paint covered fine and got the job done, but this was my first time using the alkyd enamel. In this review, I share my likes and dislikes after brushing and rolling this product on trim and doors for two days.
How Does Behr Alkyd Enamel Perform?
Behr alkyd urethane enamel is formulated with modified alkyd resins that increase the hardness of the coating once fully cured. Urethane trim enamel dries harder than regular acrylic enamel, and it's a popular alternative to traditional oil-based paint, which smells terrible, takes longer to cure, and requires paint thinner for cleanup.
In fairness, I don't know the true hardness of Behr alkyd enamel when fully cured, but in terms of coverage and the quality of the finish after brushing and rolling multiple coats, this product is subpar compared to Pro Industrial water-based alkyd urethane enamel and Emerald urethane enamel from Sherwin Williams. I've used both of those products many times to paint cabinets and trim.
Behr enamel comes in both a satin and semi-gloss finish. For this project, I used semi-gloss and applied two coats on white trim and multiple coats on a primed door. The walls were primed with Aqua Lock and painted with Benjamin Moore Regal Select in the pearl finish.
- Brushing and rolling: I noticed right away how thin and watery this stuff is after mixing it up. The thin consistency made brushing and rolling easy, but the coverage suffered as a result, even over primed wood. In the end, four coats of enamel were needed to get full coverage on a bare wood door I primed with two coats of Cover Stain primer. Normally, I would only have to apply two to three coats on a primed door, using my go-to Sherwin Williams enamel.
- No Leveling: Even though this product is advertised as offering "great flow and leveling", that wasn't the case on the door and baseboard I painted. The enamel barely leveled out at all when brushed and rolled. I used a Purdy XL paint brush with soft bristles, but the brush marks and roller stippling did not level out completely, even with a fine nap roller.
- Good adhesion: One way to know the adhesion quality of paint is to see how it reacts to painter's tape. I sanded and painted the baseboard two coats on day one. On day two, after taping off the baseboard and painting the walls, the tape was removed without pulling off any of the enamel.
- Fast dry time: I was able to apply each coat within a couple hours without any issues. This is a plus for anyone wanting to finish their project sooner than later. Some paints take several hours to dry before you can re-coat them.
- Poor Coverage: The main deal breaker for me was the bad coverage over both primed wood and trim that was already white. The enamel took four coats to cover completely, and even on the baseboard, which was already white before I painted it, you could see through the finish after applying the first coat. The coverage was probably the worst out of all the other trim paints I've used.
Should You Use Behr Alkyd Enamel on Trim and Cabinets?
If you're painting trim, doors, or even cabinets, I definitely recommend using urethane trim enamel for the durability factor and ease of cleanup, but there are far better trim paints than Behr alkyd enamel. Painting with this product for a couple days was enough to know this was another case of "you get what you pay for". The coverage was bad. If you use this product over dark stained wood that was primed white, be prepared to apply multiple coats.
The $36 per gallon price is fairly inexpensive, and I think people are attracted to the low prices of Behr paint, but as a professional painter who's worked with multiple trim paints over the years, it is definitely worth spending a little extra money on paint that provides better coverage and leveling.
As I explained earlier, I really like Pro Industrial water-based alkyd enamel (semi-gloss) from Sherwin Williams, or Emerald urethane enamel, which is basically the same product with a different label. Another good option is the regular, non-urethane, Pro Classic acrylic enamel in the semi-gloss finish. The leveling with all three of these products is excellent, including the coverage.
I painted staircase railings and spindles, as well as some basement bar cabinets, using Pro Industrial enamel. The difference in the leveling between that product and the Behr enamel is night and day. In terms of hardness and durability, the Behr paint did have good adhesion.
I know this product is marketed as a coating for kitchen cabinets. Urethane trim enamel is definitely better than acrylic for cabinet painting, but for maximum durability and chemical resistance, you might consider either having a painter spray your cabinets with a pre-catalyzed lacquer, or do the spraying yourself. I use white pre-catalyzed lacquer for most of my cabinet painting projects. The durability is superior to trim and door enamel.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Matt G.