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Posted by McKenzie
on Nov 20th 2018


Selecting the Right Primer

You've probably heard that priming is a significant step in the painting process, but trying to sort through scores of primer selections and decide on just one is intimidating. Here are some tips on selecting the right primer for your project, brought to you by our professional painting contractors.

Why Use a Primer at All?

Applying a primer just to cover it up with paint shortly after seems to be a burdensome and impractical extra step, but in some cases the use of primer is important to get the best finished project. If the surface you're painting over is new wood or drywall, the previous paint job had a glossy finish, the walls are stained or slightly damaged, you recently removed wallpaper, or you're changing the color from dark to light, primer can extend the life of the paint and help it go on smoother. There are also some projects where using a primer isn't really necessary. If you're going back and forth on whether you should, it's never a bad idea. The best bet when you're having any doubts about the condition of your walls is to go ahead and prime.

Oil-Based Primer

Commonly known as an alkyd primer, oil-based primers work well for both oil and latex paints. If you're wanting to cover up stains from water, ink, or grease, using an oil-based primer is your best option to keep them from showing through the final paint job. They're also useful with wood walls to seal the porous surface for a smoother surface. The drawback, however, is that most oil-based primers (like oil-based paints) are very slow drying, possibly taking a day or more to completely set. They also release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be harmful in high concentrations and with prolonged exposure. If you're thinking of using an oil-based primer, consider researching low-VOC versions or ways to lower the VOCs.

Shellac Primer

Shellac primers are reliable for interior paint jobs, and compete with oil-based primers for being the most impressive stain blocker. Tough stains from water or smoke damage are easily canceled out. You can apply them on pretty much any interior surface, and they can be used with both oil- and latex-based paints. The advantage is that they are fast drying and very adhesive; the downside is that they are not as versatile as oil or latex primers and give off more fumes.

Latex-Based Primer

A latex-based primer, otherwise known as an acrylic primer, is perfect for interior and/or exterior surfaces like drywall, masonry, plaster, metal, and slightly damp/dry wood. They're water based, faster drying, and more flexible than oil-based primers. Another benefit is that most latex primers come with little to no VOC compounds. If VOCs make you wary of using oil or shellac primers, a latex primer is a healthier alternative. They're a higher price, but their ability to fill in cracks and bond paint to surfaces makes the price worth it for the finished product. Keep in mind, though, that they're not as effective at covering stubborn stains like an oil or shellac primer can.

Drywall Primers

Also called PVA primers, drywall primers are ideal for use on fresh drywall or mud. Their main use is really only for sealing surfaces, but they do take small amounts of tint and can give a much darker color with less pigment. They can also fill in cracks and smooth out the surface. It's not an everyday use kind of primer for your bedroom or living room, but for rooms that you want a higher-durability paint job PVA works perfectly. Plus, they're generally fairly cheap and dry quickly, so it's a good investment for your money.

Bonding Primer

Like drywall primers, bonding primers are great for giving your paint job more durability. They're a solution to problem areas where paint comes off easily and surfaces that are slick or have chalky paint that you can't completely remove with a power wash. Bonding primers dry quickly and form a strong and tacky layer that will help paint adhere securely to more challenging surfaces. However, you should not use a bonding primer on a surface where paint is already peeling. Because of how intensely the primer will grab onto the surface, it will only lift up the peeling paint even more.

There's a large variety of primers to choose from, but you want to use a primer that's going to give you the best long-term results. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed with the options. With these tips, you can narrow down your search to find the perfect primer for your painting project.

Do you have any questions? Contact one of our Painter1 professional house painters to discuss your primer selections today. We're happy to help!