Paint primers: what and why?

Paint primers: what and why?

  • On October 31, 2020

Primers come in many varieties: latex and alkyd, spray can or brush on, dedicated or already in the paint. How does one choose the right primer for the job?

In all cases the substrate and/or the use-case being painted should determine the primer. A primers job is to bond to and seal the surface for final applications of paint. The first decision is usually latex or solvent-based primer. For most surfaces latex is perfectly acceptable, does the job and is much less messy and smelly than the solvent alternative.

Solvent-based primers are usually reserved for stain blocking and for metal surfaces. Latex is not recommended for either because the stain may bleed through when latex paint is applied or metal surfaces will be more prone to rust.

An oil base primer must be used on an oil based paint, urethane or varnish in order to apply latex paint. This includes oil-based trim paints, stained and sealed wood trims and cabinets.

If the substrate you want to paint is not something that is usually painted then you will want a specialty primer. Examples would be: masonry primers, fast bond primers for shiny surfaces like ceramic or glass, or shellac based primers for smoke damage.

What about paint and primer in one? The only time this is an advantage is for bare surfaces, saving the painter the step of a separate prime coat. Say one has peeling paint on the outside of a house, with paint and primer in one, the surface can be scraped down and painted directly without having to prime, wait for it to dry, sand and paint. Paint and primer over a previously painted surface gains no advantage over paint alone.

To find out more, schedule a free painting estimate with one of our sales team here.



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