A Primer on Primer


How important is primer anyway?

What do I need it for and what does it do?Kilz 2 Latex Primer Sealer

Well, I went on a scavenger hunt to learn more about primer.   I fought my way through a jungle of cheesecake and fruit basket ads to find information to post here, in this primer on primer, where it will be a little easier to reach.

What I learned from the familyhandyman is that primer is specially designed to make paint stick to the walls better.  Okay, I kind of knew that already.   They give a nice explanation about all of the different types of primer-sealers and which situations to use each one in.   It’s worth checking out.  I have only noted the info that we might need for our own interior jobs.   Primer also helps the paint job last longer.  It seals the walls and protects from moisture and mildew damage like blistering and peeling.  Remember to bleach the mildew and let it dry before you paint over it.  You can use 1 part bleach, 3 parts water for this.

What about the self-priming paints?

For most of the situations that we might run into doing interior walls, we can probably just use one of the newer self-priming paints, but I’d check the math on that first.  You’ll want to figure out how much paint you need and plan to use 2 coats for the best coverage if you are changing colors.  If you are making a change from white to dark, or dark to white you really need to start with a coat of acrylic-latex primer.  By the end of the project, it might be less expensive to buy the primer and paint separately. They should be from the same manufacturer though because they have been chemically tested and designed to work with each other.   If you have patches of spackle to cover, or ink, crayon or grease Crayon Monster on wallstains on your walls be sure to add it to your list of supplies.  You will definitely need a primer-sealer as part of your preparation for paint because stains like those will bleed through without it.  If you have water or rust stains, or smelly stubborn  stains like smoke damage or the nicotine stains from cigarette smoking, then you will need an oil based primer.   If the problem is really severe, you might need a layer of shellac first, and then a second layer of the oil-based primer.   These primers are stinky too so make sure you have good ventilation set up.  You’ll need paint thinner to clean up.  I just use the cheaper rollers for the primer and throw them away, then use better quality rollers for the paint.   I know, I’m lazy, but the paint roller manufacturers love me.  ; )    It’s important to cover spackle, joint compound, and wall texture with primer because they will absorb the paint differently than the previous paint will and without the primer you’ll be able to see where you patched.  We don’t want that.

The smooth walls are the hardest to patch.

This guy does a good job showing how to patch holes.

If your own patch job isn’t quite as smooth as his, you can use a ‘high-build’ drywall primer-sealer.  It will probably cost a bit more, but it will fill in the hairline cracks and level the job out a bit.  It won’t hide the tape though, so make sure you watch that lesson I linked to so you wont have that problem.

“A paint job is only as good as the tape job”

Another tip I was given is when you have the spackle all smoothed out, you can take a bit more and thin it out with a little more water then apply it to the edges to feather it out a bit more and that will help with the leveling too.  A little bit of fine grain sand paper can finish it out nicely.

When it comes to adding tint to the primer to help it not show through the paint, some of the experts say it helps make the new color more rich looking.  If you use a grey tint you’ll avoid the affect of the color mixing that could happen but it’s usually a minute difference.   Other experts say that adding tint to the primer affects the chemicals and reduces the binding quality a little bit.  Personally, I like tinting it to a similar shade as my paint color.  It improves my coverage and I get a richer looking color.  I might avoid adding the tint if I were painting exteriors and wanted extra durability.


8 Replies to “A Primer on Primer

  1. i didn’t know that adding a tint to the paint will affect so much to the result in terms of color and quality.

    and by reading this now i know that with primer the paint will sticks to the wall better

    Thank you for sharing this information

    i will use tint and primer on my next painting project for my new house !

    1. Thanks for stopping by Elbert.  I sure noticed a difference in the quality of how the painting turned out when I started using the primer.  I’m sure you’ll like the outcome!   

  2. I have had mildew in the corner of my bathroom ceiling for about a month now but I hate painting and decorating with a passion so I’ve been putting it off, the last time it happened I just painted over it but it just came back.
    So all I have to do is soak it in bleach, leave it dry and it won’t come back? Is that correct?

    1. Hi Matthew, Thanks for checking out my website. Regarding your mildew problem, I’d wipe it clean with
      the bleach solution first and then probably spray it again and let it dry. Once I’ve put a coat of primer on
      over it I haven’t had a problem with it again. Best of luck to you!

  3. So what made you decide to paint? We have always used primers to paint our walls at first. Do we need it between layers of paints?

    1. Hi Marcey, Thanks for stopping by. I love a fresh coat of paint when I move into a new place. It feels so much more clean to me. There’s just something about the new color that brightens up the mood in the room and helps to express your personality.
      You won’t need primer between layers of the new paint, and you won’t have to primer over the old paint unless there are stains, like crayon or mildew or something stinky on the walls that won’t wash off. Of course, if you have to patch a hole or crack and you have fresh
      spackle on the walls you’ll want to put a little primer on those spots because the primer will absorb the pigments in the paint differently than the painted surface and it will show up when you are finished.
      I hope this answers your question.

  4. This is actually a really interesting article. I have always been that person that is too cheap to buy primer but have learned that it is a necessary thing to buy. I am really bad at taping when I paint. I always end up having paint dripping onto my trim as such.

    1. Thank you Austin, Primer is more important than it seems to be.  It is almost as important as taping properly.  ; ) You’ll keep the messy drips off of your trim if you take just a few minutes longer and use the tape and newspaper trick I spoke of on the Preparation page.  Thanks so much for your comment.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.