Why Paint Primer Always Needed Before Painting?

Though the application of primer increases the cost, it is essential because it ensures a proper adhesion of the paint with the surface. There are several types of primers including oil, latex, and shellac. Prior to application of primer, the surfaces should be properly cleaned and dried.


Painting is a process, and one of the traditional steps is priming – but is it really necessary? On the surface it seems that priming only adds cost and time to your project, so why is it so often recommended? In this article we’ll talk about the benefits of priming and the situations when priming is and is not necessary.

So now that you know you need primer to get the best results, how do you know which primer to use? That all depends on your choice of paint.

Benefits Of Priming
Before we get to specific scenarios when you should use primer or when you can skip it, it’s important to discuss the benefits of primer. Contrary to some beliefs, primer is not just a useless coat of white paint underneath the colored paint. Some of the benefits of primer include:

  • It seals pores in unpainted surfaces such as drywall and wood.
  • It covers imperfections such as parts of the wall that have been patched or repaired.
  • It provides a surface for the paint to stick to.
  • It helps block out stains and odors.
  • It brings the paint color back to neutral so when the new paint goes on in its true color.
  • It optimizes the surface so fewer coats of top coat paint are needed.
  • In providing these benefits, primer can actually save time and money. Primer is cheaper than paint, so it helps you coat the surface and take care of issues using a cheaper material than top coat paint. Also, once priming is complete you can expect less time and fewer coats of top coat paint to complete the project.
What is a Paint Primer?
Primer paint is a preliminary layer of coating that is applied on the materials prior to the paint. It ensures that the paint adhesion to the surface is proper, enhances the durability of paint, and imparts extra safety to the surface being painted. Primer also seals the pores in the permeable materials, and averts bleeding from knots. If suitably applied, primers will enhance the life of the paint, and also improve the appearance.

Uses of a Primer for Painting
All incomplete surfaces are required to be primed prior to painting, including dry walls, concrete, wood, and metal. Application of paint to unprimed surfaces may cause additional peeling and development of cracks, compared to when the paint is applied to suitably primed surfaces.

Therefore, though this process of priming may cause additional expenditures, preferably it must not be omitted. Surfaces that have been previously painted may not need priming, unless the oil based paints are being changed to latex paint, or the paint already applied has deteriorated. The surfaces that have deteriorated should be cleaned suitably before the application of primer.

Proper preparation of the surfaces will ensure better adhesion of the primer. Surfaces that have oil-based paint should not be painted with a latex paint, otherwise the adhesion will not be durable. Primers can be chosen to correspond with the color of the paint.

Primer Application
It is essential that the primers should only be applied to dry and clean surfaces. Primer effect will be improved if the surfaces are smoothened by a sand paper, and dust removed with a damp cloth, before the application of primer. After the primer has been applied, cleaning of the surfaces before application of the finishing coat, will improve the desired effects of paint. After the primer application, surfaces may be painted after a few days to ensure proper drying of the primer. Since the primer fumes may be toxic, proper ventilation by opening windows and use of fans should be ensured. Use of mask or respirator during priming will be helpful.

Types of Primers
Primers are normally based on oil, latex, and shellac, with each category possessing different ingredient characteristics and applications. The primer categories are:

Oil Based Primer
These are primers that dry slowly and produce volatile organic compounds. Mineral spirits are required for cleaning and thinning purposes. The pores are filled adequately, and a smooth finish is produced. Oil primers are generally used for:

  • On existing paint that has deteriorated due to the development of cracks, or other defects.
  • Wood that is not finished.
  • Wood that has been varnished.
  • Woods that have a tendency to bleed.
  • Eroded wood.
Latex Primer
These are water soluble primers that are dried in a short time, and are gradually becoming popular. Latex primers are extremely suitable for unfinished dry walls since they improve the texture and the shine. They also permit passage of water vapor, due to which these are not expected to peel. They produce a finish that resists cracks, due to which this category is suitable for application on the bare soft woods. Latex primers are used on:

  • Masonry works like concrete blocks or bricks.
  • Galvanized metal that has been cleaned properly.
  • Bare soft woods.
  • Unfinished dry walls.
Shellac Primers
The drying of shellac based primers is fast, and denatured alcohol is used for cleaning and thinning.Their performance is impressive when used to stop stains and prevent bleeding. However, due to their bad smell, these are not easy to use. These primers are normally used for:

  • Plaster, wood, plastic, or when drying is required urgently.
  • Covering rust, smoke, and other marks.

When You May Not Need to Prime
While priming is usually the best bet, you can often squeak by without priming under any of the following conditions:


1. Walls Are Clean
Primer tends to stick better to walls in imperfect condition more than will paint. So, if your walls are perfectly clean, it helps to eliminate the need for primer. One way to clean walls before painting is to create a thin mixture of TSP and water and wipe down the walls with a soft cloth. If you choose not to use TSP, attach a clean brush attachment to the end of a shop vacuum and clean off major debris like cobwebs and dust.

2. New Coat Matches Previous Coat Color
One need for primer is to readjust the base color for your new color to brilliantly and accurately show up. If previous and new colors are the same, once again the need for primer is reduced, though not entirely eliminated.

3. Priming Prevents Painting
This one is all about psychology. Are you putting off painting because you don't want to prime? If painting without priming is the nudge you need to get to work, then do it. Painted surfaces are always better than raw surfaces, in terms of appearance, durability, and maintenance.

4. You Are Using Paint and Primer Combination

Self-priming paint can be summed up succinctly: it is a paint that is thicker than regular paint. Because it is thicker, it builds up higher and forms a thicker coat. It is preferable to use separate primer and paint. But if the walls are more or less in good condition, you can use a combination paint and primer. Self-priming paint is not the miracle cure that many homeowners may believe. Laying down thicker paint "build," as it's called within the industry, makes for a weaker coat that takes longer to dry.

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