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Do I need primer?

Do I need primer?


Primer, before paint, may be totally unnecessary, optional, or necessary. How do you know which one applies to your project? Keep reading to find out.


There are a few questions you need to answer:


Has the surface ever been painted before?


If you’re painting bare materials then primer is a necessity. This would include things like bare wood, metal, drywall, joint compound, brick or concrete. In this case the primer will serve two purposes. First it will seal up any pores in the material. Second it will provide a coating to which paint can easily bond.

Is the surface hard and slick?


Hard and slick surfaces are usually things like plastic, glass and tile. Primer is necessary for these surfaces. Sometimes the need for primer can be minimized by thoroughly scuff sanding the surface. However, some materials like glass or tile can be very hard to properly scuff sand either because they are too hard or too fragile. If these surfaces are not sanded first then a primer is very important to prevent the paint from chipping or peeling or scratching off with minimal contact.

Are there multiple colors or sheens that you need to cover?


Sometimes you are re-painting a room with an accent wall. Sometimes you are painting over a mural. Sometimes you are repainting a whole room with one paint product and the room originally had different paint for the walls and trim. In these cases primer is optional. When you want everything to have the same color and sheen with as few top coats as possible it can help to start with a uniform coating. The primer will ensure that all of the surfaces have the same ability to bond with the top coats and prevent uneven color coverage. For example, it takes more coatings to go from black to white than it does to go from black to dark brown.


Do you need to cover up water stains, smoke stains, or lock in unpleasant odors?


In these cases primer is necessary. Also, not just any primer will do. You will likely need either an oil based primer or a shellac based primer. Keep in mind that shellac primers should be limited to interior applications or small spot priming on exteriors.


If the surface has already been painted, it’s not hard and slick, and it’s just one paint product that you’re covering up, then primer is unnecessary. In this case go ahead without priming before painting.


Hopefully this helps sort out your prime or not to prime dilemma. If you have more questions please post them below.


Thanks for reading, and happy painting with or without primer.

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