WHY ALL PROS SHOULD USE PRIMER
There are several reasons to use primer before starting any painting project:
1. Preps and seals unpainted surfaces: Primer helps paint adhere to surfaces much better than if paint were used alone, especially when painting uneven surfaces or surfaces not previously painted. In practice, primer is also often used when painting porous materials, such as concrete or wood. In new construction, sealing drywall before applying paint is standard practice since it reduces the number of coats of paint needed to achieve desired color results and better prepares the surface.
2. Helps paint adhere to the surface: Applying a primer is the best way to prepare surfaces before painting because they’re designed to form a binding layer that’s better prepared to receive paint. Primers tend to have binder-rich resin formulas which are designed to be an anchor to various surfaces; even harder, glossier ones that paint tends to have a hard time sticking to. The primer also provides better inter-coat adhesion to the paint itself. This results in a reduced chance of peeling, blistering and other problems associated with poor adhesion.
3. Blocks stains and odors: Some stains will bleed right through certain paints no matter how many coats of paint you apply. The same goes for severe odors like smoke from fires and cigarettes. The solution is primer, which can be used to cover up and block stains and odors and prevents them from bleeding through new layers of paints. Moisture, a natural part of spring and constantly present in bathrooms, kitchens and other humidity and moisture-prone spaces, can also activate stains by bringing them to the surface and making them more obvious. For example, KILZ® Mold & Mildew Primer creates a mold and mildew-resistant primer film.
4. Creates a better result (and can save job costs): Primer impacts the longevity, durability and result of your paint job. Since it helps prep and seal surfaces, paint goes on smoother, and spreads out farther over the surface, which may save pros job costs in the long run. Primers should also be used for stained surfaces that cannot be fully cleaned, or before color changes (especially for bold or dark colors transitioning to lighter colors). Even with a simple color change where you’re covering an existing color with another color, painting without priming could result in a color that is a slightly different shade than the color selected. Primers can usually be tinted toward the direction of the finish color. If the finishing paint is a deep color, tinting the primer can reduce the number of finishing coats necessary for good uniformity across the painted surface.
CHOOSING A PRIMER
The most appropriate primer for your project depends on the work environment, the surface itself, what you are trying to achieve and your preferences for the job timeframe and the final look.
Consider the following when determining which primer is right for your job:
1. Identify the surface type you will be painting.
2. Assess any problems or challenges you need to tackle such as water or smoke stains, mold or mildew, covering dark paint or odors, and determine the severity of the issue.
3. Evaluate the environment you’re working in including climate and areas of the home or space you’re painting; for example, if the home is in a humid climate or a particular room sees excess moisture like a bathroom or laundry room, it may make sense to use a primer with a mildew-resistant primer film.
There are several types of specialty primers commonly found in the painting industry:
1. Shellac-based primers: Expensive but durable finish which resists scratches and peeling. Thin consistency dries fast but can be a bit challenging to apply. Shellac primers have excellent adhesion to tough-to-paint surfaces. Great for blocking tannin bleed in wood and other stains and blocking odors. May have limited retail distribution in some states due to restrictions on volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
2. Oil-based primers: These types of primers are designed to bond to hard, non-porous and high sheen (glossy) surfaces that are difficult for normal paint and even most primers to stick to resulting in possible adhesion failure and peeling over time. Oil-based primers are also known to offer advanced stain and odor-blocking. May have limited retail distribution in some states due to restrictions on volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
3. Water-based/Latex primers: Technology has come a long way in the last 20 years. These primers, depending on the type of product, offer the performance and benefits of oil-based and to some extent, even shellac-based primers but are easier to clean-up (with soap and water) and have lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs) making them healthier and friendlier for the environment and more widely distributed.
THE LOW DOWN ON LOW VOC PRIMERS
Primers have been transforming since the mid-1990s to keep up with changing air quality regulations. At the same time, manufacturers have worked hard to ensure products retain their performance properties.
Laws regulating Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) have challenged paint manufacturers to formulate low VOC architectural and industrial primers. Since their introduction to the U.S. market in 1997, low VOC water-based stain-blocking primers have consistently improved and innovated into today’s highly effective stain blockers—a property traditionally associated only with oil-based products. Compared to solvent/oil-based primers, water-based primers are a bit more environmentally friendly since they are non-flammable (zero flash point), usually have much lower volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and do not need solvent chemicals like thinner/mineral spirits to clean-up. These formula options are especially preferable when working in environments that include people with allergies, those with sensitivities to smell and children. Additionally, lower-VOC-level oil-based products like KILZ® Original Low Odor Interior Primer can dramatically reduce odor, making them more pleasant to work around.
Whether you’re tackling a large paint project for a client or customer or sprucing up your own home, applying a coat of primer before laying paint will improve adhesion, prevent uneven coverage and reduce the number of coats needed to obtain beautiful results. The right primer for your project depends on the environment of the work, the surface itself, your goals and objectives for the project, and your preferences for the timeframe of the job and the final look.