Whats the best primer?

Zinsser 123 primer

Whats the best primer you can use before painting?

There’s a few answers to this question. Essentially there’s lots of different types of surfaces that need to be primed before you can paint – new surfaces like wood or plaster, old surfaces like existing paint, then you have surfaces like galvanised steel or PVC. First though, why should you prime a surface before painting? There’s several reasons why we prime a surface before painting. Priming will protect the surface of the material you are painting – wood, plaster or MDF for example can be protected from water absorption by priming first. Priming will also reduce the number of top coats you will require and some primers can be tinted to the finish colour, this will help you achieve a better overall finish and might reduce the number of top coats needed. If you want to use a water based paint over an existing oil based paint or varnish/stain then its best practice to use an adhesion primer. This will grip onto the old surface and allow the new paint to form a good bond. If you don’t use an adhesion primer first then its pretty likely that in no time your new paint will start to come away in places. If you plan on painting over smoke damage or water damage on a ceiling for example, then its best to use a stain blocking primer. The stain blocker will hold back the stain and make it disappear, if you don’t use a stain blocker then be prepared to use lots of coats of emulsion to cover the stain.

The best primers for new plaster.

There are specific products you can buy off the shelf for painting new plaster but I find the best thing to use is a well watered down vinyl matt emulsion. Once watered down enough this primer will seep into the fresh plaster and create a good bond for the following coats. We usually call this a mist coat. Its recommended that you use a vinyl matt as opposed to a chalky matt like Covermatt or Supermatt. The chalky paints are excellent for coverage but when you paint over the chalky mist coat with a good quality acrylic matt paint there’s a chance the acrylic will be damaged by the chalky surface.
  • Dulux, Fleetwood or Crown vinyl matt watered down 40%.

The best primers for new wood or MDF.

For new softwood a water based primer is quick to apply, dries fast and has very little odor. You can paint over this primer with an oil based or water based paint. There are a few good water based primers.
  • Zinsser 1-2-3 primer.
  • Fleetwood Advanced primer/undercoat
For new hardwood you will need a primer that can block tannin bleed. I haven’t found a water based primer yet that can successfully stop hardwood tannin. You have 2 options here, use an oil based primer or a shellac based primer. The oil based is a bit easier to use and a bit more versatile than the shellac primer.
  • Zinsser Coverstain.
  • Fleetwood Bloxx-it.
Zinsser Coverstain

The best primers for PVC & Galvanised steel.

Water based primers are the only way to go here. Again, you can coat over these primers with a water based or oil based paint.
  • Zinsser 1-2-3 primer.
  • Fleetwood Pure Grip primer.
Zinsser 123 primer

The best primers for water/smoke damage.

Assuming you have cleaned away most of the sooty mess or the water stain you plan to paint over is dry then you have a couple of options for stain blocking primers. The shellac primer is excellent for blocking stains though its not recommended in bathrooms as moisture or heat/cold can cause the paint to peel. An oil based stain blocking primer is ideal for bathrooms.
  • Blockade (shellac based).
  • Zinsser Coverstain (oil based).
  • Fleetwood Bloxx-it (oil based).
Blockade shellac primer  

Best primer for painting over wallpaper.

If you want to paint over wallpaper for the first time then its best to use a primer. If you don’t prime and skip straight to painting emulsion onto the wallpaper then there’s a chance the paper will bubble and come away from the wall. Using a primer will lower the likelihood of this happening. Water based primers are best for this. You should do a sample area first just to be sure that it takes!
  • Zinsser 1-2-3 primer.
  • Fleetwood Pure Grip primer.

Best primer for painting over old oil based paint.

If you want to use a water based paint over an old oil based coating that you might find on doors, architraves etc then its best to use a water based grip primer first. If you are using an oil based coat over oil then you don’t need to worry about priming.
  • Zinsser 1-2-3 primer.
  • Fleetwood Pure Grip primer.

Best all round primer.

I have mentioned just a few primers here though there are lots available. If you’re not doing much painting and want just one all round type of primer then I recommend getting an oil based primer. It has the most all round applications.
  • Zinsser Coverstain (oil based).
  • Fleetwood Bloxx-it (oil based).

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