Should I Prime Walls Before Painting?

In the painting world, you often hear a lot of talk about using primer on your walls before applying paint, as it helps the paint adhere to the wall and create a smooth, protected finish. It seems simple enough to pick your paint color, primer, and tools and get started painting. However, many people find themselves wondering, “Should I prime walls before painting every time?” Read on to learn our professional advice along with what to look for in a paint primer. 


What is a Paint Primer?

Before we dive into answering this common paint question, it’s important (especially for you DIYers out there) to understand what a paint primer is and what it means to prime a wall before painting. 


A primer is a preparatory coating that is applied to a surface before painting to help the paint adhere to the surface better, cover stains or imperfections, and create a smooth, even surface for the paint to go on. There are many kinds of primers out there for specific types of surfaces, such as drywall, wood, or metal. 


There are also primers that specifically help prevent damage from moisture and mildew, which is super important in areas like bathrooms


Should I Prime Walls Before Painting?

When asking the question, “should I prime walls before painting,” the answer is… sometimes! Choosing whether or not to prime your walls before painting depends on a few factors. 


Condition of the Walls


The condition of the walls is arguably the most important and first thing you should consider when determining whether to prime or not. If your walls are in good condition and don’t have cracks, holes, or peeling paint, you may not need to prime before painting. 


However, if the surface is less than perfect and is very uneven or damaged, you’ll definitely want to hit it with a coat of primer first to smooth out the wall and create a better surface for painting. 


Type of Paint


The type of paint you’re using also impacts whether or not you should prime your walls before getting started. We are strong proponents of investing in high-quality paint products to ensure your paint job lasts and looks nice for years. Plus, if you’re using high-quality paint products with good coverage, you may not need to prime the wall first (if it’s in good condition of course!). 

On the flip side, if you’re using a lower-quality paint or a color that is different from the current wall color, priming the wall first can help the new paint cover more evenly and cut down on the number of coats needed to get the job done right. 


Type of Surface


Another factor to consider before choosing to prime or not to prime is the type of surface you’re painting on. If the surface is glossy or semi-glossy, you will want to prime in order to help the new coat of paint adhere better. 

The same is true if you’re painting a more porous surface, such as bare drywall or a surface that has previously been covered with wallpaper. Priming before painting these types of surfaces can help seal the surface and create a more even-looking, long-lasting finish. 


Which Primer Should I Use on My Walls?


Now that you have a better idea of when you may need to prime and when you can get by without priming your walls before painting, you’re probably wondering which primer you should use on your walls. 

There has been a huge influx of paint and primer in one products on the market lately, and while this may be a bit of a controversial opinion, we actually don’t recommend these products. 

It’s important to look at the back of these types of products to see what “paint and primer in one” really means. 


For most higher-end paint or paint and primer in one products, they say that you can paint directly on top of a previously painted surface that is unstained, free of oils, soap scum, grease, rust, etc, and is in sound condition. 

However, on the back of the paint product cans and on the paint data sheets, they all recommend that bare surfaces should be primed with a manufacturer-recommended primer for the bare substrate, followed by 2 coats of the particular paint product. 

Let’s take a look at the Behr Paint & Primer – 


For stained or damaged surfaces, an oil-based or shellac stain blocker is usually recommended before painting. Water stains, oils stains, grease, etc, will repel or re-wet the stain and cause peeling or continued staining after painting. 


So while these all-in-one products may seem like the best option, it’s important to read the labels, fine-print, and the specific instructions on your paint product. 


While you may not always need to prime your walls before painting, doing so can help ensure a better finish and reduce the amount of paint you need to use, making your project more cost-effective and saving paint for future projects or touch-ups down the road. 


Just like we recommend using high-quality paints, we also recommend investing in high-quality primers that follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and work specifically with the paint product you’ve chosen and the surface you’re painting.  


Our advice is: when in doubt, go ahead and prime! 


If you’re looking to take on a new paint project in the Raleigh area and would like a team of professionals to decide whether or not to prime and which high-quality products to use, we’d be happy to partner with you. 


Book your free call and estimate with us today!


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