Which Primer Is Right For Your Paint Job?

With a lot of us freshening up their homes for the holidays, this week I wanted to talk about paint primers.  These days a lot of wall paints are labeled as self-priming so do you really need an extra step and the added expense of buying more products?  Let’s take a look at not only why we need a primer but also which one is right for the surface and the job.

Okay – I often compare using a primer to getting dressed in the morning. Think of it like your underwear.  It might be a cheeky (pun intended) comparison but it’s relatable and memorable.  That important first step holds everything together and provides a solid foundation for everything that will go on top – ladies I’m sure you can relate!  And while a lot of paints are labeled as self priming, because our homes are built from unique materials and are subject to a lot of sun, salt and wind we need a little more protection than those products offer.

Now that we have that out of the way, the primer you choose often depends on what you need to paint or what problem you need to fix. Let’s start with one of my favourite all purposes primers – Benjamin Moore Fresh Start.  You can use it inside, outside, on masonry, drywall, non-bleeding woods, non-rusty metals – pretty much everywhere.  For example, because it’s a high build primer it works wonderfully when you’re trying to make a drastic colour change.  Let’s say you have a bright red accent wall but have decided it no longer works in your space and you’re ready for a more neutral colour.  Instead of applying three to four coats of paint use Benjamin Moore Fresh Start instead to erase that strong shade faster with less wasted product.  You can also use it on new construction or plaster repairs both inside and outside – just remember that like with any primer your masonry must cure and dry for at least twenty eight days before ANYTHING is applied.  It’s sticks very well to both bare walls and already painted surfaces and cleans up with water.

Next let’s look at another one of our go-to primers – Tite 610.  It’s a waterproofing primer that has a fine grit in it – perfect for filling in small hairline cracks.  Use it inside or outside on new plaster (make sure it has properly cured!) or in damp rooms where moisture is an issue.  Because it’s a little thicker than most of our other primers it’s also great for hiding minor wall imperfections.

Over time, paint can peel off the walls for a variety of reasons.  Small cracks can let in water and force the paint off the wall forming blisters, paint can break down causing it to flake off the wall, or walls that were not prepared properly can reject anything that is put on top of them.  That’s where the Benjamin Moore Masonry SEALER comes in.  It’s thinner than primers so it can penetrate into bare masonry and seal the wall from the inside.  Use it inside or outside on areas where you have scraped off old paint down to bare walls.   TIP:  After you scrape off old paint run your hand on the bare surface. If you have a white chalky residue on your skin try to wash away as much of that as possible before applying any sealers, primers or paint.  Outside you can give your walls a power wash.  Inside use a damp sponge with a solution of vinegar and water (50/50)  to wipe the walls down.  Remember to leave your surface to dry completely before painting.

With the basics covered let’s get into some specialty primers like the Zinsser Bin primer.  This interior alcohol based primer cleans up with either denatured alcohol or ammonia and is used to seal stains on wood or masonry.  Because it blocks the tannin from wood knots and grain from bleeding through we recommend it most often if you’re painting fresh wooden doors, cabinets or millwork.  It can also be used on walls to cover stains from smoke damage, markers or food.   TIP:  This primer dries super fast so work quickly.  It also has a very strong smell (it goes away after the primer has dried) so open a few windows or turn on a fan for ventilation and wear a mask if you’re sensitive to odors.

Ever tried to paint a smooth surface like glass, tile, formica or PVC just to have all your hard work peel off?  Because those surfaces are smooth there isn’t a lot for primers or paints to stick to – even with sanding.  For those jobs we would recommend Insl-x Stix bonding primer.  Use it to quickly update that outdated kitchen backsplash, turn an old mirror into a chalkboard, or change the colour of plastic pots or glass vases.   We also recommend this primer if you’re painting varnished cabinets or doors to prevent your topcoat from chipping or peeling off with repeated wear and tear.  It’s a waterbased paint (cleans up with water) that’s fortified with urethane resins which means that after drying for 48 hours it can even be top coated with 2 part paints!

Warm temperatures paired with high humidity and not enough air movement can be a breeding ground for dangerous mold and mildew – especially in spaces like bathrooms and closets.  That’s where we would recommend FixAll Stopz Mold Resistant Paint/Primer.  It contains a special anti-microbial additive to prevent mold from forming on the surface so your walls stay clean and your home is healthy.  With a satin white sheen it can be left as a finish coat as long as at least two coats are applied or you can paint over it with your favourite paint.  TIP:  Remember to remove any existing mold or mildew before painting.   You always want to start with a clean dry surface.

Remember that this is only a short list of our most popular primers and there are many more choices depending on what you’re painting so don’t forget to ask which one might be right for you!

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