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Home Improvement

Best Paint Primer

The most important part of any paint job is called surface preparation. I don’t care how good a pint you buy or how much you spend on it, if you don’t have a good surface to apply it to, it’s not going to last. That means that the surface has to be properly primed as well, as the primer is what bonds the substrate and the paint together.

While it is possible to paint many surfaces without priming them first, it’s not advisable. There are several things that primers do, which paints aren't really designed to do. While many manufacturers are now advertising their paints and “paint and primer in one,” the reality is that those paints still don’t do as good a job as a true primer will.

Quality paints are designed for coverage. More than anything, that means putting a thick coat of high pigment, high solids paint on the surface, which will cover up whatever is underneath it in one coat, so that you don’t have to go back and do it again. At the same time, these paints are designed to remain somewhat flexible, so that they don’t crack and bubble over time.

An unprimed surface causes serious problems with the paint being able to cover well. Most substrates used in construction are porous, so some percentage of the paint soaks into the substrate and is not available to provide cover and weather protection. The more porous the surface is, the less paint remains on the surface to cover and protect from the weather.

Primers are designed very different than paints; with the main goal of soaking into the substrate and sealing it. By doing that, they make it possible for the paint to stay on the surface, where it can provide the most protection to the building.

Another reason for using primer is that not all substrates are compatible with all paints, or even with any paint at all. Aluminum, for example, doesn't bond well with any paint. By using a special aluminum primer, you create a chemical bond with the aluminum substrate, providing a good surface for the paint to adhere to. Properly primed aluminum will allow the paint to last for years longer than applying paint directly to the aluminum substrate.

Some primers also provide a stain hiding capability, which is often necessary when repainting a home. Mold and mildew, water stains and children’s artwork on the wall are all serious problems which paints have trouble covering. It is not the color of these stains that causes the problem, but rather the fact that these stains actually seep through the new paint, staining it. A sealing primer dries fast enough to prevent that, trapping the stain in the substrate.

When picking a primer, you have to be cognizant of the reason you are priming. For new construction, this is usually to promote good adhesion and long paint life. Those reasons can apply to repainting as well, plus the problem I just mentioned about stains. You must also be sure to understand the substrate you are painting over, as that makes a huge difference in primer selection.

Zinsser B-I-N Advanced Synthetic Shellac Primer

Zinsser’s line of stain covering primers is the best in the market. If you have a stain to fight, then they’re the company you want to do business with. This is a synthetic shellac primer. The great advantage to that is the fast dry time of shellac, not allowing the stain an opportunity to soak into the primer. I've used Zinsser’s products for years to block stains, with excellent results. While many people use it for merely spot stain blocking, it is an excellent primer for everything else as well. Excellent adhesion to almost all surfaces ensures long life and it is even capable of blocking odors as well. Cleans up with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).

Kilz 2 Latex Stainblocking Primer

Kilz produces a wide variety of specialty primers. Like Zinsser, some of their primers are shellac based, providing the same stain hiding capability. This one is a latex primer, which has been created to provide the same advantages as a shellac primer, with the convenience of water cleanup. While I can’t say that it quite matches shellac for difficult stains, it still does an excellent job in most cases. Although latex based, it can be top-coated with either latex or oil-based paints.

Pratt & Lambert Multi-Purpose Waterborne Primer

Pratt & Lambert Multi-Purpose Waterborne Primer

This primer, from Pratt & Lambert, is specifically formulated so that it can be used both indoors and outdoors. It bonds extremely well to almost any substrate, including such difficult surfaces as masonry, aluminum and PVC pipe. Please note that some of these surfaces may require special surface preparation for optimum sealing. Another difficult surface that it works extremely well for is repainting over existing high-gloss paint. It is a high pigment, stain hiding primer, which eliminates the need for a separate stain blocker. Fast drying, it can be top-coated with both latex and alkyd paints.

Benjamin Moore Fresh Start Multi-Purpose Primer

For a normal primer, which isn’t specifically intended to be a stain hider, Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start is an excellent product. This primer is formulated to provide a surface for painting, as if you were working on new construction. That’s great when you’re trying to repaint something, especially if there are problems with the previous paint. It is a low VOC product, which dries quickly. Fresh Start provides excellent adhesion and sealing in an easy to apply product.

Behr Premium Concrete & Masonry Bonding Primer No. 880

Behr Premium Concrete & Masonry Bonding Primer No. 880

For my last pick, I've changed directions slightly. This is a specialty primer, designed for use on masonry and concrete. These surfaces are highly porous, absorbing paint just about as fast as you can apply it. Without the right sort of primer, it’s easy to waste a lot of paint sealing off the surface of masonry surfaces. The other problem is gaining good adhesion, as some masonry surfaces are fairly crumbly (like mortar). This primer also acts as a bonder, helping to strengthen these surfaces and help them to last longer. Moisture in the masonry can wreck havoc with paint as well, causing it to peel. With this primer, your paint will have optimum adhesion to these difficult surfaces.

Rich the Tool Man

Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.

While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.

In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.

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