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What’s the point of priming?

Most do-it-yourselfers get very enthusiastic when it comes to interior painting.  But priming the surface beforehand?  Not so much.

Yet applying a coat of primer is key to getting the best-looking, longest lasting paint job, according to those in the know.  Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute, explains why:

“From a practical standpoint, a primer can help the paint adhere better, reducing chances that it will peel or blister. And it can make the painted surface look much more attractive by imparting more uniform color and sheen.”

Virtually any primer will provide those basic benefits, but so-called “specialty primers” can do a lot more.  Which one to use depends upon the surface you’re painting, where it is located, and the condition of your home.

Stain-blocking primers are a good example:  They prevent grease, rust, smoke residue, and other stains from seeping through the finished paint job and ruining its appearance.  If your walls or woodwork show signs of these contaminants, you’ll want to be sure to apply a stain-blocker before starting to paint.

Vapor barrier primers, which are typically used in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms, do something entirely different.  They help keep moisture from passing through the walls to the exterior, where it could damage both the wall insulation and the house paint outside.  The moisture barrier they form also helps maintain a comfortable level of humidity inside the home during the colder months.

Bonding primers are designed for use on very slick or glossy materials such as glass, tile, laminates, or vinyl-coating paneling.  When painting these surfaces, a bonding primer is essential to help the paint adhere well.

Aptly named kitchen and bath primers are made specifically for use in those rooms. What makes these coatings special?  They contain both biocides and stain-blockers to help control mildew and mold growth in damp areas.

There are also primers that give paint a uniform appearance when applied over drywall and joint compound, and latex enamel under-coaters, which give glossier paints more uniform sheen.  The list goes on and on.

If your next interior painting project involves some challenges, then by all means discuss things with a knowledgeable salesperson and ask which specialty primer to use.  But if you’re painting a problem-free room and just want your paint to adhere better, last longer, and look more attractive, either apply a standard primer beforehand. . .or better yet, consider using one of the new 100% acrylic “paint and primer” products that function as both primer and paint.

By using one of these hybrid products, you’ll get the benefits of a primer and the great finished look of a top quality paint, but you’ll need to apply fewer coats. That will save you lots of time and effort – and maybe even some money – when compared to the traditional way of doing things.

To learn more about primers, paints, and new paint-and-primer products, visit blog.paint or