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Paint Primer: When You Need it, when you can Skip it

posted by Hannah October 24, 2018 0 comments

It’s time to tackle that home painting project you’ve been meaning to get around to. Even after you’ve spent hours debating over the right shade, tone and depth for your project, there’s still one more vexing question to answer: to prime or not to prime?

What if skipping the primer means a botched paint job? Or what if you dropped extra cash and time on primer, only to discover it was pretty much a wasted step? Luckily, there are ways to find out these answers prior to scratching your head in the middle of a paint aisle. Here are the main guidelines to determining whether primer is necessary, and when it is ok to skip it.

What is Paint Primer?

Primer serves three main functions. First, it blocks the potential bleeding through caused by stains. Second, it provides a one-coat coverage for the new paint. Third, it improves paint adhesion. This is the most important since it helps to greatly reduce blisters and peeling. With that said, applying primer may seem onerous since you’re doing double the work. However, it’s an important step for certain projects. But not all paint jobs call for primer. It depends on several factors. From the surface you’re painting to the depth of the shade you are planning to cover.

When You Need to Prime: Surface Is Bare Wood or New Drywall

This is probably the biggest reason you would need primer. Why? To put it simply, new surfaces are very porous and will soak up your paint if you don’t prime. If you are looking at brand new drywall, there are two contributing factors: the bare facing paper on drywall and the dried joint compound (or mud) that covers the seams. Dealing with bare wood? This is even more porous and always requires primer. Either way, primer doesn’t just fill in the pores, but also cuts down on the number of coats ultimately needed.

When You Need to Prime: Drywall Surface Is Skim-Coated

A skim coat is another type of surface, commonly found on brand new drywall, that requires primer. This thin swipe of drywall compound lays over bare drywall and is considered a level 5, or highest possible grade, finish. Because of this, it’s not something you encounter often. However, just like bare drywall or wood, it is highly porous. Thus, it requires primer. Also, wall texture is a material baring many similarities to drywall skim and requires priming.

When You Need to Prime: Previous Glossy Coat

When you are dealing with a glossy base coat, keep in mind it doesn’t hold paint well. Most of the time, if you try to paint over a high-gloss surface, it won’t stick and tends to slide. Luckily, sanding down the area and two coats of primer will help the color coat stick. Even if you decide to not sand down the surface, using a primer typically will help the coats stick. This also applies to walls formally occupied with wallpaper. Primer can help alleviate any additional stickiness or residue left over from what was originally used to hang the wallpaper.

When You May Need to Prime: Going from Dark to Light Colors

If you plan on simply covering up darker colors with expensive, light-colored paint, prepare for defeat. Primer not only covers color and stains but adds a layer to allow the top coat of paint for better vibrancy. Consider first treating the area with two to three layers of white primer, depending on how drastic the color change. Most paint retailers possess the ability to tint your primer to best fit the color your trying to achieve.

When You May Not Need to Prime: Walls Are Clean

If you are working with a clean area that doesn’t fall into the categories listed above, you might not need to prime. To properly clean your wall, experts recommended using trisodium phosphate (TSP). Mix this inexpensive white powder with water to produce a mild cleaning solution. Use the solution to wipe down the walls with a soft cloth. Or, you can attach a clean brush to the end of a shop vacuum to clean off debris such as dust and cobwebs.

When You May Not Need to Prime: New Coat Matches Previous Coat Color

As mentioned above, primer provides a base for your new color to brilliantly appear. This is most handy for situations where you are wanting to paint over a darker shade. However, if you are just looking to brush up your wall with nearly the same color (think shades of white), the need for primer is reduced.

When You May Not Need to Prime: You Are Using Paint/Primer Combo

If your walls are clean and in good condition, consider investing in self-priming paint. This type of paint, in its simplest terms, is a thicker version of regular paint. It builds up higher, forming a thicker coat than regular paint. Keep in mind self-priming paint is not the miracle cure-all. Most experts warn laying down thicker paint makes for a weaker coat that takes much longer to dry.

When You May Not Need to Prime: Priming Prevents Painting

This one really narrows down to basic psychology. Are you putting off painting because you don’t want to deal with the prep work? Yes, you do want to make sure, for obvious reasons, that the wall is clean. But most likely, painted surfaces always offer a much more vibrant, fresh appearance than no paint at all.

In Summary: When in Doubt, Prime it Out

If you are still up in the air about whether to prime, just go ahead and do it. There isn’t any harm in going the extra step to make sure your walls offer the most pristine paint job. That is, your paint job is no better than the extra preparation that goes into it. Not to mention it won’t cause harm to your walls, and you’ll get in a few practice sessions with your paint brush.

Are you a homeowner who has any additional painting tips and/or tricks? We would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section below.

Interested in learning about the benefits of a brand new paint job that comes with every D.R. Horton home? Reach out today to one of our customer care specialists to learn more! 

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