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House Painting: To Prime or Not to Prime?

calander May 6 , 2020 user-icon Nash Painting

Should You Prime Your House?

For DIY house painters, the subject of priming can cause a lot of confusion. Some professional local painters might tell you to use primer in one scenario but hold off in others, and they might not always do the best job explaining why. So, to prime or not to prime? That is the question -- and also the topic of today’s blog. Let’s break down what primer does in the first place, and which scenarios may or may not call for its use.

Why Prime?

Primer plays an important role in both interior and exterior painting projects. This resin-based material acts as the initial coating of a paint job, effectively sealing the underlying surface so that other materials (including paint itself) cannot penetrate or soak into the underlying material. This allows the ensuing coats of paint to properly adhere to the primer, which has created a smooth, non-porous buffer between the material and paint. Put simply, then, primer plays the role of middle-man, protecting the surface and helping the paint go on evenly and stick around for a long time.

When to Prime

Now that you understand the importance of primer, using it probably seems like a no-brainer. Indeed, applying primer prior to painting is usually a good idea, but it’s especially crucial in certain situations. Let’s break down when you should absolutely prime.

Coating New, Bare Surfaces

Brand new surfaces should always be coated with primer before being painted. This is because most bare surfaces feature pores and/or numerous imperfections that will result in uneven paint coverage and poor adhesion. By priming the surface ahead of time, the paint will have a smooth, receptive plane on which to rest.

After Removing Old Paint

If you’re, say, planning on repainting your house exterior after years and years of putting it off, you might soon realize that the previous paint job is falling apart -- literally. Painting directly over an old paint job that’s peeling away won’t get you very far. The new paint will simply fall away before long, too. So, it’s important that you remove any loose paint before painting. But before you even paint, consider that by getting rid of the previous paint job, you’ll be left with a bare (or mostly bare) surface once more. Therefore, you’ll want to apply a coat of primer before painting.

To Aid in Color Coverage

You might also use a primer for aesthetic reasons. For instance, if you’re using a lighter color to paint over a darker one, tinted primer (that’s the same color as your paint) can help you more easily cover up the previous tone and emphasize the new, lighter one. The old, darker paint won’t bleed through the primer, and the new, lighter paint won’t soak through.

When Priming May Not Be Necessary

It might seem like you should always use primer. However, keep in mind that priming before painting prolongs the project and costs additional resources. So, if there’s ever a time where you don’t need to prime, you might be better off skipping this step. Here’s when you might not need to prime.

The Previous Coat Still Holds Up

Let’s say you’re planning on painting over a previous coat of exterior house paint. In the earlier example, the old coat was chipping away and needed to be removed. But if the previous paint job is instead still sticking to the surface, it’s usually fine to paint directly over it as opposed to applying primer on top of it and/or removing it and then priming the surface. In other words, the old paint already acts as a secure, sealed surface to paint over. Of course, you’ll still want to clean and lightly sand the surface before coating it with new paint.

Using a Paint-Primer Combo

Today, most paint manufacturers offer products that feature primer and paint in a single concoction. These self-priming paints eliminate the need to separately prime and paint. However, not all of these products are created equal. If you cut corners, your paint-primer combo might not deliver the long-lasting results you’re looking for. So, go with a reliable brand and product.

To Prime or Not to Prime: The Verdict?

When it comes to residential exterior painting and interior painting, it’s usually a good idea to prime before painting, especially if you’re coating a new surface, a previously-painted surface that’s falling apart, and/or need an extra boost in terms of color coverage. But if you’re just touching up an already-coated surface that’s in decent shape, you can save some time and money by putting the primer down and/or using a self-priming paint instead.

At Nash Painting, we always know when, and when not to, prime before painting, and we can help you make the right call, too. To learn more about us, our services, and our values, call us at 615-829-6858 today!