The Importance of Primer When Painting

With the variety of paints available today to reduce labour costs and make painting and decorating easier,  it’s very easy to be drawn in by all the hype; and leave out one of the most important stages of the painting process – priming.

Primer is a key part to any professional painter and decorators work, it is defined as a preparatory coating which should be put onto surfaces prior to any painting activity. The benefits of this can be long-lasting, better protected and stronger adhesion between painted surfaces.

What does a primer do

Priming provides a strong base surface that your undercoat or topcoat will bond to, but there are a host of other benefits. There is hardly a surface that won’t benefit from being primed. Existing paintwork that has been rubbed down, new timber surfaces, plaster, masonry, drywall and metals, all benefit from being correctly prepared. It is also popularly used when painting porous materials such as concrete and wood.  Priming provides a sticky surface, which ensures following coats bind to it. It also helps cover wood grain and knots, hides joints, stops previous colours bleeding through, and reduces the need for additional finishing coats.

A key benefit of using a primer when painting is that if the material you are painting is not water resistant, or it is going to be exposed to the elements. It therefore acts as a seal and aids the prevention of mold, this is particularly prevalent in newly constructed buildings.

Also primers can aid you in being able to paint surfaces that are dirty and unable to be cleaned as it provides a base for new paint to go on. Primer can be used to create a light surfaces over existing dark colours without having to go through a more difficult process. You can get primers that are of a similar colour to the final colour you want to use on the top.

Time scale: As a general rule of thumb, after the primer has been applied it can be applied as quickly as 24 hours after application (depending on the brand - best to always check the label). Most primers can last between 24 hours - 2 weeks. If you do decide to this time frame then the quality of the final finish may be compromised.  

Water Based Priming

For best results, seek out a water based product which uses acrylic resins for the base. This makes the primer more pleasant to use than a solvent based primer. The advantages that a water based primer has is that they are quick drying, have a brillant opacity and have a lower VOC levels within the paint so can be less harmful. Cleaning your equipment will be easier with water based primer as brushes can be cleaned with water.

Water based primer is excellent for use on bare drywall and new timber, they are also great where wood damage has been filled, and depending on product formulation, excellent on brickwork, rendering, plaster and metal, where they maintain a malleable, crack resistant layer, with good adhesive properties for subsequent painting.

Oil Based Priming

Less frequently applied than water-based products, oil-based priming is more often used on surfaces likely to be in frequent contact with hands and fingers such as doors, wooden sash windows, stairway banisters, and cupboards; or heavily stained or marked woods. A big benefit of oil based primer is that they are great for getting rid of stains and preventing them in the future. Oil based primer can prevent stains such as ink, nicotine and water.   

Oil based primers work with oil based paints, which makes them very versatile and can be applied to a variety of surfaces such as wood, steel, metal, interior walls, exterior walls and surfaces that are already painted.

When using an oil based primer and paints it is good to keep in mind, that they can be slow drying and also can release high amounts of volatile organic compounds. The VOCs can in some cases be harmful to people when they are exposed for a long period of time and in a high concentration. Plus when cleaning your painting equipment you will require different solvents.

Save Time and Money

You wouldn’t begin to build a house without ensuring it had adequate foundations. Why do it with your next paint job? No matter what the trade, time spent on preparation pays dividends in the long term. With all surfaces gently rubbed down, the extra thickness of your priming coat will fill those microscopic pores, cover up those hard to remove blemishes, and provide a surface just waiting to bond with your next coat of paint. Using a primer of a similar hue to your undercoat and topcoat, will ensure an even, more consistent colour finish across the completed product.

Although there are instances where all-in-one prime and paint products may be adequate for certain jobs, never lose sight of the benefits obtained by using a good quality, formulated for purpose primer, and begin to increase your reputation for long term, high quality painting and decorating.

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