The Inspector

By NPI, Inc.

NPI Marketing Team
NPI Marketing Team


What is Paint Primer and Do I Need It?

 September 14, 2018 |  DIY |  painting

When it comes to painting rooms in your home, you want the process to be as fast and easy as possible, which is why a lot of people tend to skip primer. Paint primer is actually one of the most important steps in getting a professional-looking job with less time and effort. We’ll break down what paint primer is, what’s it’s for, when you want to use it and when it’s okay to skip it.  

What is Paint Primer, Anyway?
Paint primer is just what it sounds like—it’s a white-colored base coat that you apply first, before you start in with your expensive latex paint. It “primes” the surface you’re painting, so you get better adherence and coverage in fewer coats. Even though it adds an extra step, paint primer is a great time-saver in most instances and actually makes your paint job more durable, long-lasting and less likely to chip.

When You Should Use Paint Primer
There are some jobs where paint primer can be optional, but most of the time it’s a good idea. Before you break out the brushes and rollers, see if your job is on this list.

  1. When you’re painting a new surface. Bare wood and new drywall are extremely porous surfaces, so if you start in painting without a coat of primer, your whole first coat of expensive latex paint will be absorbed into the surface instead of sitting on top where you want it.
  2. You’re trying to paint over a dark surface. Paint primer hits the reset button on your walls, neutralizing the color so the darker surface won’t show through the lighter shade you’re putting on top. If you skip primer, it’ll take more coats to completely cover the dark surface underneath, which is just wasted paint and effort.
  3. You’re dealing with wallpaper. Whether you decide to strip the wallpaper first or just paint right over it, primer will help prep the surface so your paint applies smoothly.
  4. You’re going to use latex paint over oil-based. Oil-based paints leave a smooth, glossy finish, which latex paint doesn’t adhere well to. A coat of primer will give latex paint something to stick to as you apply it.
  5. Your walls have any stains, mildew or water damage. Sometimes your walls aren’t perfectly clean, and that’s okay. If you have water damage or mildew stains, a primer like KILZ will help seal and conceal these areas before your top coat goes on.

When It’s Okay to Skip Paint Primer

  1. Your walls are in decent shape. If your walls are clean and you’re not dealing with raw surfaces like fresh wood or drywall, you may be all right skipping the primer.
  2. Your new paint just about matches the old color. If the color you’re covering isn’t likely to show through after a couple of coats of the new paint, you can probably get away without using paint primer.
  3. The paint you’re using is two-in-one and includes primer. Cans of paint and primer in one are getting more and more common, and they can be fine to use depending on the formulation. However, it’s always a better idea to go with primer and paint in separate steps. Why? Paint plus primer formulas are generally thicker and leave heavier coats, which end up being less durable.


Call National Property Inspections Today
Your local National Property Inspections inspector has the professional training and experience to help assess the condition of your home’s structure and major systems. Give them a call today to schedule your pre-listing or homebuyer’s inspection.

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