A lot of people enjoy painting – it’s an opportunity to make something look new and bright and fresh, to change the colors, and to hide old blemishes. However, the preparation necessary before you can paint is often frustrating and slow, and people frequently want to rush through these stages so they can get to the painting.
If that’s the case for you, you may be wondering how important it is to prime the surface first. Priming can add a good few hours to the project, since it will need time to dry. It is also an extra expense, so it’s important to weigh up whether it’s necessary, or whether you can skip this step.
Do you need to use primer? In many cases, priming is important and should not be skipped. For example, rough and slick surfaces both need to be primed to improve the adhesion. However, there are situations in which you won’t need primer, such as if the surface is already in excellent condition and will take the paint well, or if the paint you’re using already contains a primer.
When Do You Need Primer?
Often, primer is a critical part of getting your project to look great. If you are dealing with a rough wall, the primer will smooth it out so your paint appears silky. If you’re dealing with a slick surface, like metal or plastic, the primer will provide a key for your paint to stick to. Humid rooms will also benefit from being primed.
There are quite a lot of situations in which using primer really is preferable, or even necessary, so let’s start by exploring these.
Using a primer is generally key if you’ve got a rough surface of any sort. If you’ve stripped a wall or it isn’t particularly smooth, a primer will help make it level. If you’ve got unfinished wood or another rough item, primer is your friend.
Primer will further help if you are dealing with a new wall, or a wall that is flaky or powdery. New walls will soak up enormous amounts of paint before they start to take the color properly – so adding just one layer of primer to provide a barrier is key to keeping your project costs low.
A flaky or powdery wall will leave flecks in your paint, and these look ugly, especially if you’re using a gloss or satin paint. Primer seals the wall and prevents these flecks from appearing, giving you a better overall appearance.
Primer is also useful if you want to make your wall lighter, because primers are usually light, and will better block out the color beneath. To change a wall from dark to light, you’ll almost always want to apply primer.
Next, primer is important in rooms that are humid, such as bathrooms or wet rooms. The primer will provide a layer of protection between the paint and the wall, preventing it from getting too damp and minimizing the issues that might otherwise arise. Any room that has damp problems can benefit from being primed.
Finally, if you’re priming something like metal or plastic, you will need a specialized primer for that surface. These tend to be too slick for paint to cling to easily. A specialized primer will create a grip on the surface, and then provide the paint with a layer to cling to. Without primer, you may find that your paint otherwise peels off easily and doesn’t last.
When Do Not You Need Primer?
There are situations in which priming the surface is a waste of time and energy. If, for example, you are painting a smooth wall with the same color paint (essentially touching it up), there’s no need to spend time priming the wall first. Note that the wall must be in good condition.
If your wall is in poor condition, it’s a good idea to prime it first, even if you are using the same or similarly colored paint. Priming it will ensure that your paint dries smooth and looks good. However, if your wall is already smooth and clean, you can paint it directly, provided the color change isn’t drastic.
You should also be able to skip the primer if you’re using a paint that contains primer. More and more of these are becoming available, because it makes the painting job so much faster and easier. You can shave hours off a project by selecting a paint that already contains primer.
There aren’t many situations in which you don’t need any primer, however, so don’t skip the priming step if your paint doesn’t contain it. You should be particularly vigilant about priming if you are using a paint such as acrylic, which doesn’t do well on non-porous surfaces if they haven’t been primed.
What If You Don’t Use Primer?
In many cases, your paintwork will still look good, even when you don’t use a primer. It just won’t look as good, and may not last as long. A lot of DIY enthusiasts decide that they are happy with this payoff because they will save time (and sometimes money) by not priming a wall first.
You certainly do not have to prime all your walls before you put paint on them, but you should make a conscious decision. If you want the best possible appearance and quality, as well as longevity, it makes sense to put the time into priming the surface before you begin painting it.
However, if you are happy with a good overall look and you want to get through the project more quickly, not priming can make sense. You have to assess how much time you have, the materials you’ve got, and the surface you’re painting, and then make a decision that offers the best outcome for you.
In general, using a primer will improve the quality of your paintwork and make it last better. It can be necessary in some situations, such as on unfinished walls. However, in other situations, you can skip the primer without any major detriment. A self-priming paint may also be a good solution.