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5 Tips for Priming Any Surface

By The Ugly Duckling House on Apr 02, 2012
Priming a piece of furniture can be a little confusing.  What primer should you use?  Does it look like a coat of paint?  What types go with which surfaces?

As you probably read on my About page, this blog is not HGTV, and I'm no expert.  But over the last two years of blogging (speaking of which, yesterday was my 2nd blogiversary, no April Fools!) and countless projects in apartments prior, I've come up with a few tips that are worth sharing:

1.  Yes, you (probably) need primer.  Painting a glossy surface?  Going from dark to light (or vice versa)?  Painting anything other than a wall or ceiling?  Painting bare wood?  Then yes, you probably need primer.  There are some exceptions, and you can even use paint and primer combo style paints, but more than likely, you'll need something for your paint to stick to.  The primer will stick to the surface, and the paint will stick to the primer.  Skip this step, and you risk the paint chipping and peeling sooner or later.

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2.  Sanding is the primer's partner.  Whenever you plan to prime a surface, you should also plan to sand the beginning surface and also between coats.  It helps the primer and subsequential coats of paint stick all the better.  Exceptions exist of course, like using spray paint (where the between-coat steps can be skipped, but the initial surface should still be scuffed), but sanding helps to create a rougher surface for paint to adhere to and smooth out brush strokes, which can be an issue with oil-based primer (since it dries so fast).

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3.  Not all primers are created equal.  I've had mixed results from using paints that have primer mixed in.  They are called a variety of things nowadays:  self-priming, duo, ultra, -in-one, etc.  The combo is great for painting a wall between two contrasting colors (like when I went from pale blue to navy in the study-o).  But for some projects, I still use the primer and paint separately.  Tinted primer can help you save a few bucks because it's cheaper than a gallon of paint and helps establish the color on the wall.  I always use oil-based primer for water stains and glossy surfaces.  Cover Stain Zinsser primer is the one I like most, but the VOC requires good ventilation to use it.  For water-based primers (like priming molding or bare wood), I prefer Bull's Eye 1-2-3 (pictured above).

4.  Canned for convenience.  I really like spray primer for small projects (like painting my bathroom mirror).  They leave a smoother surface and get in hard-to-reach areas.  The exception to the primer rule for sprayed surfaces is if you're painting plastic.  The Krylon Fusion for Plastic sprays work very well on a clean, dry plastic surfaces - no primer.  I mention the specific brand here because other plastic sprays (like Valspar) bubble and crack in temps that Krylon still seems to work well in, and I paint a lot during hot Georgia summers.

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5.  Streaking is fine.  Especially if you bring your green hat (if you don't know the movie reference, you probably won't enjoy this blog).  But for anyone who has ever wondered, the primer step should be smooth, but it doesn't have to completely cover the surface in the same way you would want a coat of paint to.  Streaking and blotching is fine - just be sure to make the coat thin and even (no globs).

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There you have it.  My top five tips.  Got any of your own you'd like to add?  Feel free to leave yours in the comments section.

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