Priming before painting isn’t always a definite yes or no and given that priming is extra work, you want to be sure that it’s totally necessary.
For some, the very idea of having to prime can be the biggest hurdle to getting started but keep in mind that skipping out on the primer can mean having to do more painting either in the moment or in the future. For that reason, you can benefit from understanding the very purposes of the primer in the first place.
When you are priming, as it’s aptly named, you are essentially preparing your walls for the incoming paint by creating “prime” conditions.
Specifically, you are sealing the pores and lessening the absorbency of the wall itself so the paint sticks to the wall rather than sinks into it, which will quite likely reduce the number of required coats as well. You are also covering imperfections, neutralizing the surface, and blocking out stains and odors.
If priming is preventing you from getting started, know that putting on a layer of primer can ultimately reduce the total amount of work that you’ll need to do.
When to Prime
With the above information in mind, priming should be applied in all of the following scenarios.
New, Unpainted Drywall or Wood
This one is very important because it can save you in the long run. New materials, especially drywall and wood, are extremely absorbent, meaning that if you didn’t prime the surface, that first coat of paint is probably going to disappear right into the wall. Not only does this mean more coats of paint but it may also affect the outcome of the color.
Transitioning from Dark to Light
If you are transitioning from a dark brown to a light green, for example, you will want to prime the wall before you get started. Completely covering the dark color will be entirely too difficult and you will wind up spending a considerable amount of time painting.
Covering a Glossy Paint
If the previous coat of paint looks glossy, your new paint, regardless of color, won’t stick very well but priming will give your paint a new, better surface to stick to. For even better results, you would benefit from lightly sanding the surface before priming.
Covering Patches and Other Imperfections
Whether the wall has been repaired in the past or has noticeable stains or odors, priming the wall seals over all of the imperfections, blocks out odors, and allows the applied paint to stick better without any weak spots or spots that require more coats.
When You Can Skip the Primer
If priming is the only thing stopping you from getting started, then you may be better off just skipping it. You may also get away with skipping the primer if your walls are sanded and freshly cleaned, the intended paint color is similar to the previous one, or if you are using a two-in-one paint that already contains the primer. If that’s the case, make sure that you are using a high-quality brand.