best wood primer

Best Wood Primer – How to Choose the Best Primer for Wood

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Exterior wood primer and all primers are a type of sealant and are painted onto wood to help seal the wood and provide a base onto which paint can be applied. When a primer is left out of the equation when painting wood, the results are less than satisfactory when it comes to appearance. The paint will also not adhere properly to the wood surface and can cause major problems, so wood primer is a vital step when painting wood.



Taking a Closer Look at Exterior Wood Primer

The best wood primer is the coat that forms the basis when applying paint to the wood. The primer is there to protect the wood and allows the paint to stick to it and, therefore, the paint will last much longer on the wood surface.

There are different kinds of primers and each provides unique properties that can be used on a specific project. When it comes to the best exterior wood primer this would be the oil-based option, which can be applied to surfaces both outside and inside. The primer will seal the wood and stops the acidic tannins found in wood from leaching out. Woods with particularly high levels of tannin include cedars and redwoods. Following are a few varieties of exterior wood primer.

best wood primer


Porous Sealing Best Exterior Primer

Wood is porous, meaning there are extremely small spaces between the wood fibers. These need to be filled so that the surface becomes smooth. This type of primer will soak into the wood and fill these spaces, sealing the wood and making the surface smooth and ready for a topcoat.


Adhesion Primer

This is the best exterior primer that will bond to the wood surface and prepares it for the coat of paint that comes on next.


Sanding Primers

This is the best exterior primer for old wood, for example, on windowsills. The primer will glue the wood fibers together and provides a nice smooth surface. Apply an initial coat of CPES (Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer), you can then add epoxy filler over this layer on older wood. You can sand wood that has been given a coat of CPES the next day. For the best exterior primer for old wood, you can add a final Epoxy sealer coat for added protection. This final coat will be the base onto which the paint can be applied.


Moisture-Diffusion Barrier Primer

The best wood primer, in this case, is the CPES (Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer). This type of primer will seal the wood against water; however, moisture will still be allowed to evaporate. Water will, therefore, not collect under the coat and this helps to prevent rot from developing.


Multi-Purpose Primer

The CPES (Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer) works on a variety of levels. This best exterior wood primer will seal the wood, will stop any staining or bleeding, and offers the perfect base onto which paint can be applied.

best exterior wood primer



Best Wood Primer vs. Paint

Primers are made up of resins, which then seal the wood surface and offers a coat that paint will stick to. Paint is made of resin pigments that give the paint its color. So, what benefits do primers offer?

  • The best wood primer improves the value of the paint and will help prevent things like peeling or cracking
  • The primer will counteract the wood color and will enhance the paint color
  • The paint will last much longer with a primer
  • Most of the best exterior primer products dry fast
  • The final finish will be smoother and more even



Best Exterior Primer

There are quite a few brands and products available, which can make it challenging to know which one is the best wood primer. To make it a bit easier for you, we have chosen three of the best wood primers for you. Each one has a lot to offer but we have also listed some of the cons for each product.


Premium Best Wood Primer: KILZ Adhesion Interior/Exterior Primer

The KILZ Primer/Sealer has some of the best exterior primer paint reviews. The latex-based primer can be used on most surfaces, especially those where painting is difficult. Excellent to use on wood surfaces, as it prevents the wood from filtering into the paint and will give you a superb finish.

KILZ Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer/Sealer
  • A high adhesion primer to increase painting possibilities
  • Suitable for most interior and exterior surfaces
  • Dries to touch within 30 minutes
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It is considered the best wood primer because you can use it on surfaces outside as well as inside. The primer is also compatible with the majority of topcoats. The consistency is watery, yet smooth and blends well under a layer of paint. As with all primers, your wood surface should be well prepared beforehand.


  • Blends nicely beneath a coat of paint
  • Affordable
  • Dries fast
  • Application on surfaces both inside and outside
  • Can be used on surfaces that are difficult to paint


  • Not recommended for application with a sprayer

The application can be with a brush, roller, or sprayer. The primer will dry fast in about 30 minutes and recoating the surface can be done within 60 minutes.


Most Affordable Wood Primer: RUST-OLEUM Zinsser Bull’s Eye Primer

Rust-Oleum is a popular brand and has the best exterior wood primer. This primer has the best exterior primer paint reviews and works as a sealant in addition to being a primer. The water-based formula can be used on different types of surfaces and has amazing adhesion properties which work well with latex and oil-based paints.

RUST-OLEUM Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer
  • A water-based interior and exterior primer
  • Contains a rust inhibitor for metal surfaces
  • Sticks to most surfaces without requiring sanding
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This primer is resistant to rust, mildew, and fungus and will stop the wood tannins from bleeding into the paint. What is great is that, in most cases, you do not need to sand the wood surface before applying.


  • Can be applied to all types of surfaces including concrete
  • The paint should be able to cover about 100 square feet
  • Helps prevent blistering
  • Resistant to mildew and mold
  • Easy to clean using soapy water
  • Excellent adhesive properties
  • Can be applied to both inside and outside surfaces


  • You will need to apply several layers

You can also purchase the product in an easy-to-use aerosol can, which is great for those difficult to paint surfaces.


Best Wood Primer: KILZ Stain Blocking Latex Primer/Sealer

The KILZ Premium Stain Blocking Primer is the best primer for bare wood, as it fills cracks and will provide a beautiful smooth finish. The primer has excellent adhesion qualities and is the perfect base for the application of paint. Always prepare your surfaces before applying primer. This product can be used beneath or over oil-based or latex paints.

KILZ Premium Interior/Exterior Primer/Sealer
  • Powerful stain-blocking water-based formula
  • The perfect consistency for a smooth and level finish
  • Excellent adhesion for most surfaces
View on Amazon

One of the benefits of this primer is that it can hide medium to light stains, surface imperfections, and older colors. You can also use it outside or inside and is perfect for surfaces in humid areas, like the laundry or bathroom.

When using this best primer for bare wood there is hardly any odor and there are no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). The product is safe to work with and easy to keep clean.


  • Has extremely little to no odor and no VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds)
  • Resistant to mildew and mold
  • Can cover a larger area
  • Is an ideal surface base for paint
  • Can apply on indoor and outdoor surfaces
  • Superior adhesive qualities
  • Perfect for smoothing rough surfaces


  • Cannot be applied to darker and heavier stains

This is a quality primer that can be used for enhancing the wood finish while maintaining a high level of adhesion


How to Choose the Correct Wood Primer

The different types of wood primers are best used on specific types of wood. When choosing the correct wood primer, knowing what type of wood you are dealing with is essential. You will also have to look at wood quality and where the wood is situated. The type of primer you choose will also depend on the environment, meaning is the wood surface indoors or outside?

Here are some guidelines when buying the best wood primer:

  • Oil-based primers are excellent at stopping odors from smoke or water, but when working with them, they tend to give off hazardous odors
  • Oil-based primers offer great durability and will hide any imperfections, eliminating the need for sanding
  • An oil-based primer will adhere to an old paint layer and provides a nice smooth coat for a fresh layer of paint
  • The oil-based primers take longer to dry than shellac or water-based paints, however, these are less durable and can crack easily
  • Woods that stain easily, like cedar, need an oil-based stain blocker that stops any bleeding into the paint. Any topcoat should also be oil-based
  • Acrylic or latex topcoat can also be used over either water or oil-based primer
  • Water-based primers have hardly any odor and zero Volatile Organic Compounds
  • The water-based primers are great for preventing stains from things like crayon, ink, and grease. For the best finish, tint the primer to the closest color your paint is
  • In places where there is moisture like the bathroom, primers that are sealants are the best choice to prevent mildew. If there is already mildew or mold, make sure to remove this first with a bleach product
  • Wood primer can cover wood imperfections nicely and will give a smooth surface, which is then ready for a coat of paint
  • You can use a primer that is tinted, gray being the best option as this can cover older paint colors and imperfections
  • Outdoor wood surfaces need a primer to help the wood surface last longer
  • For outdoor wood surfaces, you can use an acrylic-based primer, apply it to a clean surface that is not a gloss finish
  • Purchase your paint and primer from the same manufacturer, as these are formulated to work better together
  • A standard primer or water-based primer works best on drywalls; however, a primer-sealer is even better and comes in water-based or oil-based forms

exterior wood primer



Applying Only Paint vs. Primer and Paint

Most of the time the best option is to apply a primer and then the paint. The primer provides a protective layer and seals the wood. Primer is also the perfect base for paint, as the paint can now adhere to the primer and it can stop stains from damaging the wood. Paint is there to mainly provide color and shine but also protection.

You might come across a wood surface that already has an old coat of paint, if it is not peeling or cracked, you can use a paint that is also a primer to paint over the surface. However, in most instances, the primer and paint are applied separately, first the primer and then the paint.

When it comes to smooth surfaces like tiles or glass, a primer that can bond to the surface is necessary so that the paint can adhere to it. Paint alone will not adhere to the smooth surface properly. In this case, using a combination primer-paint will not work, as it does not have the properties needed for the paint to adhere to it properly.

The stain-blocking primers are excellent for preventing any stains from occurring. Again, a combination of primer-paint will not prevent stains from bleeding to the surface.

best primer for bare wood



Frequently Asked Questions


Where Can the Best Wood Primer be Purchased?

Purchasing exterior wood primer is easy, simply go to your local hardware store or go online at Amazon in search of primer products.


Is an Undercoat and Primer the Same?

It is better to avoid using these words together, as an undercoat can be a primer but not all undercoats are primers.


Is a Watered-Down Paint as Effective as a Primer?

No, using the best wood primer is more effective. You can use watered-down paint as your base coat; however, this will not provide the same benefits and you will eventually have problems.


Is a Primer Necessary?

It is highly recommended you use a primer before painting, as it offers many benefits and darker wood will eventually appear through the paint.


Does Primer Take Long to Dry?

Many wood primers will take around four hours to dry, however, water-based primers dry more quickly at around one to two hours.


Can You Use Any Paint and Primer Together?

Not usually, as there is a connection with the type of paint and primer used and should preferably be purchased from the same manufacturer.


Will White Paint Act as a Good Primer?

You need to apply a proper primer no matter what color the paint is. The primer seals the wood and provides a surface for the paint to adhere to.


How Can I Apply the Primer?

You can apply primer using a brush, a synthetic brush being the best option.


Is it Easy to Apply a Primer?

You need to prepare the wood surface by cleaning it and making sure all dirt and dust are gone. Next, apply the primer and leave to dry. If there seems to be some unevenness, you can sand this down after the primer has dried to create a smoother surface.


When Applying Deck Primer, How Many Coats Should I Do?

You can have fewer coats the thicker the primer is. However, two coats of primer are the general amount. When it comes to deck primer or outdoor surfaces more coats are needed. Also, the type of wood surface plays a role in how many coats you need.


Can You Use a Primer as a Finishing Coat?

If you use a primer as a finishing coat, it will not work as it will start to deteriorate.


Is Primer Necessary Over Varnished Wood Surfaces Before Painting?

You can apply an oil-based primer over a varnished surface before painting, but it is not necessary.


Using a primer before painting can provide many benefits, and will leave you with a stronger, longer-lasting paint bond. The guide above should have prepared you with everything you need to know about choosing the best primer for your needs.


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