best exterior primer

Best Exterior Primer Paint – How to Choose the Right Outdoor Primer

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Adding a fresh coat of paint to the exterior of your home is a fantastic way to completely transform the way that it looks. However, like all things in life, not everything is created equally, and this applies to exterior primer paint too. There are a variety of factors that you will need to take into account before spending your hard-earned cash on a few gallons of exterior primer paint, and this is where we are going to help you.



What is Exterior Primer Paint?

Exterior primer paint is essentially the foundation of any exterior paint job, and just like the foundation of your house is important, this primer is not something that you would want to overlook. This is a special paint that has been manufactured to create a seal over the material that you are painting. This means that the finish that you will get will be superior to that which has not been coated with primer. Outdoor paint primer is usually manufactured with a variety of special additives such as UV inhibitors, stain blockers, mildewcides, and so on.

If you are looking for the best outdoor paint primer, you will need to take a couple of factors into account. This includes the surface that you are painting and the condition of the surface. Hence it would not make any sense to buy exterior wood primer when you will be painting bricks. Exterior primer is the best tool for any professional painter and this is one product that you will need if you wish to get the best results when repainting your home.

best exterior oil based primer



When You Should Use Exterior Primer

Before you head out and buy exterior primer, you should know what you would be using it for. Below you will find a list of factors that require the best exterior primer to be used.

  • This should be used when you are transitioning from oil-based paint to latex paint or if you are going from a dark color to a lighter one
  • This should be used on all surfaces that have yet to receive a coat of paint
  • It should be used on old glossy paint
  • It should be used on poorly prepared surfaces, those that have been recently repaired, or on a surface that has been heavily sanded or scraped
  • The exterior primer should also be used on weathered surfaces that have become chalky



The Best Exterior Primer Paints

Finding the best exterior primer should not be a daunting task, it should be one that you could do confidently. Below you will find our list of the best exterior primer paints along with their pros and cons. This should provide you with more than enough information to get started on your next home improvement project, making it one of the best exterior paint primer reviews.

exterior wood primer


Overall Best: KILZ Premium High-Hide Interior/Exterior Primer/Sealer

If you are looking for a versatile exterior primer that can be used on a variety of outdoor surfaces, then Kilz Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer is what you would want. This primer is known for being incredibly durable and has become the first choice for professional painters and DIY warriors. This product dries quickly and contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which means that you will not need to take any precautions when using it. Kilz is a trusted brand that has been in production for over four decades and it has been refined over time to be easy to use and to maintain.

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
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  • This product contains no VOCs, this makes it easy to handle, especially for more sensitive users
  • It is mildew-resistant
  • It works with oil and latex-based paints
  • Works as a primer and a sealer
  • Provides excellent adhesion and durability
  • Suitable for indoor and outdoor use


  • A very thick formula that may result in brush marks
  • Pretty fast drying, so you may have to work quickly


Budget-Friendly: RUST-OLEUM Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer

With the current state of the economy, every cent does count and the Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer has become a favorite due to its modest price point. You can get your hands on a 31oz can for around $10, which is a steal. Another great factor to consider when buying this primer is that it can be used for interior and exterior surfaces that are made of a variety of materials such as wood, plaster, glass, concrete, metal, and tile. If you have many hard-to-reach areas in your home there is also an aerosol spray paint formula that is available.

RUST-OLEUM Zinnser Bulls Eye Primer
  • An effective primer for use on all surfaces
  • Water-based formula for interior and exterior use
  • Improves hide and coverage of deep color paints
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  • This primer works on a variety of surfaces and can be used indoors and outdoors
  • Minimal preparation is needed before you can use it
  • It is resistant to mildew and mold
  • It can be used with any topcoat
  • Water-based formula makes it safer to use
  • Good durability and value


  • It can scratch off certain surfaces
  • May require numerous coats to cover very dark colors


Best Metal Primer: RUST-OLEUM Clean Metal Brush-On Primer

If you are looking for a reliable metal primer then this is one of the best options available. This formula is corrosion and weather resistant and easily bonds to the interior and exterior surfaces. It can also be used on other materials such as concrete, wood, masonry, and so on. This one of the best exterior oil-based primer products due to how durable it is compared to other outdoor paint primer brands. If you are keen to use this primer, you will be pleased to find out how quickly it dries and it also creates a beautiful finish that can be covered with any topcoat.

RUST-OLEUM Clean Metal Brush On Primer
  • Weather and corrosion-resistant primer
  • Oil-based formula for a durable protective coating
  • Creates a flat white finish for all kinds of topcoats
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  • This primer is weather and corrosion-resistant
  • It can be used inside and outside
  • It is incredibly durable and it provides a beautiful finish
  • The flat white finish can be covered with any topcoat
  • Helps to block rust
  • A highly adhesive primer for metal


  • Not suitable for galvanized metal



Exterior Primer Paint Considerations

Like any DIY product, you will need to have a good idea of why you are buying it. There are plenty of factors that you will have to consider before heading to your local hardware store or ordering exterior primer paint online. These factors will be listed below and will make it easy for you to decide what is exactly needed.

exterior primer paint



It is no secret that not all primers will adhere to the same type of surfaces. Be sure to understand the properties of the surface you are working with, and choose a suitable primer that will adhere to it. You can find out the information on what surfaces the primer will stick to on the specific product. Below are some different types of surfaces, with primer options that work for each one.



Even the best exterior oil based primer should not be used on drywall, instead, you should use a latex primer. This will prevent the grains from being raised and the surface looking uneven.


Bare Wood

The best wood primer can be either latex or oil-based provided that the wood has never been painted or stained. This will assist the primer in sealing the porous surface, which will ultimately prolong the lifespan of the wood. However, be advised that oil-based primers will emit VOCs, so you should take special precautions when using them.


Painted Wood

Using an exterior wood primer that is made with an oil base is best for painted wood as this would prevent it from chalking. Chalking is an erosion process that has a painted surface start to emit a chalky powder as the paint binder degrades. An oil-based primer will ensure that the surface dries into a smoother, and much denser foundation that will limit imperfections. Check out the best exterior primer paint reviews to find the perfect oil-based primer.


Stain-Prone Surfaces

A stain-blocking primer can be used on stained wood, interior walls that contain smoke and water stains, bare wood with high tannin content that is prone to bleeding, and cabinets with grease stains. These stains will be covered and will stop them from discoloring and bleeding into topcoats. It is best to select a latex stain-blocking primer if the stain is water-based.


Glossy Surfaces

For glossy surfaces, you would want to use a bonding primer as this is specifically made to stick to smoother glossy surfaces. This is perfect for materials such as tile, glass, and plastic.



A rust-resistant oil-based primer is best for metals as this will prevent rust from forming. Do not attempt to use latex-based primers as this will promote the formation of rust. Metal can be a particularly difficult surface to coat due to the possibility of rust, as well as the smoothness of the finish. Be sure to use a specialized metal primer for this purpose.

best exterior wood primer


Drying Time

An important piece of information that is found on the packaging is the drying time that is specified to recoat. This will let you know how long you would have to wait until you would be able to apply another coat of primer or a coat of paint. Latex primers generally dry quicker, with an hour of drying time needed. However, oil-based primers can take up to three hours to dry before you would be able to apply another coat.


Paint-and-Primer In-One vs. Dedicated Primer

Paint-and-primer combo products will allow you to paint and prime a surface in one go. However, these products should only be used if the below applies to your situation:

  • You are painting a surface that is not peeling
  • You are not painting stained or bare wood
  • You are repainting a surface that has previously been painted with the same color or you are going a few shades darker

You should use a separate primer and paint to enhance paint bonding under the subsequent circumstances:

  • You are painting stained or bare wood
  • You are painting a surface that has peeled or is tainted
  • You are going from a dark to a light shade of paint
  • You want to conceal a longstanding oil-based layer of paint with a latex coat. This requires a layer of dedicated primer that will intervene for proper adhesion of the latex paint
  • You want to use a type of paint that has a different base to take advantage of different material/chemical properties


Tint Ability

Gray and white are the standard colors used for primer, and you can use either color without tinting it, or you could tint the primer a shade lighter than your topcoat. You will need to buy a primer that is labeled as “tintable” and this will result in a richer and more even final color.


Low Odor

A primer with a low odor contains little to no VOCs and this is what you would want, as these chemicals can be extremely harmful and will make it difficult for you to use them indoors. It is important to use a low odor solution wherever possible, as this affects the safety of its application. This also makes it safer to apply in areas that are not very well ventilated.


Non-Toxic Formula

It is best to buy non-toxic products even if you are using them outdoors as these could be potentially harmful to your skin or could result in serious injury if it comes into contact with your eyes. Water-based primers are generally the safest options here. However, always be safe – even when working with specified non-toxic products. Try to wear a mask and gloves when working with primers.


Scratch Resistance

This is a great feature that not all primers have and it protects the surface from elements or contact with harder materials. The best exterior primer will be scratch resistant and it could prevent you from doing more work in the future.

outdoor paint primer



How to Choose the Right Primer

It is important to know how to use primer, especially if you are in the process of learning about different products. You should also keep in mind that not all problems can be handled in the same way.


Scenario 1: Odors and Interior Stains

Particular stains will find a way to bleed through some primers and paints regardless of the number of coats that you have applied. The same principle applies to strong odors that have been left behind from cigarette smoke and smoke from fires. The only solution is to use a stain-blocking primer, and this is available in oil-based and latex-based versions.


Scenario 2: New Drywall

When applying new drywall, pay attention to the mud that is used on the seams of the drywall, as this can absorb paint differently compared to the rest of the surface. This can result in blemished areas beneath the paint, this is known as flashing, and it will result in an uneven gloss. This issue can be prevented by using a drywall primer-sealer.

Tip – Wait 48 hours after priming before painting. Most primers are designed to bond with the paint that is applied over them. Once the priming has been completed, you should wait a few days before painting and you will not need to prime again.


Scenario 3: Areas That Are Prone to Moisture

Areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and closets are high moisture zones and this can cause paint issues such as mildew, peeling, and flaking. A vapor barrier primer can seal the surface and this will reduce the channel of moistness through the walls that enter from the exterior. Stain-blocking primers are great for managing peeling and mildew on interior walls and will prevent blistering on exterior walls.

Tip – Mildew should be killed with one-part bleach and three-parts water before you start priming.


Scenario 4: Walls That Have Been Repaired

Wall patches will absorb paint differently and this will be noticeable as soon as you complete the painting process. A high-quality drywall primer-sealer should be used to cover the surface of the drywall and this will prevent flashing. If you have used plaster, a coat of oil-based stain-blocking primer is needed to achieve a perfect finish.


Scenario 5: New Bare Wood

The wood primer should be used to seal the surface as wood is extremely absorbent and it will draw in any moisture. This will also make the surface of the wood look better as it will hide imperfections and it will make the surface more uniform.

Tip – It is best to use slow-drying oil-based primers as they provide much better adhesion and are significantly easier to sand than water-based primers.


Scenario 6: Medium-Density Fiberboard

If the medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is not pre-primed, it is best to use a high-quality oil-based primer. All surfaces should be cleaned before priming, this means that there should be no dust and it should be smooth.

Tip – A water-based primer will do nothing but soak into the surface and this will cause swelling.


Scenario 7: Woodwork that has been Painted

Before you decided to prime it, take a good look at the paint, and if it is in good shape, there is no need to prime it. An oil-based enamel undercoat is needed for surfaces that are chipped or chalking. A light sanding will help to achieve a smooth finish once the priming has been completed.

Tip – An enamel undercoat primer will bond very well to a surface that has been painted before, and this will have a good effect on the quality of the topcoat. Quick-drying primers such as shellac and other water-based products are a bad match as they tend to become brittle upon drying.


Scenario 8: Intense Color Changes

Going from dark to light and vice versa will need many coats of paint to hide the previous color. Tinting your primer gray will hide the existing color and it will save you time and money as the number of coats needed to achieve a good result will be reduced.

Tip – Not all primers are capable of being tinted, so be sure that the primer that you buy can be tinted.


Scenario 9: Exterior Wood

Exterior paint is exposed to the harshest elements and the best way to extend the lifespan of the paint is to use the best exterior wood primer. 100% acrylic primer is best and ensures that the surface is dry and dull with no dirt.

Tip – Try and use a primer and paint from the same brand as they tend to work best with each other.


Scenario 10: Old Exterior Paint

Using a high-quality latex or acrylic paint primer will work wonders for bare wood that has had paint peel away and if the paint is chalking, you will need to redo the whole surface.

Tip – To identify chalking, take an old clean rag and wipe the surface. If it picks up any dust, then you will need to redo the whole surface.

Pressure washing removes loose paint and grime will improve the way that paint adheres to the surface. Ensure that the nozzle of the pressure washer is 16 inches away from the surface of the wood. Be sure to clean, sand, and scrape the areas that are dirty and are peeling. Preparing a surface is just as important as priming and failure to effectively do so will result in a poor finish that will need to be redone in two years.


Scenario 11: Exterior Stainable Wood

Woods such as redwood and cedar have pigments called tannins and these can bleed through primer and paint. Any good oil-based primer and stain-blocking paint can stop this from occurring. This is something that should be present in most good durable, exterior wood primers.

Tip – An oil-based primer is needed if you are going to use an oil topcoat.

best exterior primer



Frequently Asked Questions


How Many Types of Primers are There?

There are three types of primer, oil-based, water-based, and shellac-based. Each type of primer is perfect for a particular job, so be sure to take a look at our guide before deciding to use one.


Why Should I Use an Exterior Primer?

An exterior primer can provide a smooth finish even when painting over rough surfaces. This will save you time, paint, and it will prolong the lifespan of your paint job.


Are There Different Types of Primer Sheens?

Yes, there are three. Satin, matte, and gloss are the different types of finishes and each one has a specific purpose. Matte will look good on most surfaces, whereas gloss is mostly found on front doors, with satin commonly found in kitchens and bathrooms.


Does Primer Have a Long Shelf Life?

No, primers will start to harden once they are opened and it is best not to buy in bulk if you are unsure of how much you will be using.


When painting outdoor surfaces, the best exterior primer is necessary for achieving great durability and adhesion. Be sure to use the right product for your outdoor surface in order to get long-lasting, strong results.


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