Prime This

When to Prime Before Painting

A primer on when to prime

Much of the cost of a paint job actually comes from the labor, that is why it is important to know when to prime. When having a repainting job done, it involves scraping the old paint, priming – spot priming or priming the entire surface – and then painting. So, when a contractor specifies re-priming the entire house for a painting job, that also means having to double your budget.

In this audio podcast, Handyguys Paul and Brian respond to a question sent in by one of their listeners via e-mail about the importance of priming, what and how much you prime and when to prime the entire house.

Mike writes:

I have a question about painting and when to prime. I’m having the exterior of our house painted. The house is already painted (11 years ago) and it doesn’t have any real paint issues, like cracking and peeling (some but not much). I’ve gotten a couple of bids and each contractor has a different approach to painting. One will scrape and spot prime, then paint the house. The other says they will scrape and prime the whole house, then paint.

The question is do you need need to prime the whole house, if the existing paint is still in “good” shape?

Prime This
Peeling paint, in this case, was cause by improper preparation and lack of primer. The person painting this wall should have removed any joint compound dust and then applied a primer before painting.

When to prime is a great question Mike.

The Handyguys share these tips on when to prime when repainting your home:

When you are doing a major color change

Basically, a primer helps you get the correct color that you want, especially if you are shifting from one “wild” color to another. Handyguy Brian explains that the old color can bleed through to the new paint if not first primed.

Changing from one kind of paint to another

Handyguy Paul suggests against changing from a latex-based paint to a oil paint as this can ruin the quality of the finished paint job. Doing it the other way around, from oil to latex-based paint, should be okay, but it does require you to prime the surface you’re going to paint.

Painting over a glossy paint

To help the new paint adhere to the surface well, Handyguy Brian advises to prime when painting over a glossy paint. Although the traditional way is to de-gloss by sanding priming is an easy way to put down a low gloss base before you paint.

Bare wood

You always prime bare wood, new wood and areas where old paint has been scraped off.

If you have additional questions about when to prime or anything else for The Handyguys, simply go to the Contact Us tab of Additionally, you can view some of our videos in our YouTube channel and subscribe to the show in iTunes.

6 thoughts on “When to Prime Before Painting

  1. That is interesting that you can go from a oil to latex based paint is alright, but going from latex to oil won’t work so well. Definitely good to know! Thanks guys.

  2. A great site that I’ve found is They sell eco-friendly primer and they also have a great BLOG and Q&A section. The Q&A section answers a lot of the priming/painting/peeling/weather proofing/etc.

    So, if you need any more info, I found their site really helpful.

    Good luck! 🙂

  3. Priming is not (as suggested) primarily used for color change. Primer is used primarily to seal bare wood and to give the finish coat an adhesive background. On several occasions, I’ve done full house re-paints where the final coat had peeled only where primer had been applied over prior finish coats. My suggestion is to prime with a good quality oil base primer, only where the wood is or has become bare, then finish coat either oil or latex. Oil under latex, OK. Never latex under oil

  4. Just a word of caution. It is NOT OK to put latex paint over oil-based paint as mentioned above in the comments. If you want to do that, you’ll need to prime with an oil-based primer before applying the latex top coat. Otherwise your finish coat will peel. I have over 20 years experience painting.

  5. Yes to Jason’s response. @ Cliff: you have it reversed. Oil under latex (latex over oil) is NOT ok.

    Latex under oil (or Oil paint over latex paint) is OK.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.