When to Prime Before You Paint

Is it always necessary to prime before you paint over a previous paint job? -Cedric

Hi Cedric,

Unless the surface is unfinished or you’re switching between types of paint—such as oil based woodwork being covered by latex paint—you don’t have to prime before painting again.

  • If the surface is dirty or greasy, clean it thoroughly before painting.
  • If it is glossy, it’s a good idea to dull it first with sandpaper or a liquid deglosser.

For more information on priming, see A Homeowner’s Guide to Paint Primer.



  1. what about going from a chocolate brown to a yellow? does it matter what the pigment darkness of the old and new paint colors are?

    • Hi KT,
      It is harder to cover over darker or bright colored paints than more neutral ones, so be sure to use a primer than contains a lot of pigment in it such as those made for hiding stains. If the color shows through after the first coat of primer, apply a second one before topcoating. For more information on primers, check out our article A Homeowner’s Guide to Paint Primer.

  2. I have oil-based paint on my trim and walls … I can’t get a straight answer from my paint store about which Kilz primer to use so I can use latex paint. Even the Kilz website didn’t answer this question. Is there another brand that would do the job?

    • Hi Judith,
      Even though some latex primers say they can be used over oil-based paint, I prefer to use an oil-based primer, such as Zinsser Cover Stain, over oil-based paint. Also, proper preparation of the surface you are painting (cleaning, sanding, and wiping off any dust) is as if not more important than the type of primer you use. You can find out a lot more about the different paint primers and how to use them in our article Homeowner’s Guide to Paint Primer. Good luck with your project!

  3. I want to paint our pool deck with a semi-transparent concrete stain. What suface preparation do i need to do? The concrete is 13 1/2 years old and in good shape. I have a pressure washer. Do I need to apply muriatic acid wash to etch it first? Do I need to prime the concrete and will this change the final color of the stain? It is a colored concrete and I am fine with an uneven finish.

  4. I encountered a problem when I began painting my bathroom ceiling. The surface of the ceilgin was a rough, stucco-like material (not the popcorn type). As I applied the water based ceiling paint with a roller, the ceiling material began peeling off in chunks. I called the stoire where I purchased the paint and they told me that I would have to scrape down the ceiling and I did that. I called the paint manufacturer and the tech support person i spoke with said that the water based paint had wet the rough surface, which was probably loose. My big concern is that the rest of the ceilings in my home have the same surface. The tech support person said that I could prine the ceilings with an oil or shellac based primer (non-water based) to stabilize it. Do you agree? I thought the shellac based priner might be the better choice–maybe faster drying and easier clean-up than the oil based. What do you advise. I would really appreciate your input on my dilema.

  5. I have a sheet rock, painted ceiling in my shower, shortly after each paint application,showers and steam ( I do have an exhaust fan in ceiling) the ceiling starts chipping and peeling. How do I stop this from happening?

  6. I am repainting 50 year old wood cabinets in my farmhouse. After sanding down to barewood, I have had difficulty with raised grain. After applying a water based primer the first time, I read that I probably should have used an oil based primer. Down to bare wood again and primed again in oil base and now I have the same raised grain.

    What prevents the raising of the grain? I don’t really know what wood I am working with, but given this was a built by owner kitchen originally, I am guessing 1950’s inexpensive but durable whatever was available. Although the sides of the drawers are plywood, the faces are solid wood.

  7. Do you mention bathrooms anywhere, should they always be primed and does the paint and primer together work for a bathroom or is it better to use primer and then paint?

  8. I have primed & spray painted my kitchen range hood, but it’s the wrong colour, so I re-painted it with a water based paint. I plan to do a second coat. I didn’t prime it again though – I just painted over the spray paint. Should I prime it before applying the second coat?

  9. I want to spray water base paint onto oldish furiture if I clean the piece with sandpaper the paint still does not hold and will scratch off

  10. I have wooden garden futniture which I would like to paint an antique ivory colour. ( It will be used under roof after painting). Is it really necessary to use a primer or can I just sand it down and then paint it. Not so young anymore and has to do it myself. Cannot find anyone to do it for me. Please help!!!

  11. I am painting some out door buildings that are either bare wood or badly weathered and I used an oil based exterior primer worked very hard on these and now people say if I use a latex paint it will chip?? What paint should I use over the top I really want to do this right because I ‘ve worked hard?? I thought oil based primer was the best for bare or very weathered wood please help me!!!

  12. Just bought a home and walls are white. I am going to paint them a light brown. Do I need to primer and if so can I use the primer and paint in 1?

  13. I went from a blue to gray but the color looks more like purple. Would this be because I didn’t use primer before changing colors, could this be caused because the blue was underneath the new gray color?

  14. Hi my brother has just put a side gate up outside next to garage. He has primed the wood and I was wondering what fence paints I could use. Thank you

  15. Hi there, I am going to paint latex over a previously stained and varnished cabinet. I have already sanded most of the finish off of the cabinet. It has a lot detailing and dental trim. Must I remove every bit of the old finish before priming with a latex primer (Z-primer), or do I just scuff it all up?

  16. I purchased a house where the previous owner painted latex over oil based without a primer. Whenever I wash the wall I notice some of the paint comes off. Can I paint a bonding primer over top of this mixture and then paint latex over that or do I have to find a way to remove all of that original latex paint with the oil based underneath?

  17. We are painting several rooms in our house, and have picked a grey, but when we painted over the old color which is yellow, we ended up with a powder blue. Should we put a primer on and try it again?

  18. Just started to refinish a 70 year old dresser. Think it may be Bird’s Eye Maple, from the looks (black speckles). Anyway, I am planning on painting the drawers BLACK, in order to cover the wood filler used to cover the place where the lock front is gone. Do I really need to primer in black?? I was going to just do two coats of black Eggshell. Also want to know when using a stainable wood filler, can it be tinted with the new stain color before it sets to dry?

  19. I have a newly plastered kitchen ceiling do I have to use a Leytex paint to undercoat it or can I just use a good quality Matt Emulsion to paint it.

  20. Hi, I want to paint my run down wooden deck. It has never been painted but looks bad, wood chipping and etc. what are is the prep/steps necessary? 🙂

  21. I have recently contracted build of a new home, been in the home 9 mos and on the initial move it, it was noticed along the wood flooring that the shoe mold paint was peeling. Now 9 mos later the paint has almost all lifted off this trim and blistering off throughout the baseboard and other wood trim. This is factory pre primed and feel that the painter hired should have primed prior to finish paint, which he did not….what is your professional opinion??? So frustrated and need an answer and fix…thank you

  22. I took wallpaper off my kitchen wall, underneath is a greenish enamel ugly paint. I bought 123 primer but it does not stick to the wall. It peels and rolls off. What can I do or what am I doing wrong?

  23. I’m painting an extremely large entertainment center .Its is off white (slightly distressed.)I would like to paint it white.Do you I have to use a primer?If I am going a shade lighter.What kind of paint should I use ?


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