PaintPRO , Vol. 6, No. 6
November/December 2004
PaintPRO Vol 6 No 6

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Related Readings:
Paint Primers: Low-VOC Paints
Coating Drywall
Drywall Priming
Priming Interior Woodwork
Effective Surface Preparation
Low-VOC Paints
Prevent Coatings Failure
Choosing an Interior Primer
Priming Interior Woodwork
Other articles in this issue:
Coating Drywall
Masonry Stains
Primers & Topcoats
Education Focus: Faux Masters Studio
Estimating, Etc.
Contractor Profile: John W. Dee
Manufacturer Profile: UGL
Product News
Painting Tips


PaintPRO Archives
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Primers & Topcoats



Primers and Topcoats, Saving Time & Money

Match Them Up for Best Results. Choosing the right primer saves time and money — and makes your job a whole lot easier.
by Susan Brimo-Cox

Sometimes things are just better in combination, like peanut butter and jelly, mashed potatoes and gravy, and apple pie and vanilla ice cream. The same can be said for primers and topcoats.

The issue of primers and topcoats may seem pretty basic, but with advances in technology, there are more choices than ever. Choosing the right primer for the topcoat you’ll be applying — even the most-difficult-to-use colors — can make your job a piece of cake. So let’s take a few minutes and sink our teeth into the meat and potatoes of the subject of primers and topcoats. If you’re lucky, I won’t come up with any more references to food.

Primer basics
What’s your first clue that you are probably using the wrong primer for the job? Having to apply four, five or six topcoats for a good finish.

“Primers can offer a number of benefits, and achieving better topcoat color is one of them,” says Steve Revnew, director of architectural marketing at Sherwin-Williams.

monochromatic basecoat systemDo you battle lap marks? Uneven finish sheen? Choose a primer that has sealing properties for uniformity of appearance.

“As an example, any time a satin wall paint is used, results will likely be more satisfactory with a primer because, otherwise, sheen variations will show even slight differences in porosity in the substrate,” reports John Stauffer, technical director at The Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute.

Kathy Henry, marketing communications manager for the Glidden brand at ICI Paints, explains that some primers have the specialty job of “hiding and providing a barrier between substrate stains or underlying color and the topcoat.”

Stauffer says blocking stains from the finish coat can be essential, “especially when using latex finish coats, when painting areas with water stains [and] dirt, and over staining wood such as mahogany, cedar and redwood.” And, he adds, some stain blocking primers are excellent for blocking odors, for example in smoke-damaged areas.

Other primers, Revnew points out, are “designed to help hide minor drywall surface imperfections. These primers ... deliver a smooth uniform surface for the topcoat.”

The prime job of primers, however, is to provide better adhesion. As Henry aptly describes it, “A primer provides better ‘tooth’ for the topcoat.”

Stauffer agrees. “Most primers are designed to adhere to more difficult surfaces,” he says, such as bare wood, hard and glossy materials. The adhesion provided by a good primer gives the topcoat added durability and enhances appearance properties, such as color retention, mildew resistance and gloss retention, he says.

Of course, a primer is not a miracle cure-all. You need to troubleshoot and repair any underlying problems, such as moisture damage, blistering or mildew. And the substrate needs to be clean and dry before you apply a primer.


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