Top 7 Best Exterior Primer Paints | How to Choose the Right Paint

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For many homeowners, painting is a side project they feel competent tackling to improve the look of their home. However, if you are looking for results that turn out professional and last longer, there are some things that you have to know before going about it.

Exterior Primer Paints

You’re looking to give your home a fresh new look, but you don’t know where to start. Exterior primer paints are vital for preparing surfaces before applying other types of stains or coating them with brush strokes because they provide support against weathering factors like humidity which may otherwise ruin quality work.

If you’re thinking about painting your house, one of the first things to consider is what type of paint will work best for you. We’ll walk you through the top seven exterior primer paints on the market and how to choose the right color based on your needs.

The best way to choose what type of paint is right for you is by looking at the surface you’re painting. It is essential to properly prepare the surface of any project to have a better result. With exterior primer paint, anyone will be able to get their desired look with an even smoother finish and longer-lasting results.

There are so many different types of paint on the market that it can be hard to choose which one is right for your needs. We’ve found seven of the best exterior primers and will tell you how to see what’s right for you.

Our list includes a variety of brands with different price points and features, so there should be something in here that works for everyone! Check out our top 7 picks below!

Best Exterior Primer Paints | Compared

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Best Paint Primer | Reviews

1. KILZ Adhesion High-Bonding Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer (Best Overall)

  • 30 minutes to touch dry
  • Re-coat in 1 hour
  • High coverage primer combo
  • Versatile application – brush, roller, or sprayer
  • Low VOC
  • Expensive

2. Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer (Best Value)

  • Water based primer
  • Inexpensive
  • It inhibits rust, peeling, and blistering.
  • It may require multiple coats

3. KILZ Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Interior/Exterior Latex Primer

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Great adhesion
  • Up to 400 sq ft coverage per qt
  • Interior paint is ideal for porous surfaces
  • Fairly strong odor

4. Liquid Rubber Multi-Purpose Primer

  • 200 sq ft coverage
  • Awesome bonding agent
  • No Volatile Organic Compounds or solvents
  • Very runny

5. XIM Products UMA Acrylic Bonder and Primer

  • Ideal for surfaces that are difficult to paint
  • Bonds to metal, plastic, glass, tile, Formica, and more!
  • Very strong
  • Low fumes
  • You may need multiple coats

6. INSL-X Aqua Lock Plus 100% Acrylic Water-Based Sealer Primer

  • Fast drying time
  • Versatile
  • Mold resistant
  • Only use when the temperature is between 50f to 90f
  • The product can lead from tin

7. MAD DOG Exterior Primer

  • It helps make the paint last for 20 years
  • 1-hour dry time
  • Re-coat in 2 hours
  • Prevents tannin bleed and rust (needs two coats)
  • Not for decking or walking surfaces
  • Only Latex paint topcoat

Video: Priming Bare Wood

Exterior Primer Paint Buyers Guide

When you need exterior primer paint, there are a few key things to look for. The best exterior primer paints will provide the best possible base to paint over and ensure your color lasts as long as possible. These include proper surface preparation (such as cleaning, sanding), adhesion properties, toxicity levels, type of paint topcoat needed, and recommended temperature for application. This buyer’s guide will go over all of these things so you can choose the best exterior primer paint for your project.

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Surface type

The first thing to consider when looking at which exterior primer paint you should use is the surface area it’s being applied to. Are you painting metal, brick, plaster, or exterior wood? Glossy surfaces act differently from rough ones, and all of these surfaces require different prep and application methods. The best exterior primer for metal will not be the best paint for wood and vice versa, so choose your product carefully to solve which exterior primer paint you should use.

  • Bare wood: Wood is porous, so it can easily absorb fluids. To avoid this problem and protect the paint job you just finished from getting damaged by spills or dirt stains, put some oil-based primer on to seal in moisture before applying your final coat of latex/water-based paints! Both have pros, but keep this tip for future reference if working with delicate surfaces like trim around window sills, etc.
  • Drywall: A latex primer will leave a smoother surface that’s ready for paint. Oil-based primers can also cause the grain to rise, so this might not be as much of an issue with oil-based paints but if you’re going for natural wood or other surfaces without any finish, then make sure there are no oils on your hands when applying it!
  • Easily spoiled: Use a stain-blocking primer to protect your topcoat from staining and discoloration. Choose latex primers when you need protection against solvent-based stains like crayons while choosing oil-based ones if the color is water-based, such as smoke, tannins, etc.
  • Pre-painted wood: If you’re painting on painted wood that shows chalking or even has some marks from wear and tear, then an oil-based primer is best. The best part about these products: they dry into a denser foundation, minimizing imperfections like scratches or chips.
  • Metal: Some exterior primer paints are specifically designed for metal, and they have some form of rust-resistant properties. These paints are oil-based because latex paint can actively promote rust.
  • High-gloss: Bonding primer, formulated to stick tightly and smoothly onto any glossy surface. Use it on glass, plastic, or tiles for an easy bonding experience!
Exterior Primer Paints

Surface preparation

Once you know what surface you’re painting, it’s time to focus on how well it is prepared before applying any exterior primer paint. It’s best to clean the surface thoroughly with a deck cleaner but sand it down if filthy. If you’re painting over brick or plaster, consider using a wire brush to get into the tiny cracks for an exterior primer paint that will stick more effectively.


The primer tinted to a slightly lighter shade of your topcoat will give you a richer, deeper, and more uniform color. A primer that is suitable for tinting will say so on the label, and this process is recommended when changing from a darker to lighter color or from a light color to very dark. This idea reduces the number of coats needed to cover the existing paint and ensures no primer shows through when applying the final topcoat.

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Drying time

The label on exterior primer paint will give a drying time. This is the time in which the product says it takes to be both touch dry and recoat. The good part about most exterior primer paints is that they can be recoated in a few hours, so you don’t have to wait around for days before being able to use your newly painted surface!

The dry-to-recoat time for latex primer is usually much shorter than oil-based, and in some cases, it can be as little as one hour. Oil primers require about three hours before they’re ready to coat again.


If you are looking at environmentally-friendly exterior primer paints, look at the toxicity levels of the color you are using. Some exterior primer paints (significantly cheaper ones) have chemical components that could affect your air quality if applied in a poorly ventilated area or get absorbed into your skin while using it. Make sure to get quality paint without any of these hazardous chemicals, so you don’t expose yourself to toxins when painting.


The recommended temperature for applying exterior primer paint will vary by the product you are using, but generally, it is between 50f to 90f. If you are spraying your exterior primer paint onto a surface, always use an appropriate spray distance and speed so that you can create an even coat without getting bubbles or puddles.

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Application type

You should apply exterior primer paint with a brush or roller to create an even and smooth texture. Depending on the product, it may be possible to use a paint sprayer, but do not attempt this without reading your specific exterior primer paint’s instructions.


Exterior primer paints do not have topcoats. If you want to paint a surface with a primer, you will need exterior color as the topcoat. The trick is finding one that won’t ruin your primer paintwork underneath. You should look for low-VOC or no VOC enamel paints so your primer and topcoat work together in cohesion and don’t ruin one another. Some colors will only work with oil-based primer and vice-versa, so it’s essential to check beforehand.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does exterior paint with primer work?

Yes, it is possible to paint over almost any surface with primer. You should check the label on your particular exterior primer paint to ensure it’s suitable for your chosen surface and topcoat, but most primers can be used with a final color coat.

How do exterior primer paints work?

Exterior primer paints work by allowing the topcoat to cover them more smoothly and evenly. They create a barrier that stops the color from falling into any cracks or little gaps in your surface, so you achieve an even finish with no patchy areas. The main benefit is that it will even out porosity and ensure optimum adhesion with paint systems; however, other features might include stabilizing powdery surfaces or helping prevent stains from ruining an area’s decoration- which is all good things!

What causes house siding paint to peel?

You might think that a home’s exterior paint job is only as good as the quality of its materials, but you would be wrong. Moisture from anywhere on your property can seep into gaps between siding and buildings or cause blisters in various places on your homes’ surfaces which leads to peeling away at those beautiful finishes you worked so hard for! Make sure this never happens by making repairs before water damage sets in from leaking gutters and roofs.

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What is paint and primer in one?

Paint and primer in one is a combination of exterior paint and exterior primer that let you skip the step of applying both on your home’s surface. It’s a much thicker consistency and is tinted like regular paint, so it gives you a finish in one step instead of the usual two. You should always check which surface self-priming paint is best for as some will not be compatible, metal surface for instance, but many people like to use this type as it saves them time and effort getting those tricky zones covered.

Should I prime before I paint the exterior?

Priming is an essential step in any exterior paint job that you don’t want to skip. It would be best if you primed your house’s exterior before applying color, as this will give your paint a strong base it can grip onto, making sure it won’t begin to flake off after only a few months. This is especially important if you are painting a new wall since it will need more protection from the elements while its surface is still porous and needs to be stabilized.

An exterior primer paint can work for your brick walls, floors, or any other place you want to add color. A highly-effective primer on the exterior of your home protects against moisture damage and blistering, which can ruin your home’s external appearance. They are designed to adhere well to bare or previously painted surfaces, which is why they are the perfect choice for exterior painting jobs.

Exterior paint primer works by providing a topcoat with a smooth surface to grip onto. The best primers create an even coating over your surface without imperfections or areas where paint might not stick. This allows for a more consistent and flexible color scheme while protecting your exterior from things like water damage or blistering.

What happens if you don’t use a primer before painting?

If you don’t use a primer before painting, your paint’s final color might not be uniform. It could have patches of missing pigment that aren’t easy to cover with just one coat of color. Blisters can also appear where there are cracks or slight imperfections in the area. This is because, without a good base, your finish won’t bond to the surface or well, and it won’t be stable enough to resist damage.

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By knowing which type of paint you want and what features it has, you can ensure your house’s exterior looks as good as the day you first painted it. Primer is an essential part of your exterior paint job, so don’t skip it. It will protect against moisture damage and blistering, which can change the appearance of your home’s exterior. If you want a one-step process that lets you skip applying primer and paint separately, choose a paint and primer in one.

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Walter Snyder

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