The Role of Prime  Coat in Painting: Why You Can’t Afford to Skip Primer

Business owners big and small are always on the lookout for opportunities to save money. However, painting or repainting your commercial property shouldn’t be one of them, as shortcuts can lead to sub-par results and more significant headaches later on. That’s why it’s important to understand the commercial painting process and why specific steps, like priming, are crucial to a well-executed job that will look great and last. So let’s talk primer, shall we?

What is a primer coat of paint?

Paint primer is an essential part of the process for several reasons. But before we list them out, let’s answer this – what is a primer coat of paint, anyway? In a nutshell, it’s a preparatory coating applied to materials before painting, and it allows finishing paint to adhere evenly and better to surfaces.

Paint primers typically consist of 20–30% synthetic resin, 60–80% solvent, and 2–5% additive agent. However, the formulations of primers will differ depending on the surfaces, so it’s a good idea to have some general knowledge of the differences.

Why is applying primer important in commercial painting projects?

Overall a prime coat ensures better paint adhesion to the surface, increases paint durability, and provides additional protection for the material you are painting. For example, if your commercial property is a new construction with a porous surface, such as concrete or wood, applying a prime coat will seal the material so that the paint doesn’t soak into it, thus requiring unnecessary extra coats of paint.

Primer coats are also instrumental in hiding water stains and other blemishes on older surfaces. Applying a primer coat before applying the new paint color will ensure an even application and better bonding of paint to the surface when repainting commercial properties.

So how many coats of primer do I need before painting? Good question – and the answer depends on the surface you are painting, its location, and its condition. For example, when repainting a brick commercial building, multiple coats may be necessary for exterior areas exposed to wind, rain, and other weather elements; however, just one coat of primer may be enough for interior brick.

Uses of a primer for painting

A prime coat serves many purposes, which will differ depending on the surface. Although a paint primer’s overall function is to smooth the surface in preparation for paint application, there are other benefits.

For example, a prime coat on commercial metal surfaces acts as a strong foundation for the paint and helps protect against rust. A primer is also essential for newly constructed surfaces, as it works to seal the material before regular paint is applied. Alternatively, a prime coat will help camouflage blemishes on aged or damaged surfaces on your commercial property before adding a fresh coat of color.

Basically, your commercial paint application will look better in almost all cases and last longer when applied on top of a prime coat. Additionally, fewer coats of paint are typically required to obtain an even coat of color when a primer coat is applied first.

Types of primers used in commercial painting

There are several types of primers, and the surface you are painting will determine the best type to use. Most commercial painting jobs will entail one of these three: oil-based primers, water-based primers, or paint and primer in one.

Oil-based primers

A commercial painter will likely recommend an oil-based primer for “high-touch” surfaces in and around the commercial property, such as doors, windows, and cabinets. Commercial painters will also utilize oil-based primers for highly porous surfaces, areas with visible stains from smoke, or outdoor spaces that require an oil-based paint and tighter seal. These oil-based primers are heavy-duty and need mineral spirits for thinning and clean-up, and they emit a higher number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Water-based primers

Water-based primers have long been considered less robust than oil-based primers, but they have improved considerably over the years. Fun fact – water-based primers are often referred to as latex primers, even though there is no latex in the primer. Water-based primers emit a lower number of VOCs and are cleanable with water.

This primer is best for indoor surfaces due to the milder fumes and fast drying times. Commercial painters will often opt for water-based primers for walls, stairs, interior doors, trim, and railings. Also, like using oil-based primers with oil-based paints, it’s best practice to stick with water-based paint when using a water-based primer.

Paint and primer in one

A paint and primer “all-in-one” solution will help reduce how many coats of primer before painting you need for adequate coverage because it delivers both products together in one coat.

With commercial painting, especially interiors, a paint and primer formula is a popular go-to for ease and efficiency. It’s excellent for new drywall or clean, stain-free previously painted surfaces.

A fresh coat of paint or a new color scheme for your commercial property can go a long way in maintaining the integrity of the building, refreshing your space, and attracting the right kind of attention.

If your commercial, warehouse, or HOA project in Chicago or Cincinnati is ready for professional paint services, contact PPD Painting today. We have over 15 years of experience delivering top-notch commercial painting expertise with efficiency, responsiveness, and professionalism.


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