How to Choose the Right Exterior Primer

There is no denying the fact that a good quality primer will be a great help in your outdoor paint-related projects. There are many benefits of using primers. Besides, there are some important factors that you need to consider before choosing a final product. 

In this article, I will discuss every major thing you need to know about exterior primers. Want to know more? Read on!

What is an Exterior Primer?

An exterior primer is a type of paint made with a specific formula to seal uneven pores. In most cases, the primer works as a foundation for the finish coats of any paint. These days, there are many additives you may find in exterior wall primer paints. 

Those additives will give you some added benefits. For example, you can talk about the Indigo wall primers where stain blockers and UV inhibitors are available. No wonder you should use good quality exterior primer paint before painting so that it can seal the grain and paint adhesion can be improved. 

Why Should You Use an Exterior Primer? 

There are many reasons why you should use an exterior primer. The major benefits of primer are discussed below-

  • When you use a primer, the paint finish will be uniform.
  • It will block several stains, such as tannin, water, grease, and smoke. So, these stains will not be able to bleed through the topcoat. 
  • The adhesion of the topcoat will be improved. As a result, the paint will be more durable. 

Types of Primers for Exterior Use

When it comes to exterior paint primers, they can be found in different forms based on the type of surfaces where you will apply them. In a general sense, primers are of the following types-

Oil-Based Primers:

When you talk about the best level of exterior primer for wood, you should think about oil-based primers. These primers are pretty much durable but come with a higher VOC level. As oil-based primers are quite toxic, proper precautions should be taken when applying them. So, don’t forget to wear a mask while using it. Also, keep in mind that exterior oil-based primers may take longer to dry. 

Water Based Primers:

Another widely used primer on outdoor surfaces is water-based primer. They are also known as an acrylic primer or exterior latex primer. Latex-based primers are less toxic if you think comparatively about oil or latex primer for exterior wood. Besides, they take less time to dry. However, these primers are not perfectly thick. So, you may want to apply the primer twice for better performance.  

Shellac Primers:

Another highly used primer type is shellac. If you have projects with porous exterior surfaces, shellac primers will give you the best user experience. But, there is a simple drawback. You may face difficulties when it comes to cleaning the surface. There are several sub-types of shellac primers which are as follows-

  • Gloss- This primer will give you the most shining look and enhance the look of the gloss paint. 
  • Matte will give you a flat finish where the shining amount will be minimal.
  • Satin- the Satin primer is in the middle of gloss and matte.

How to Choose the Right Exterior Paint Primer

Always try to get the right primer for the right surface. For example, the best plywood primer will provide you with the best user experience in your plywood projects. 

When choosing the correct exterior paint primer, you need to consider some factors. Otherwise, you may end up choosing the wrong product. Below, we talk about everything you need to think about before buying a new unit. 

Low Odor:

It can last for several hours if you need to work on a painting project. So, if your primer comes with a high-smelling odor, you may face problems with the odor. So, you should choose a primer that produces a low level of odor. So, you will be able to work without any hassle. 


All exterior primers are some toxic. The degree of toxicity may vary based on the chemicals used on that particular primer. Always try to choose a primer that has a low level of toxicity. It will assist you in staying healthy while working with the primer. 


The coverage you will get from a primer is also important. Each exterior wood primer can provide you with specific coverage. The coverage depends on the quantity of paint in the can. You will find the coverage in the level. 

In most cases, you will get a total of 300-400 feet of coverage from a primer. So, you need to measure the surface where you will apply it. Then you will know the amount of primer you will need for that particular surface. 


The finish of the primer is quite important. Because it will give you the final appearance. However, the overall quality and durability of the primer are not changed with the variation of the finish. You should choose a finish based on your requirement. For instance, if glossy surfaces are your priority, you should choose a glossy finish primer. Alternatively, you can go for a matte finish product if that is your requirement. 

Drying Time: 

Some primers may need 10 minutes to half an hour to dry completely. Nonetheless, some primers require hours or even a day to dry. The drying time of a primer may vary based on the formula used to manufacture them. So, you need to consider the drying time very carefully. 

If you don’t have enough time in hand and you need to complete the painting task as soon as possible, you should go for a primer that will dry quickly. 

Typically, water-based primers are pretty much quick dying. But, when you have plenty of time, you should go for an oil-based primer. Because they need longer drying time. 

Scratch Resistant:

Another important thing you need to consider in a primer is it should be scratch resistant. This type of primer will give you a great level of user experience. There is no harm to have a scratch-resistant primer. 

Is It Eco-Friendly? 

Another important thing to consider is whether it is eco-friendly or not. The truth is many buyers don’t bother about whether the primer is eco-friendly or not. But, if you care about the environment, you should try to get an eco-friendly primer. 

Can it Be Used Indoors?

Most of the primers available in the market can be used both indoors and outdoors. But, there are some specific brands where the primer may not be available for both indoor and outdoor use. So, when purchasing a new primer try to check the level of interior/exterior which means it can be used both indoors and outdoors. 

Final Words

A good quality exterior wood primer will help you to complete your outdoor painting projects. There are different types of primers based on the properties it possess. For example, there are oil-based or water-based primers. When talking about the best exterior paint primer for wood, there are some important things to keep in mind. In this article, I tried to give an idea about everything you need to know regarding exterior primers. Happy painting!

About the author

John is a wanderlust who quit his corporate job to pursue his passion for travel. He shares his experiences and insights through his blog, inspiring others to explore the world

Leave a Comment