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Wood Primers and Sealers

Skill Level: Beginner

Introduction

There are many things around the home and garden that are painted, but with such a large range of primers and sealers…which one do you choose for the job in hand. The range of primers and sealers is larger in fact than the range of finishing types of paint available. Primers may be thought of as the anchor for the top coats of paint, you need to get the right one to ensure a paint system is effective, attractive, and that will last for a long time.

 
There are primers available for hardwoods, softwoods, and most metals – not to mention brickwork and plaster coatings. There are products which will disguise stains in wood, and others that will seal and stabilise crumbling paintwork… but before you enter the maze of choice, you need to get a clear understanding of why primers are so important.

 

Are primers really necessary?

Primers on wood are needed for several reasons. They seal and offer protection against moisture and form a good surface “key” for the top coats of paint. Paint primers satisfy the porous nature of the wood and therefore prevent the finishing coats of paint from being absorbed into the wood (too much) which would reduce their sheen and durability.
 
On metal, the main purpose of a primer is to prevent corrosion, as well as providing a good “key” for the top coat. The right primer will also help reduce the chances of peeling and flaking. Even when weather conditions, over time takes it toll on the paintwork; if the primer is still intact-the protection is still there, it’s simply a matter of re-applying a new top coat.
 
In short, primers are essential if you want a good finish that will be protected, and will last.

What is the best primer for Softwood?

The type of primer you need will depend on the job you are doing, and where you are doing it. Wood primers fall into two main categories: Oil based primers which are slow drying, and are used for similarly slow drying finish paints; and the much faster drying acrylic primers/undercoats.

Priming softwoods used indoors

When it comes to priming softwoods used indoors, for furniture or joinery work, an acrylic water based primer is the most popular choice. The only drawback on softwood, which is generally very porous, is that the water in the primer tends to soak into the wood and raises the grain slightly, so producing a slightly coarse finish. But against this must be weighed the fact that acrylic primers are easy to apply and dry quickly, allowing the application of multiple coats in a short time.

Priming softwoods used outdoors

Outside the house it is advised to use a more durable oil based primer. Oil based primers are slower to apply, and slower drying, but their sealing qualities are longer lasting. The best and toughest type of primers contain lead based pigments, but if you are painting areas of wood that young children or animals come into contact with, use only a lead free primer.
 
You will find that when you apply a primer to softwood it virtually disappears immediately. It is important you do not “soak” the wood with primer. Try and apply an even, thin coat for maximum effect.

Which primer is suitable for Hardwoods?

Because of the denser, less porous nature of hardwoods they do not need painting for the purposes of protection, but for decoration only. A hardwood primer relies on its ability to stick fast to the surface of the wood; this rules out the use of acrylic and other water based primers because they cannot “key” into the hardwood by soaking into it ( too dense)
 
Even when you use an oil based primer, you must take into consideration the characteristics of the particular hardwood you are using. For best results check the products available and read carefully the manufacturers recommendations and instructions.
By far the easiest hardwood to prime is teak. For this wood you should be able to use just about any oil based primer.

Primers for Hardboard

Primers suitable for hardboard are readily available, but as with any softwood, your choice will be decided on how and where you are using the board.
 
As a general rule, use acrylic water based primer for a quick finish, or oil based if you require greater permanence. If the board surface is likely to come in for some heavy duty wear and tear, you will need something with a strong “keying” effect. In this case you should try a deep penetrating oil primer. This soaks deeply into the wood, is slow drying: but is tough, and will stand up to all the elements may throw at it.
 
On fibrous insulating board, always use an oil based primer. The water content of acrylic primers will simply be soaked into the porous fibres, causing swelling, weakening the board.

Priming over stains on resinous woods

Softwoods with heavily knotted areas, and particularly resinous hardwoods, do sometimes discolour the finished coat of paint as the resin rises to the surface. The answer here is to use a knotting compound or an aluminium wood primer, which will seal in the resinous matter.
 
Aluminium wood primer is highly effective but will leave a darkish tinge of colour, and so will need an extra coat of undercoat or a top coat to counteract this.

Tools you will need:
Plasti-Kote Zinc Primer Spray 400ml
Plasti-Kote Zinc Primer Spray 400ml
- Oakey 230mm x 280mm Assorted Glasspaper Sheets x 10
Oakey 230mm x 280mm Assorted Glasspaper Sheets x 10
- Harris Down to Earth 3 Brush Set
Harris Down to Earth 3 Brush Set
- Oakey 230mm x 280mm (Coarse) Liberty Green Aluminium Oxide Sheets x 3
Oakey 230mm x 280mm (Coarse) Liberty Green Aluminium Oxide Sheets x 3
- Steel Wool 200g Assorted Pack - Fine Medium & Coarse
Steel Wool 200g Assorted Pack - Fine Medium & Coarse
- Rolson Wire Brush with Scraper
Rolson Wire Brush with Scraper
- Pack of 5 Rolson Four Row Wire Brush
Pack of 5 Rolson Four Row Wire Brush
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