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So, what happens if you don’t paint over primer? For example, what happens if you skip primer altogether and apply regular paint directly to your walls?
And what happens if you use a primer first but then skip the topcoat?
We’ve all been through the phase where we look at our bedroom or the porch and think of how bad it needs a new coat of paint.
But painting is a time-consuming, labor-intensive chore, and it can be tempting to skip steps.
It’s undoubtedly something we have all heard of doing but could not be sure about the consequences until now.
If you don't paint over primer, the paint won't adhere to the surface and will likely chip and peel over time. If you use primer without paint, imperfections on the surface will be more visible without a layer of paint to cover them up.
Finally, unpainted primer can become sticky, dirty, and discolored if you don’t paint over it.
Professional painters recommend always using a primer before painting. Primer creates a barrier layer between the surface and the paint you’re applying.
This makes surfaces smooth for the paint to adhere to, blocks stains and previous colors from showing through, and makes every gallon of paint go further.
Properly priming a surface before painting makes paint jobs last longer, but it’s not strictly necessary in every circumstance.
Today we’ll be discussing what happens if you don’t paint over primer, why it’s essential, and how to fix it.
Newly Painted Walls
If you’re painting a wall that has never been painted before, you’ll need to use a primer. Drywall is dry, fragile, and extremely moisture-absorbent.
Applying a layer of primer before you paint smoothes out the surface of the drywall, masking any dings and chips that may have occurred during construction.
Applying primer before you paint also stops the drywall from drinking up all the paint.
This helps every gallon of paint go further, saving you time and money on the paint job overall.
Finally, the primed surface will provide an even base for your paint to help the color last longer.
Previously Painted Walls
If you’re painting over an existing paint job, you may not need to use primer, depending on the color and condition of the wall.
Painting directly over dark paint, stains, or chips will allow them to show through, especially if you’re covering it with a light paint color.
Tip: Stains from the previous paint job may bleed through the new paint, ruining the finished product.
Even if the underlying paint is in good condition, skipping the primer may cause the new paint to adhere poorly.
Your fresh coat of paint may detach from the underlying layer, peeling off the wall more quickly, shortening the life of your paint.
Your new paint job will likely not last as long as it would have with primer. For these reasons, it’s always best to use a primer before painting.
It may take an extra step during the painting process, but it will improve the appearance and longevity of your new paint, saving you time and money.
Tip: You can save even more by using a paint-and-primer combo, which primes and paints in the same coat.
Okay, now let’s imagine the opposite scenario. You’ve done your research, and you know that you need to prime your wall before painting it.
You buy the primer, prime the walls, and then life gets in the way before you can paint over it.
Tip: Applying a topcoat to primer is essential because it is not designed to resist the elements or wear and tear the way paint is.
Applying the topcoat as soon as the primer dries is recommended. You can get away with a few days between coats, but you should apply a top coat of paint over the primer within two weeks.
Note: Without a topcoat of paint, the primer will eventually fade, peel, and become sticky.
Primer is designed to go under a top coat of paint. It isn’t meant to be exposed to light and moisture for longer than it takes to dry.
If unpainted primer is left uncovered for an extended period of time, it will deteriorate.
Unpainted primer can quickly become sticky, which will attract dust, dirt, oils, and moisture from your skin, clothes, and the air.
This process is accelerated by sunlight and heat. So if you live in a hot climate, your primer may only last a year or two before it needs to be repainted.
In addition, primer is not as durable as paint and will scratch and chip more easily.
The color of the primer will fade over time and begin to look bad, and when you do finally paint over it, all the accumulated dust and oil will show through, ruining your fresh paint job.
To avoid all of this, paint over the primer as soon as possible! The sooner, the better, but at the very least, two weeks should be the maximum time to wait.
If you don’t plan on immediately painting over the primer, be sure to keep the area cool, dark, and covered from moisture.
Tip: If you can’t paint over your primer right away, cover the wall with a tarp or plastic sheet when it dries to protect it from the elements until you can come back and paint over it.
When you do finally paint over your primer, inspect it carefully for dust, dirt, and oil.
Depending on the quality of the primer and how long it’s been since you applied it, you may need to apply another coat before applying the top coat of paint.
Applying primer before painting is always recommended by professional painters.
The pros generally apply a single coat of primer followed by two coats of paint.
Primer provides a smooth surface for the paint to adhere to and blocks stains from previous colors, making paint go further and paint jobs last longer.
Using a primer before paint also helps your new paint job resist fading and chipping over time.
If you skip the primer before painting, remember that your paint job will likely not live up to the manufacturer’s expectations. You will probably be wasting time and money in the long run.
But once you apply the primer, you must apply the topcoat quickly. Primer isn’t meant to be left uncovered, and it can quickly degrade.
Paint over it immediately after drying or within two weeks at the absolute most.
Here are some frequently asked questions about painting over primer.
Do You Always Have to Paint over Primer?
Applying a topcoat to primer is essential because it is not designed to resist the elements or wear and tear the way paint is.
If you don’t use paint with your primer, your paint job will likely only last for a year or two before it needs to be replaced.
Can I Just Use Primer and No Paint?
No, primer is less durable than paint and will scratch and chip more easily. Only using a primer will create more work for you in the long run because you will have to repaint more often.
So, what happens if you don’t paint over primer? If you don’t paint over primer, the paint won’t adhere to the surface and will likely chip and peel over time.
Plus, any imperfections on the surface will be more visible without a layer of paint to cover them up. So, if you want your paint job to last, make sure to prime first!