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8 Best Primer for Bare Wood [Reviews & Buyer’s Guide]

Painting can be a tedious task if you don't know how to go about it. 

Close-up of carpenter hands in blue gloves working at workshop. Man in respirator and glasses pouring wood varnish on wooden surface. Carpentry work and joinery concept

It's not only a matter of choosing the right painting tools but also buying the ideal primer. The primer is the base on which painters apply the topcoat. It acts as a shield, keeping your walls free of impurities and maintaining the color quality for a long time. 

There are several types of primers available out there, including both water-based and oil-based formulas. Moreover, they have different viscosity levels, drying times, and coverage areas, affecting how your walls will look after painting. Needless to say, you need to consider several factors while purchasing the right product. 

But what's the best primer available out there? We've narrowed down nine premium-quality products suitable for bare wood and other surfaces. Additionally, there's a buyer's guide to help you make an informed decision.

Best Primer for Bare Wood

Close-up of woodworker hands in protective gloves covering wooden surface. Joiner lacquering part of furniture. Carpentry work and joinery processing concept

Whether you're working on furniture, cabinets, or other woodworking projects, these primers will provide a solid foundation for your paint or stain. So, without further ado, here's the list of the 8 best primers for bare wood that will help you achieve professional-quality results.

1. KILZ L211101 - Best for Slick Surfaces

One of our top recommendations is the KILZ L211101 model, generating substantial buzz in the market. This water-based solution has all the essential attributes, making painting easier for professionals and first-timers alike. Understandably, users have liked what it offers, leading to its increasing popularity.

KILZ Adhesion Primer, Interior/Exterior, 1 Gallon
  • BONDING PRIMER: A high adhesion primer that bonds to a wide...
  • ADVANCED FORMULA: It's advanced styrenated acrylic polymer...

Why Did We Like It? 

We'll begin by discussing the bonding abilities of this primer, allowing it to adhere to slick surfaces. Compared to oil-based primers, this unit has a viscosity value ranging from 93 to 100 KU, making it suitable for various materials. You can use it with Kynar, PVC, glass, and metal, keeping in mind that the topcoat should be of latex or oil-based paint. 

People use it for both indoor and outdoor purposes to maintain the appearance of their homes. It also comes in handy for epoxies, lacquers, and Xylene solvents, preventing damage, while ensuring that the paint doesn't peel off. 

Now, a single can of this product is suitable for covering 300 square feet, highlighting its coverage and affordability. Once applied, it dries within 30 minutes, meaning you can start recoating in less than an hour. Not surprisingly, it's extremely user-friendly and works well with a brush, roller, or spray. 

What Could've Been Better? 

If we had to nitpick, we would say that users should exercise caution while using this primer. It's highly adhesive, meaning you need to cover your furniture and keep it away from kids to prevent accidents. Another slightly concerning aspect is that it has a mild smell. 


  • Versatile
  • Viscosity value of 93-100KU
  • Dries under 30 minutes
  • Long-lasting
  • Strong adhesive


  • Slight smell
  • Exercise caution

Coverage: Up to 100 sq. ft. | Volume: 1 Qt | Base Type: Water-based | Stain Blocking: Yes | Drying Time: 30 minutes | Adhesion: Excellent | VOC Content: Low

2. Rust-Oleum 272479 - Best Spray Primer

A well-known brand in the world of paints is Rust-Oleum, and its latest primer has everyone interested. By offering a spray-based solution, the manufacturers have deviated from the norm of providing large cans, making it stand out. No wonder it has received positive reviews from buyers.

Zinsser 272479 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer, 13 oz,...
  • Interior/exterior use on new or previously painted Drywall,...
  • Oil-based formula seals uniformly and will Stick to surface...

Why Did We Like It? 

If you're looking for a spray primer, this model from Rust-Oleum will surely please you. It comes in a 13-oz bottle that can cover 12 square feet for the best results. While it may not have the capacity of the KILZ L211101, it promises reliability and is ideal for oil-based painting. 

You can use it for both exterior and interior painting tasks, thanks to its smooth finish, delivering an attractive appearance. Users have loved how it adheres to wood and masonry, making this spray primer one of the top choices for buyers. 

Other than that, it solves the usual sanding issues as it sticks uniformly to the surface. All you need to do is let the primer dry for 30 minutes, following which you can apply the paint without any hassle.  

What Could've Been Better? 

This primer drips irrespective of whether you use a sprayer, brush, or roller. You need to be vigilant lest there be streaks on the wall. Plus, despite its versatility, you won't get the best result while painting plastic surfaces, which isn't convenient. 


  • Stain blocking resistance
  • Smooth finish
  • No need for sanding
  • Versatile
  • Blocks imperfections


  • Not suitable for plastic
  • Drips

Coverage: Up to 12 sq. ft. | Volume: 13 Oz | Base Type: Oil-based | Stain Blocking: Yes | Drying Time: 2 hours | Adhesion: Good | VOC Content: Medium

3. INSL-X SXA11009A-01 - Best for Large Coverage

Another top choice for customers is the INSL-X SXA11009A-01, thanks to its excellent coverage and enamel holdout finish. You can use it for numerous purposes and on different materials, making it highly sought-after. So, read the following review to know more about it.

INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix Acrylic Waterborne Bonding Primer,...
  • Premium-quality, acrylic-urethane bonding primer-sealer with...
  • Bonding primer for drywall, plaster, ceiling, acoustical...

Why Did We Like It? 

The striking aspect of this model is its fantastic coverage of 300-400 square feet per gallon, making it highly sought-after. It comes in a large container, with the primer delivering a matte texture on most surfaces. This is because it has an acrylic-urethane bonding that tightly adheres to doors and walls. 

Significantly, you can apply a topcoat of any material, thanks to its enamel holdout finish. It forms the ideal base for applying an even coating of paint, and you'll enjoy the smooth texture on both interior and exterior walls. 

But that's not all, and we loved that it's low maintenance, made possible by its exceptional VOC rating. All you need to do is use soap and a cleaning agent, making it easy to clean. Finally, it dries up quickly, even in temperatures as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit.  

What Could've Been Better? 

After applying the primer, you'll need to sand the walls for a smooth finish, adding one more step while painting. Other than that, we noticed spots forming on the surface, owing to its matte texture, which you need to smoothen out quickly. 


  • One gallon can
  • Matte texture
  • Low-maintenance
  • Low VOC rating
  • Easy to clean


  • Needs sanding
  • May lead to spots

Coverage: Up to 400 sq. ft. | Volume: 1 Gallon | Base Type: Water-based | Stain Blocking: Yes | Drying Time: 1 hour | Adhesion: Excellent | VOC Content: Low

4. KILZ 10902

We're at the halfway point in our guide, but the premium-quality products keep coming. Our next recommendation is another unit from KILZ, but how is it different from the earlier models? For starters, this oil-based solution is extremely versatile and tightly sticks to most surfaces, delivering durability. Unsurprisingly, it's quite popular among painters.

KILZ Original Primer, Interior, 1 Quart, White
  • A good primer makes paint stick better to surfaces, makes...
  • KILZ Original oil-based primer blocks most stains including...

Why Did We Like It? 

KILZ's oil-based primer is a strong adhesive for most surfaces, be it wood, drywall, or metal, highlighting its versatility. Since it sticks better, you won't have to use much paint while getting a more vibrant color to enhance the beauty of your home. 

The primer comes in a single-gallon can, covering 300-400 square feet quickly for the best results. Plus, it dries in under 30 minutes, meaning you can apply the topcoat after one hour. Once applied, it blocks existing stains and prevents future stains from forming on the walls, making it long-lasting. 

Users can use it with a roller, spray, or brush, creating a smooth texture and an even coating. This forms the base for the topcoat, filling in porous holes and keeping the paint from peeling off the walls. Therefore, you can use it for damage control to maintain the quality of indoor and outdoor furniture. 

What Could've Been Better? 

It's incredibly sticky, which is both advantageous and disadvantageous. While it delivers a firm coating, you need to cover the furniture and wear protective gear to keep yourself safe. On top of that, it produces a foul odor, affecting people with breathing issues and allergies. 


  • Dries under 30 minutes
  • Smooth texture
  • Blocks stains
  • Versatile
  • Long-lasting


  • Foul odor
  • Sticky

Coverage: Up to 400 sq. ft. | Volume: 1 Gallon | Base Type: Oil-based | Stain Blocking: Yes | Drying Time: 30 minutes | Adhesion: Good | VOC Content: Medium

5. Rust-Oleum 2004

Rust-Oleum has ticked all the right boxes with its latest water-based primer, having a coverage area of 100 square feet. But that's not the only good thing about it, as its rust-resistant coat keeps your furniture fresh, maintaining the quality of your home. This product is on everyone's wish list.

Rust-Oleum ZINSSER 1 qt 02004 White, Bulls Eye 1-2-3...
  • Interior/exterior use on new or previously painted drywall,...
  • Water-based formula seals uniformly and will stick to...

Why Did We Like It? 

If you need a primer for painting new metal surfaces, you'll love this product from Rust-Oleum. It's suitable for both interior and exterior painting tasks while its rust-resistant coating delivers longevity. So be it furniture or other components, you can maintain their quality without any hassle.  

Now, it's extremely easy to use since it's a water-based solution, ensuring that you get an even coating. After applying the primer, there's no need for sanding as it sticks to most surfaces, making painting easy. Furthermore, it's easy to clean, and all you need is soap and water to keep your walls stain-free.  

Another exciting attribute is that it prevents mold and mildew growth, maintaining the texture and color of the walls with the changing seasons. You don't need to worry about blistering or peeling, highlighting its efficiency when used on pH surfaces like concrete.  

What Could've Been Better? 

One gripe that we've is that you need to apply multiple coats as it isn't very thick. This increases the overall cost of painting, which is a downside for potential buyers. Moreover, it leaves lines, and you need to meticulously smoothen the surface before applying the topcoat. 


  • Suitable for indoor and outdoor painting
  • Works well on pH surfaces
  • Easy to clean
  • Prevents staining
  • Protects against mildew


  • You may need to apply multiple coats
  • Leaves lines

Coverage: Up to 112 sq. ft. | Volume: 1 Qt | Base Type: Water-based | Stain Blocking: Yes | Drying Time: 35 minutes | Adhesion: Good | VOC Content: Low

6. Zinsser 3504

Instead of manufacturing two different products, Zinsser incorporates the properties of a sealant and primer in a single oil-based solution. Users have expressed their admiration for the high-hiding formula, helping in damage control and provide a smooth base for different painting tasks. Rest assured, it will be worth the investment.

Rust-Oleum Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil...
  • Cover stain, QT, Oil based stain killer primer/sealer
  • Adds extra shine to your product

Why Did We Like It? 

Zinsser's innovative product is a 2-in-1 model, a primer, and a sealer, delivering desired output on different surfaces. You'll find that this oil-based solution covers stains and adds extra shine during painting. But it's easy to clean, making it low maintenance and guaranteeing a fantastic return on investment. 

We loved its sealing properties, which block imperfections in the wall or furniture. Meaning, you don't need to worry about water seepage or smoking stains while retaining the original vibrancy and color of your home. Once you apply this primer, it sticks tightly to the surface, with a little sanding providing a smooth texture. 

Professional painters prefer to use this product for remodeling, repainting, or construction work. This is because it dries quickly, reducing work time, while the enamel undercoating guarantees a smooth experience. Irrespective of the coarseness of the material, it penetrates most surfaces to plug the gaps.  

What Could've Been Better? 

The primer starts melting inside the can, losing its viscosity and turning into a watery solution. But there's no need to worry as shaking the can solves this issue. Also, you can't use a paintbrush, meaning you'll have to buy a sprayer or roller. 


  • Versatile
  • Dries quickly
  • Suitable for indoor and outdoor use
  • Shiny finish
  • Stain-resistant


  • May melt
  • Unsuitable for paintbrushes

Coverage: Up to 400 sq. ft. | Volume: 1 Qt | Base Type: Oil-based | Stain Blocking: Yes | Drying Time: 45 minutes | Adhesion: Excellent | VOC Content: Medium

7. Rust-Oleum 1966502

If you're looking for a glossy finish, you'll appreciate the properties of this primer. It makes the walls more attractive, ensuring that the vibrant colors enhance your home décor. Furthermore, it delivers sufficient coverage and a quick drying time, making it a suitable option for most people. 

Rust-Oleum Brush On Paint 224430T Painter's Touch Latex,...
  • Use for a variety of indoor and outdoor project surfaces...
  • Water-based acrylic formula is low odor, resist chips and...

Why Did We Like It? 

This latest Rust-Oleum primer has several benefits, foremost among which is its easy application and durability. We loved its water-based acrylic formula, having the right viscosity for painting different surfaces. Moreover, compared to other units, it has no foul smell for a fantastic user experience. 

It's suitable for working on several projects, both indoors and outdoors, since the primer adheres to wood, metal, and ceramic. What's more, it dries in less than 30 minutes, meaning you can start painting quickly, highlighting its efficiency. Overall, a single can cover 120 square feet of area, making it ideal for numerous projects.  

That said, it’s important to sand the surface; use a degreaser for washing, and leave the surface to dry before you start painting. This helps remove impurities, ensuring that the walls retain their original color for a long time.  

What Could've Been Better? 

While determining your painting budget, you need to factor in the cost of applying multiple coats of this primer. It takes time to get the desired texture, but thankfully it dries quickly. Apart from that, this water-based solution isn't suitable for brush painting; you'll have to use a sprayer or roller to complete the job. 


  • Dries in 30 minutes
  • Long-lasting performance
  • No foul odor
  • Resists chips
  • Prevents peeling


  • Issues with brushing
  • Requires multiple coats

Coverage: Up to 120 sq. ft. | Volume: 1 Qt | Base Type: Water-based | Stain Blocking: Yes | Drying Time: 30 minutes | Adhesion: Good | VOC Content: Low

8. Zinsser 00904

This Zinsser model features a 2-in-1 primer/sealer solution and has the unique ability to block water. It's often used for professional purposes, such as remodeling and construction, delivering outstanding reliability for long-lasting results. There's a lot to like about it, and you can read the following section to learn more. 

Why Did We Like It? 

Another terrific model is the Zinsser 00904, a combination of a primer and a sealer. It's a 2-in-1 B-I-N Shellac Base formula that proves useful for indoor and outdoor spot priming. This is because it has excellent adhesive properties, capable of blocking water, so it's used by professionals for remodeling and construction work. 

You can apply it on different surfaces like wood, drywall, and metal without the added hassle of sanding or deglossing. It's incredibly easy to use and prevents sap streaks, delivering a smooth texture. In that regard, the enamel undercoat proves useful and helps provide an even coat of paint for the desired output. 

Other than that, it has one of the fastest drying times among primers, 15 minutes, ensuring that users can start repainting in 45 minutes. Therefore, it covers an area of 120 square feet quickly while blocking porous holes and removing impurities.  

What Could've Been Better? 

Compared to other products, a single can of this primer costs more, which won't please potential buyers. But it's worth the investment, and it would be best not to compromise on quality. Other than that, it gets watery when left in the can, so you need to shake and stir the solution before commencing work. 


  • Dries in 15 minutes
  • Enamel undercoat
  • Highly adhesive
  • Blocks water
  • Prevents sap streaks


  • Slightly costly
  • May appear watery

Coverage: Up to 125 sq. ft. | Volume: 1 Qt | Base Type: Water-based | Stain Blocking: Yes | Drying Time: 45 minutes | Adhesion: Excellent | VOC Content: Low

Best Primers for Bare Wood Comparison Table

ProductCoverageVolumeBase TypeStain BlockingDrying TimeAdhesionVOC Content
KILZ L211101Up to 100 sq. ft.1 QtWater-basedYes30 minutesExcellentLow
Rust-Oleum 272479Up to 12 sq. ft.13 OzOil-basedYes2 hoursGoodMedium
INSL-X SXA11009A-01Up to 400 sq. ft.1 GallonWater-basedYes1 hourExcellentLow
KILZ 10902Up to 400 sq. ft.1 GallonOil-basedYes30 minutesGoodMedium
Rust-Oleum 2004Up to 112 sq. ft.1 QtWater-basedYes35 minutesGoodLow
Zinsser 3504Up to 400 sq. ft.1 QtOil-basedYes45 minutesExcellentMedium
Rust-Oleum 1966502Up to 120 sq. ft.1 QtWater-basedYes30 minutesGoodLow
Zinsser 00904Up to 125 sq. ft.1 QtWater-basedYes45 minutesExcellentLow

Wooden with brown primer for texture background boards

Buying Guide For The Best Primer for Bare Wood

It's time to check out the buyer's guide, where we'll highlight all there is to know about a primer for bare wood. You can note the points mentioned below, which will help you choose between two top-notch products. So, let's get started. 

  1. Durability

The durability of a primer depends on its viscosity. To protect the walls from damage and prevent the paint from peeling, the primer should ideally cover porous holes to block water. 

With the right product, your walls will retain their color for a long time. 

  1. Low-Maintenance

Secondly, once the painting is over, it must be easy to clean the walls. The primer plays a crucial part in ensuring that you can wipe the walls with a wet cloth without removing the paint. 

On top of that, premium-quality primers prevent mildew and staining. 

  1. Price

Finally, you need to consider the cost of your painting job. The designers need to design an affordable primer formula without compromising on quality for long-lasting performance. 

Having said that, you must be flexible with the budget as top products usually cost more.

Primers for Bare Wood FAQ's

  • Why is it important to use a primer on bare wood?

    Using a primer on bare wood is essential for several reasons. Primers help seal the wood surface, preventing moisture penetration and potential wood damage. They also create a uniform base for paint or stain application, improving adhesion and durability. Additionally, primers can block wood stains, knots, and tannins, ensuring a smooth and consistent finish.

  • What type of primer is best for bare wood?

    The best type of primer for bare wood is typically an oil-based or shellac-based primer. These types of primers have excellent sealing properties, provide good adhesion, and effectively block stains and tannins. However, water-based primers have also improved over the years and can be a suitable choice for certain applications.

  • How do I prepare the wood surface before applying the primer?

    Before applying the primer, it is important to prepare the wood surface properly. Start by cleaning the wood to remove any dirt, dust, or grease. Sand the wood to smooth out rough areas and ensure proper adhesion. Fill any cracks, holes, or imperfections with wood filler, and then sand again to achieve a smooth surface. Finally, remove any sanding dust and ensure the surface is dry before applying the primer.

  • Can I use a regular paint as a primer on bare wood?

    While regular paint may provide some coverage on bare wood, it is generally not recommended to use it as a primer. Primers are specifically formulated to seal and prepare the wood surface, providing optimal adhesion and coverage for the topcoat. Using a dedicated primer will yield better results, ensuring long-lasting and professional-looking finishes.

  • How many coats of primer should I apply on bare wood?

    In most cases, applying one coat of primer is sufficient for bare wood. However, if the wood has significant stains, knots, or tannins, additional coats or spot priming may be necessary. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific primer being used, as some products may recommend multiple coats for certain conditions.

  • How long should I let the primer dry before applying the paint or stain?

    The drying time for primer can vary depending on the product and environmental conditions. Typically, primer needs to dry for several hours before applying the paint or stain. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended drying time, and ensure the primer is completely dry and cured before proceeding with the next coat or finishing product.

  • Can I use a primer for bare wood on other surfaces?

    While primers for bare wood are specifically designed for wood surfaces, they can often be used on other materials such as MDF, plywood, or particleboard. However, it’s important to check the manufacturer’s instructions and product labeling to ensure the primer is suitable for the specific surface you are working with.

  • Is it necessary to sand the primer before applying the topcoat?

    In most cases, sanding the primer is not necessary unless there are imperfections or rough areas that need to be smoothed out. However, if a smooth or glossy finish is desired, lightly sanding the primer with fine-grit sandpaper can help achieve the desired result. Always ensure the primer is fully cured and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations before sanding or applying the topcoat.

  • Conclusion

    That's all there is to know about the best primer for bare wood, and it's time now to take your leave. 

    Before signing off, we've decided to help you a bit more by narrowing down our favorite models into different categories. We believe that the KILZ L211101 ranks among the top products, given its high viscosity and strong adhesive properties. 

    The Rust-Oleum 272479 has also done well, being one of the few spray-based solutions with stain-blocking properties, highlighting its user-friendliness. So, that's all, but we'll be back with more exciting product reviews. 

    We hope you can now decide on the primer most suitable for your needs. Whenever in doubt, feel free to consult the buyer's guide; with the right product, your old walls will look new. And rest assured, you can enjoy the vibrant glow of new paint for many years to come. 

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