5 Best Drywall Primers 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

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A great drywall primer can make your paint job easier, improving the paint color, smoothing its application, and using less paint. But how do you make sure the primer you choose will get the job done?

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We tested all of the major brands and came up with this list of the six best drywall primers available in 2019. For each primer, we’ve written detailed reviews, comparing price, material, durability, coverage, and quality so you can be sure you’re buying a great brand.

If you have questions, take a look at our in-depth buyer’s guide, which will walk you through major features and options. You’ll be perfectly priming your drywall in no time.


A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

The 5 Best Drywall Primers – Reviews 2020

1. Rust-Oleum Corporation Drywall Primer — Best OverallRust-Oleum-Corporation-01501

Our top choice is the Rust-Oleum Corporation 01501 Drywall Primer, which we find to be the best primer for new drywall. It’s reasonably-priced, fast-drying, and very smooth.

This water-based primer doesn’t raise the nap on new drywall and is easy to sand. It’s low-odor, applies smoothly, and dries quickly, within about an hour.

This primer isn’t oil-based, so it won’t seal your drywall, but it is easy to clean, which is fortunate because it splatters quite a bit during the painting process. The shipping isn’t perfect, as we found reports of customers receiving leaking cans, but this primer offers great value for its fair price.

Pros

  • Works well on new drywall
  • Easy to sand
  • Low-odor and water-based
  • Dries quickly, within an hour
  • Reasonably-priced
  • Applies smoothly

Cons

  • Won’t seal in drywall
  • Reports of leaking cans
  • May splatter while painting

2. Red Devil Onetime Patch and Prime Spackling — Best Value

2-Red-Devil-0540-Onetime-Patch-and-Prime-Spackling

If you’re shopping on a budget, you may be interested in the Red Devil 0540 Onetime Patch and Prime Spackling, which we recommend as the best drywall primer for the money. It has an impressively low price and combines spackling and priming functions.

This primer is water-based but quite thick and works well with putty knives. It’s easy to sand and works particularly well on fairly smooth drywall that needs simple spot repairs. Because it’s thick, this primer isn’t suited for covering entire walls. This primer is very low-odor and dries quickly.

With no included applicator, you’ll need to supply your own. We found that this primer does tend to crumble during the application process, so you’ll need to be careful; but overall, it’s simple to use and labor-saving.

Pros

  • Very low cost
  • Combined spackling and priming functions
  • Water-based but thick
  • Works well with putty knives
  • Great for spot repair
  • Low-odor and fast-drying

Cons

  • No included applicator
  • Too thick to efficiently cover large surfaces
  • Tends to crumble

3. 3M Patch Plus PrimerSpackling Compound

3-3M-PPP-32-BB-Patch-Plus-PrimerSpackling-Compound

The 3M PPP-32-BB Patch Plus PrimerSpackling Compound is another low-cost combined spackle and primer. It doesn’t shrink or crack but isn’t thick enough for effective spackling.

This well-priced primer dries very quickly, in just 30 minutes. The square tub is well designed for use with a putty knife, and it works fairly well for spot repair but isn’t suited to covering entire walls.

In testing, we found this fairly thin primer somewhat difficult to work with. It dries almost too quickly, so you can’t make adjustments, and the box doesn’t reseal, so the primer quickly dries out and can’t be used again.

Pros

  • Well-priced
  • Combined spackle and primer functions
  • No shrinking or cracking
  • Works fairly well on spot repair
  • Square tub works well with putty knives
  • Dries quickly

Cons

  • No included applicator
  • Dries too quickly to make adjustments
  • Somewhat thin
  • Box can’t be resealed and dries out quickly
  • Not suited to covering entire walls

4. KILZ 2 Interior Latex Primer

4-KILZ-2-20902-Interior-Latex-Primer

The KILZ 2 20902 Interior Latex Primer is fairly-priced and has plenty of functionality but may dry too quickly for some uses.

This water-based latex primer, which includes a mildew-resistant film, is easy to clean and applies fairly smoothly. It may be too fast-drying for some applications, as it dries in under an hour. It functions as a primer, sealer, and stain blocker.

We did find numerous reports of paint cans arriving dented or leaking, but if you receive a good shipment, this primer could still be a good option. If you purchase through Amazon, you’ll be able to return damaged paints.

Pros

  • Reasonably-priced
  • Water-based latex with mildew-resistant film
  • Easy to clean and applies smoothly
  • Functions as a primer, sealer, and stain blocker

Cons

  • May dry too quickly
  • Reports of cans arriving dented or leaking

5. Diamond Brite Paint Latex PVA Primer

5-Diamond-Brite-Paint-40100-Latex-PVA-Primer

Our least favorite drywall primer is the Diamond Brite Paint 40100 Latex PVA Primer, which is a combined primer and sealer that doesn’t work particularly well.

This water-based primer is made of polyvinyl acetate latex, which is also known as white latex. It’s fast-drying and low-odor but doesn’t block stains.

In testing, we found that this primer provided spotty coverage and required quite a few layers to fully coat a surface. It has a tendency to clump when you paint over it and is only compatible with latex paint. Though this primer’s price is reasonable, it doesn’t work well and may not be your best option.

Pros

  • Water-based PVA latex primer
  • Fast-drying and low-odor
  • Reasonably-priced

Cons

  • Doesn’t block stains
  • Need multiple layers to cover a surface
  • Tends to clump
  • Only compatible with latex paint

Buyer’s Guide

High-quality primer is a key ingredient to most drywall projects. Whether you’re working with new drywall or looking to smooth and repaint older drywall, there are several great brands that will suit your needs. Keep reading to learn about your options and the various available features.

Why do you need a primer?

 Primer helps to create a smooth, stable surface for your paint. Its three major functions are stain-blocking, sealing, and smoothing.

Primers create a layer that the paint can more securely attach to. If your walls are too porous or too smooth, your paint coats will not work well. Too porous, and the paint will absorb into the wall. If your walls are too smooth, with a glossy base coat or other smooth layer, the paint will not attach well, and you’ll risk it peeling. A great primer will, therefore, change the texture of your wall to optimize your paint.

Stain-blocking features are particularly important if you’re repainting older walls. Fully opaque primers will cover stains so that you don’t have to apply as many coats of paint. This can save you money and leave you with smoother, more consistent walls. Stain-blocking may be especially important if you’re painting your walls a lighter color, which may not cover darker stains.

Primer can also improve the accuracy of your paint color, providing a neutral base color that your chosen paint tint won’t have to compete with.

Another option is self-priming paint, which combines the priming and painting steps. These paints may be less effective as primers but will work well on fairly smooth and clean walls.

What type of primer do you need?

Most primers are made of either latex or acrylic, and all of the primers we reviewed here are water-based. Water-based primers are easier to clean up after painting, requiring just soap and water rather than chemical solvents, but may also be thinner and less effective at sealing your drywall. Water-based primers have less odor but don’t work as well at sealing in odors and stains that come from water, like rust and mildew.

Do you want a straightforward primer, or would you like a combined priming and spackling product? Primers are typically a bit thinner and can be easily spread across entire walls. Combined primers work best for spot treatments, spackling holes and smoothing rough patches. These are often thicker and applied with putty knives, so they’re more difficult to spread across large surfaces.

What if you live in a moisture-prone area?

If you live in a humid climate and have had issues with mold or mildew, you may want to look for primers with particular stain-blocking, sealing, and mildew-resistant capabilities. Moisture coming through your drywall can cause your paint to bubble or peel, and it can allow mold to grow on your walls. You’ll want a primer that can seal your drywall, cover any mildew stains, and resist future growth of mold and mildew. Many primers include mold-resistant films, which will prevent new growth.

Drywall-Primer

How quickly will your primer dry?

Would you prefer a fast-drying primer, or would you rather work more slowly? The fastest primers will dry within half an hour, shortening your overall painting time, but won’t allow you much time to smooth or make adjustments. If you’re a more methodical painter, you may prefer a primer that doesn’t dry as quickly.

Odor

If you’re painting your drywall inside, you’ll probably want to make sure you have good ventilation. For added safety from toxic fumes, you may want to look for low-odor primers that won’t put out off-putting smells. Water-based primers typically do not have as much odor as oil-based primers.

Price

How much are you willing to spend? Drywall primers can range from just a few dollars to quite a bit more. Keep in mind that you may also need to purchase paints, topcoats, and painting tools.

New Drywall

New drywall is typically very porous and isn’t smooth. The seams are sealed with mud, which is more porous than the rest of your drywall. If you paint directly on fresh drywall, you may end up with dull patches or an uneven finish. To prevent this, you’ll want to apply a primer to your drywall to seal it in, provide a smooth, consistent layer, and prevent your paint from being absorbing unevenly. You may want to look for a high-quality primer that won’t raise the nap on your new drywall.

Paint

Once you’ve primed your drywall, you’ll probably want to paint it within 48 hours. This is because many primers are designed to bond with paints, forming a stronger, more consistent layer.


Conclusion

Our overall top pick is the Rust-Oleum Corporation 01501 Drywall Primer, which is well-priced, fast-drying, and easy to apply. If your budget is smaller, you may prefer the Red Devil 0540 Onetime Patch and Prime Spackling, which is an effective combined prime and spackle product at a very low price. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, you may appreciate the INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Acrylic Bonding Primer, a high-end acrylic primer that works on any surface and provides a durable priming layer.

With the right primer, you can confidently paint your drywall. But with so many brands on the market, it can be difficult to find the best one for your project. We hope this list of the six best drywall primers available in 2019, complete with in-depth reviews and a handy buyer’s guide, helps you shop well and ensure smooth, evenly painted walls.


Featured Credit Image: KILZ, Amazon





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