Pros and Cons of using paint and primer in one?

The advertising and media coverage of certain paint products can lead to consumer confusion and dependence. DIY enthusiasts prioritize value, speed, and convenience when purchasing paints.

A common question that arises is whether using paint and primer in one is ok or not. It is possible to skip the separate primer step, but it’s important to understand what you are buying and whether it’s a worthwhile and wise choice.

What are Paint and Primer in one

using paint and primer in one

Paint and primer in one is a type of paint that combines both the function of a primer and a paint into a single product.

Typically, when painting a house, you would first need to use a thin-bodied white or tinted primer followed by a thicker-bodied paint that delivers the true paint color and outer protection.

However, with paint and primer in one, you can skip the initial step of using a separate primer. This thicker paint builds higher to give you a sturdier coat of paint and is tinted just like conventional paint, eliminating the need to cover up the initial layer of white primer.

What is the purpose of “paint and primer in one” products?

These products are high quality paints that have both increased adhesion and stain-blocking capabilities, making them suitable for many interior and exterior projects. However, they may not be the best choice for every project.

Some surfaces require specialty primers to ensure proper adhesion and block out color, especially exterior surfaces made of wood, metal, vinyl, aluminum, stucco or block. While paint and primer in one can be helpful in some situations, it’s best to use a specialty primer to prevent problems.

Why is a primer necessary?

A primer is necessary for several reasons, such as the surface’s condition and its composition. For instance, if the surface is interior or exterior, made of drywall or plaster, metal or wood, has a sheen or gloss, is a dark color, or has rust or corrosion present. Without a proper primer, the surface may not adhere well or have issues with bleed-through and may require multiple coats to cover a deep color.

Priming a surface before painting may not seem important to some homeowners as its benefits may not be immediately apparent. Unlike paint, primer is not a protective coat and does not provide any color. It may seem like an unnecessary extra step that eventually gets covered up by paint. However, in some cases, priming is necessary to ensure that the paint adheres well to the surface being painted.

Bare, porous surfaces, raw or unfinished wood, uncoated metal, unfinished drywall, and masonry all require priming before painting. Primer is also needed when there are concerns about wood bleeding, gloss, grease, or other factors that make paint adhesion difficult.

Although it’s important to clean the surface and roughen up glossy areas before painting, this may not be enough to ensure that the surface is ready for a top coat. Primer helps to prepare the surface and improve paint adhesion, bringing the surface closer to perfection.

When Primer Is Not Needed

In certain projects, it may be unnecessary to use paint and primer in one or any type of primer at all. Ideally, all surfaces should be patched, primed once or twice, and painted twice again. However, in reality, it may be possible to skip the priming step.

Surfaces that are clean, dry, and have low porosity in good condition may not need any priming. This is typically the case for walls in a typical interior living room, bedroom, dining room, or hallway.

If you are repainting a surface with the same color, you can usually get away with just one or two coats of paint without needing to use a primer.

Will Paint and Primer in One Save Money?

Self-priming paint is restricted to the more expensive premium paint lines. This is important to note because this immediately drives up costs. You cannot go cheap with self-priming paint, even on a per-gallon basis.

Consider these estimates:

  • Two Coats of Self-Primer: Apply a coat of self-priming paint at $25 per gallon. Let it dry. Apply the second coat of self-priming paint: $25 per gallon again. For an exterior requiring 10 gallons of paint and primer per coat, your tab is $500. 
  • Primer and Paint: Apply a coat of primer at $12 per gallon. Let it dry. Apply a coat of exterior acrylic latex paint, non-self-priming, at $17 per gallon. When splitting primer and paint quantities down the middle (10 gallons each), the grand total is $290. Even if the job requires a second coat of $17-per-gallon paint, the total cost will be $460, which still saves money over the self-priming option.

In the first scenario, you are using expensive, tinted self-priming paint as your primer vs. less expensive real primer. After all, the tint is another factor that drives up paint costs.

Pros and Cons

What are the advantages and disadvantages of paint and primer in one?

The advantage of using paint and primer in one

The benefits of using paint and primer in one depending on the specific project. For interior drywall that has been previously painted, this type of product can be trusted to work well. It can save time by allowing you to apply the paint directly to the surface without the need for a separate primer. In most cases, these surfaces do not require a specialty primer.

The Disadvantage of using paint and primer in one

Purchasing paint and primer in one can be more expensive compared to buying separate products. If you encounter adhesion or bleed-through issues and end up having to buy another primer and repaint it, it can become a costly and time-consuming mistake. Therefore, it’s important to assess your project needs and seek advice from a paint expert before making a purchase.