How Many Coats of Primer on Wood Before Painting?

Image of Painted Wood. But, How Many Coats of Primer on Wood Before Painting?A primer is essential for delivering a smooth, flawless finish. Better still, it helps fill and cover cracks to facilitate a professional result. However, there is a major concern about how many coats of primer on wood before painting. Also, like all other woodworking products, primers come in multiple varieties, and they have different application and drying times which is why it would be best to do in-depth research before choosing a formula. 

I recommend that you use two coats of primer on wood before painting. They will fill the wood pores and facilitate uniform paint adhesion. Moreover, two primer coats will enhance paint adhesion, which results in a durable finish.

Some painters especially starters get excited about the whole thing and end up applying too much primer, be keen to ensure that you apply only what is enough for your project to avoid possible complications that you might encounter several weeks after you finish your project.

Is One Coat of Primer Enough on Wood?

It is advisable to use two primer coats for your painting project. But there are some scenarios where one coat will suffice. Here is a guide on them.

  • A second primer coat is unnecessary when painting over an existing paint finish with medium to light tones, like mint green or sky blue. So, start with a single primer layer for white or very light surfaces, then add a second coat if the old color shows after drying.
  • You can ignore a second primer coat surface for light finishes, such as white paint. Moreover, these surfaces are ready for a paint layer, and the base light coat will not show through the final finish.
  • You would not need another primer coat if you used latex paint on the old paint job. The finish would’ve sealed cracks and the wood pores, making the wood for repainting.
  • Skipping the second primer coat is okay when using tinted primers as they neutralize the underlying color and reduce the needed primer coats. However, adding a pigment to the primer reduces its ability to deliver a smooth surface for the paint. Thus, it is best to avoid heavily pigmented products.
  • It is okay to have only one primer coat if you have self-priming paint. Ideally, the paint does not require a primer, but one coat of primer enhances a professional finish.

Nonetheless, it would be prudent to assess whether one primer coat is sufficient before painting. So, check whether the formula fully covers the surface after drying. If the surface dries to the touch and you cannot see through the wood, you are good to go.

Additionally, you can have an extra paint coat if you aren’t happy with the final color. But it is wise to consider a second primer layer if the new paint and old primer differ too much. This way, you’ll deliver a more uniform finish.

What Happens If I Don’t Use Enough Primer Coats?

You will have a low solid’s percentage to fill the wood pores, mask knots in the lumber, and level the surface for a paint coat. Even worse, the finish will be susceptible to peeling, blotching, and eventually an early failure.

Insufficiently primed wood surfaces absorb paint at different rates, leading to blotches. Moreover, unprimed surfaces have more porous areas, and one primer coat will not give a consistent finish.

So, you are safer working with two primer coats as the first layer will fill the wood pores to deliver an even surface. Then, the second coat will replenish the primer the wood absorbs and hide the lumber’s imperfections.

One wood primer is not enough when creating dramatic color transitions from dark to bright. Also, the dark color will continue to peek through even after two or more paint coats. Thus, you need two primer coats to reduce the required paint coats and deliver the desired color change.

Should I Sand Between Coats of Primer On Wood?

You do not have to sand between primer coats. But you can consider the process when using water-based primers. They cause the wood grain to swell, compromising the desired uniform finish. So, lightly sand after the first coat to flatten and level the surface.

Interestingly, some people love the dullness that the raised grain appearance gives. Thus, they do not need to worry about sanding the primer coat. However, it is still advisable to sand the surface when you do not find the dull look desirable.

Also, remember that the goal of sanding between primer coats is to smooth down the wood grain while leaving the primer intact. Overdoing it will affect the added adhesion that the formula provides for the topcoat and compromise the final result.

So, grab fine-grit sandpaper, say 220-grit, for the primed surface. Or you can even consider utilizing an orbital sander as it will not compromise the wood’s natural appearance. In addition, it is okay to go for 600-grit sandpaper later to deliver a smoother overall finish.

What Happens If I Use Too Much Primer?

Please avoid using too much primer as it leads to multiple problems. For instance, applying too many layers or an excessively thick coat increases the likelihood of crazing, cracking, or chipping.

Besides, remember that primers consist of resins, solvents, and pigments. These resins help to seal the porous wood surface and create a smoother surface for perfect paint adhesion. Even better, they allow the paint to cover the surface more evenly and last longer.

Additionally, the primer limits the paint amount that the wood absorbs and reduces the overall paint needed for the project. Therefore, you will deliver perfect coverage with less paint formula.

As seen above, a primer is advantageous, especially if you use the correct proportions. Skipping the formula or using too little will let the wood surface soak up too much paint, leaving you with a dull, blotchy outcome.

On the other hand, overapplying a priming formula may lead to longer drying durations, slowing down your project. Worse still, having excess primer will damage drywall and lead to bubbling or peeling. So, apply it carefully and reasonably.

Fortunately, it is possible to monitor your primer application process. For example, you can use a standard roller as it is easy to tell when the formula is too much. Check whether the primer drips off the tool during application and reduce the primer amount when too much.

Poor-quality primer products may compromise your work, regardless of adhering to the correct techniques. In addition, you may still see marks, stains, or excess color bleeding in the new paint after applying the proper primer amount. Therefore, research the best product that will deliver a perfect result faster.

Lastly, wood can is challenging to paint because of its multiple imperfections. For instance, furniture pieces in rustic styles have multiple uneven areas and knots. Thus, little primer can reveal these blemishes and affect the final finish.

Conversely, using more primer than needed will soon lead to a failed product. So, it would be best to understand the wood surface and get the most suitable primer type. You can also set a personal limit of two primer coats for oil-based or thicker formulas.

Should I Wet Sand Between Primer Coats?

Image of a sander in use. You should know How to Paint Over Semi Gloss Without SandingGenerally, wet sanding between primer coats is no longer a recommended practice due to the risk of trapped moisture. However, the decision may also depend on the primer and wood’s surface.

In addition, some primers allow wet or dry sanding without causing problems, like masking materials, fillers, or trapped water. Therefore, you can go ahead and wet sand the surface if paper loading is not a problem.

It is prudent to choose the sandpaper wisely to avoid scratching the primer or clogging the material. Also, an excellent way to get the best accessory is by checking the product label. This way, you’ll get the most recommended sandpaper for dry or wet sanding.

On the other hand, wet sanding between primer coats can be pointless because you’ll have to sand the primer before applying the basecoat color. The process will also extend your project time, and it would be better to sand the last primer coat as you will get the same outcome.

Does It Matter if It’s Unfinished Wood or Previously Painted?

Yes. The nature of the wood’s surface matters when determining how many coats of primer are perfect for a desirable result. Thus, please check whether the lumber is unfinished or previously painted.

The main difference between the above surfaces is that unfinished lumber is quite porous. Hence, the surface will absorb more primer than already painted lumber.

Conversely, previously painted lumber has paint color traces and features primer molecules in its pores. Therefore, you may only need one primer coat to hide the previous paint finish.

On top of that, the resulting finish after sanding painted wood is different from bare wood. The painted surface is easier to apply a primer, whereas unfinished wood has bare pores that hinder uniform and consistent paint adhesion. So, you’ll need to work with more primer coats.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that you forego a primer when working with previously painted lumber. You’d want the new paint coat to adhere tightly to the wood for an extended duration. Thus, the results will be better with a solid primer base coat.

In addition, you can consider getting a stain-blocking primer to deliver perfect coverage. This way, the old paint finish will not peep through the new surface.

Sometimes priming may appear like an unnecessary move, especially when you want to apply multiple coats of latex paint. But omitting the primer may cost you and cause disappointments with the final product.

Also, you may experience uneven paint coverage and frequent bleed-throughs, regardless of how many coats you apply. Even worse, the final layer will be more vulnerable to chalking, peeling, and other defects.


Primer does not just offer an opaque base coat. It also features a high solids content that fills the wood grain and makes the topcoat smoother. Moreover, the formula’s binding agent is more adhesive and sticks to the surface better than paint.

How Many Coats of Paint Do You Need After Primer?

The general rule requires you to use two paint coats after priming. However, the requirement may vary depending on the paint’s quality and color, the surface type, and whether or not you used a primer.

Also, although you will spend more time and money applying two or more paint coats on the surface, the finish will last three to five times longer. Therefore, you will eventually get value for your investment.

Please note that there are rare cases where higher quality paint formulas only require one coat after the primer. Thus, it would be best to consult the manufacturer’s application requirements.

Again, not all situations require two paint coats to deliver a sophisticated result. Check out a few scenarios where you may use more or less.

  • Wall Surfaces. The standard rule works perfectly for new walls and drywall. Thus, two paint coats after primer will give you a satisfactory result. However, you only need one paint coat when repainting a wall and using the same paint color and quality.
  • Ceilings. It is best to get the highest quality paint for your ceiling to avoid as many problems as possible. Even better, good-quality formulas only need one paint coat to give a professional finish.
  • Exterior Surfaces. Please use at least two paint coats for your exterior as they often have to withstand multiple elements, like snow, insects, birds, and the sun. Not using enough coats of paint will cost you more money while leaving you with an ugly finish.

That said, applying multiple paint coats to a surface will make the finish look nicer and deliver perfect coverage. Better still, the paint will last longer and require a less intense maintenance routine.

How Many Coats Do I Need Based on the Color?

The wood’s color affects the number of paint and primer coats needed for a sophisticated finish. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Use one primer coat when priming and painting lumber in the same color.
  • Two coats of a quality tinted primer are suitable for stained wood as they cover stains efficiently. Even better, you can pick a stain-blocking primer to hide tough stains.
  • Apply two coats of tinted primer when painting in a different color. This way, it is easy to cover up paint showing from underneath the priming formula. 

The number of paint coats to use vary depending on whether you use an entirely new color. For instance, dark colors only need a minimum of two coats of paint to deliver perfect coverage.

On the other hand, you may need as many as six coats of paint to cover a dark pigment with a light shade. Therefore, it would be best to determine your project expectations before purchasing and applying the paint.

When Can I Use One Coat of Primer?

It is okay to use one coat of primer if you’re painting a white or very light surface. Moreover, a painted surface is ready to accept another paint layer. Thus, you don’t have to stress about the light hue showing through the finish.

Another scenario when one primer coat is sufficient is when the old paint color is medium-light, like sky blue, and your new shade is white or very light. However, it would be prudent to check if the old paint shows through the dry coat. Then, add a second primer layer when necessary.

You only need one primer coat when working with self-priming paint. As the product name implies, self-priming paint does not require a primer to seal or adhere tightly to the surface. But there is no harm in applying a separate primer.

Lastly, one primer coat is enough if you get a tinted primer as it neutralizes the underlying color and cuts the primer amount needed. However, the added pigments reduce the primer’s ability to create a smooth surface for the new paint finish. Thus, please avoid highly tinted primers.

Types of Primer to Use

There are three types of primer to use for your painting project. They include oil-based, latex, and shellac primers, and you can use them for various surfaces and circumstances. Also, each product has strengths and drawbacks that help one choose the best option. Check them out.

  • Oil-Based Primer

Oil-based primers are popular because of their versatility and suitability for multiple projects. More so, they are perfect for paint jobs requiring oil-based or latex paint and adhere to tons of different wood surfaces.

These primers are highly stain-resistant and deliver desirable results on heavy-stained surfaces. Even better, they cover these imperfections and keep them from showing through the cured finish.

Oil-based primers will work magic on exterior and interior unfinished or bare wood as they seal the porous lumber surface. Therefore, the paint coat can cover the surface better. In addition, the formula stops tannins from cedar wood or redwood from bleeding through the paint.

On top of that, the product withstands various temperature fluctuations and prevents cracking, paint peeling, and blistering. Hence, you can expect the finish to last for a long, long time.

While oil-based primers are perfect for surfaces with heavy traffic, they need extra care and time. For instance, they need at least 24 hours to dry to the touch and mineral spirits for the thinning process.

The formula is more difficult to clean as water and soap won’t yield desirable results. Hence, you need to use harsh solvents to clean brushes and applicators. Also, the product is high on VOC compounds, and thus it is prudent to use it in a well-ventilated environment.

Again, there are disposal requirements to adhere to for oil-based primers. For example, you cannot pour leftover primer into the ground or down the drain, or it may be a fire hazard. Instead, dry the product before getting rid of it.

Lastly, avoid using these primers on masonry as they are only ideal for raw drywall, patched walls, rough or stained surfaces, and raw wood. Also, please utilize natural bristle paintbrushes to facilitate a smooth and uniform coat.

  • Latex-Based Primer

Latex-based primers are water-based and the perfect alternative for those with VOCs concerns. More so, they work well with bricks, softwoods, galvanized metals, and concrete and thus are compatible with multiple painting projects.

These products are water-based and ideal for prepping unfinished drywall for a painting session. You will also find them more flexible, less brittle, and faster drying than oil-based primers.

Besides, since the primers are water-soluble, they are easy to handle and clean. For example, you do not need harsh chemicals to clean your applicators or thinners for easier application. Therefore, you can expect a stress-free painting experience.

On top of that, latex primers are perfect for drywall. They even out the wallboard surface, any joint compound on it, and any areas with patches and repairs. In addition, they seal and cover minor stains from crayon, smoke, or lipstick.

The drawbacks of this product include delivering poor coverage and being vulnerable to stains. Also, unlike shellac and oil-based primers, the primer does not have the needed thickness to cover stains. Thus, it is unsuitable for heavily stained surfaces.

In addition, although latex-based primers only need three to four hours to dry, it would be best to do a test patch before use. This way, you can observe whether the primer causes the wood grain to rise.

  • Shellac Primer

Shellac primers are your go-to product for interior work as it seals surfaces and covers pesky stains. In addition, the formula dries within an hour, making your projects easy to finish even when you begin with a test patch.

Besides, shellac products are adhesive enough to stick to multiple surfaces. Therefore, any leftover formula can work for other later projects. You can also use it on severely water and smoke-damaged surfaces as it even seals smells.

On top of that, the formula prevents usual rust, water, and smoke stains from messing up the finish and wood knots and tannins from bleeding through the new paint. In addition, you can use it with both latex and oil-based paints.

The drawback with shellac primers is that you need some denatured alcohol to thin the formula for effective application. Also, it would be best to work in a well-ventilated area as the product has a considerable VOC amount.

How Many Coats of Primer Will I Need Based on the Surface?

Every type of wood requires different primer coats. Below is a breakdown of various surfaces and what to expect.

  1. Bare Wood. You need two coats of oil-based primer because the surface is porous and will absorb most of the formula during application. However, remember that latex primers may require additional coats to deliver a tight bond.
  2. Wood Cabinets. It is best to use two primer coats on wood cabinets unless the product label specifies otherwise. In addition, consider using thick primer coats when working with unfinished wood kitchen cabinets for instance.
  3. Wood Furniture. Consider working with two primer coats on wood furniture before painting. Also, it would be best to brush the primer and allow the first layer to dry thoroughly before adding the second one.
  4. Exterior Wood. Exterior wood has to withstand various elements. Thus, it is prudent to use two primer coats. On top of that, avoid leaving the primer uncovered unless you have self-priming paint.
  5. Wood Paneling. Two thin coats of water-based or oil-based primer are sufficient for wood paneling. Apply one coat, allow it to cure, and then add two coats of your chosen paint.
  6. Stained Wood. The number of coats to apply on stained wood depends on the stain type. Further, you may need up to two coats if the stain is ugly and visible. However, you only require one primer coat when using a formula with a stain-blocking attribute.
  7. Wood Trim. Ideally, two coats of primer are enough for wood trim. So, wait for 24 hours for the surface to dry before applying the second coat. Also, allow the primer to dry to the touch before painting.

How to Apply Primer On Wood

Below are simple steps to give you a perfect result.

Step 1. Get the Supplies

The first step is always to gather the correct supplies. They include a painting mask, primer, paint, sandpaper, plastic clothing to protect your clothes, and several brushes because paint and primer require different applicators.

Step 2: Sand the Wood

This step is crucial regardless of whether the surface has previous paint or not. It helps ensure that the wood grain has an even texture before applying the primer. Therefore, you can expect a smooth and consistent finish.

Step 3: Apply the Primer

It would be best to get the correct balance between paint and primer to get optimal coverage. Then apply the primer with the suitable applicator. For instance, use a natural bristled brush for oil-based products and a synthetic one for latex or water-based formulas.

Also, you can skip the priming process if you have self-priming paint.

Step 4 (Optional): Apply the Second Coat

Allow the first layer to cure, and then observe the surface to determine if you need any additional primer layer. You may want to have a second coat if the first one is inconsistent and uneven.

Step 5: Apply the Paint

The final step is to add the paint. Remember that the primer cannot be the finish coat as it only readies the surface for the paint coat. Therefore, ensure that the primer cures properly and apply the paint.

Is It Better to Wet Sand or Dry Sand Primer?

It is better to wet sand the surface when looking for a smooth finish or if dry sanding will mess up your work. Also, dry sanding removes material and may not be the best for your final touch-ups.

Besides, wet sanding involves adding water to the sanding process that serves as a lubricant. Thus, it is less abrasive than dry sanding and hence the smoother finish. Even better, wet sanding smooths out dust nibs and brushstrokes without sanding dust and other messes.

However, it is prudent to determine the best strategy for your project. For instance, wet sanding bare wood does not make sense. First off, you do not want a smooth finish before filling the wood pores. Otherwise, the sanding dust will clog the surface and make it more challenging to paint.

Also, you sand the wood to eliminate manufacturing flaws and marks on the surface. And it is best to dry sand the project for a faster and effective session. In addition, you need to remove more wood material to get the desired finish. So, it may take forever to get your result when wet sanding.

Nonetheless, wet sanding is perfect for smoothing out the final layer of paint. It removes less material, and you do not have to worry about damaging the finish. More so, you will get a super smooth, professional finish. Therefore, it is worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the most discussed questions on this topic include:

  • When Do I Need More Coats Of Primer?

When working with worn-out wood pieces that give uneven coverage, you need more primer coats. For instance, you may need two or more primer coats if you have a palette wood DIY project.

Another situation that requires more coats of primer is when you have a dark color and are hoping to cover it with a white or brighter paint color. Here, ensure that the underlying color does not show by using two primer coats and an extra paint layer.

Lastly, it is better to use more primer coats if you work with unfinished wood. Remember that unpainted or unprimed wood is more porous than unfinished drywall. And even worse, the solids’ percentage in most paints is not enough to fill the wood pores or flatten the grain.

Therefore, please use two coats of an oil-based primer for the surface. This way, the higher solid content in the primer will fill the lumber’s pores, mask any wood knots, and level the surface for painting.

  • How Many Coats Do I Need For My Wood?

Depending on the wood’s current color and your desired hue, you may need more than one coat of primer and paint. For instance, two coats of tinted primer are perfect if you’re using a different paint color or working with stained wood. 

The above strategy helps cover up the previous paint finish underneath the primer. In addition, you can even go for a stain-blocking primer that hides the most stubborn stains.

On the other hand, one primer coat will deliver a perfect result if you are priming and painting lumber in the same color. Therefore, it would be best to determine your project needs and use the most suitable application technique.

Here’s How To Prepare and Paint a Wooden Furniture, Watch the Video Below:

Final Thoughts

Priming offers the base for the subsequent coats which is why you need to get it right. When working with different surfaces like bare woods, you will have to apply more primer coat than in the cases of previously painted or stained wooden structures.

Type of woods also determine how much primer you apply on your projects. Soft woods unlike hardwood are porous and may call for the use of extra layers of primer. The bottom line is ” Get It Right With Your Priming”. It begs the question…

How Many Coats of Primer on Wood Before Painting?

A standard two coats of primer does the job form most of wood surfaces. With two coats of primer, your wooden surface stands a chance of having all the pores in it filled which will have improve the bond between the surface and the subsequent coat.

If you are going to paint your wooden structure be it wooden kitchen counter top, kitchen cabinet or even exterior wooden structures like picnic tables, ensure that your priming work is spot on!

At this point, I hope you found this article helpful to your quest of getting it right with your priming work. Do you have a question or suggestion that you would like to put forth? Kindly do so in the comment section below!