Can I Use Primer as Paint? | What Will Happen if You Do


Primer in Rolling Tray

We were recently doing some painting and decided to just paint a room white for now. We had some primer in the garage, so I brought up the idea of just priming it and then maybe painting it in the future. I wondered if primer would work as paint, so I did some research and made a few calls, and this is what I learned.

Primer cannot be used as paint because it is specifically designed to bond well with paint and not be permanently exposed to an indoor or outdoor environment. It is not resistant to water and is easy to damage if bumped by humans or animals. Also, dust and hair will tend to cling to the surface.

Basically, there are too many problems that can arise in using a primer as paint or finishing coat. In the end, your walls will be susceptible to rapid wear and tear damage and will quickly look old, worn, and dull. The rest of the article will go into greater depth and answer some commonly asked questions.

What Happens if You Don’t Paint Over Primer?

If you don’t paint over primer, your walls will end up being damaged. Water is a danger to walls with no paint over the primer. Smoke will also be more damaging to your wall, especially in the rooms near the kitchen. Even a pet’s odor will cling to your walls. Yuck.

Another reason you don’t leave your primer unpainted is that primer is stickier than paint. So, if left unpainted, dust particles and things in the air will stick to your wall, making them look old and shabby.

Additionally, primer is intended to seal the paint and is only designed to aid in having your paint covered completely. It will even soak into any old paint that is under the primer and may become splotchy or weirdly faded over time. So, even if you like the way the primer looks or its color, don’t expect it to stay that way.

How Long Can You Leave Primer Unpainted?

Primer can generally be left unpainted for no more than 30 days. If you wait too long, you will not be able to paint directly on the primer and will need to re-prime the wall. This is because it will begin to break down immediately after drying, and dust or other debris will accumulate.

The exact timeframes can vary a bit. Usually, the manufacturer will include information about how long a particular type of primer can be left on before painting.

Pro Tip: Another option if you don’t want to re-prime the wall is to sand it down until it is smooth, then paint it. Depending on your tools, this might actually be more work than just throwing another coat of primer up.

How Long Can You Wait to Paint Over Primer?

When using latex paint, most say that you only need to wait for about an hour before painting. However, it is a good idea to wait longer since complete dying actually takes between 3 and 4 hours. If you are using an oil-based primer, it should be left to dry for at least 24 hours before applying paint.

Can You Use Primer as Ceiling Paint?

Primer should not be used as ceiling paint for the same reason; it does not make good wall paint. It is not designed to be permanently exposed to an indoor environment and is only intended to bond well to paint. It will attract dust, debris, and odors over time and rapidly become worn looking.

Why Should You Use Primer Before Painting?

There are 5 good reasons that you should prime before painting:

  1. Primer creates a base plane, an even texture on the wall for the finished product to look smooth and even.
  2. It will increase the life of your paint job for years to come and keep it safe from flaking and peeling.
  3. It also reduces the number of coats that need to be applied to cover any previous paint or markings on the wall. A maximum of 1, maybe 2 coats of paint are required when using a primer first. Without primer, you might need 3 coats of paint for it to be the color you wanted.
  4. The most important reason for using primer is simply because, without it, your wall is susceptible to damage.

When Should You Use a Separate Primer First?

Using primer is an important step when painting any type of surface.

Brand new drywall needs to be primed first, even if there is old paint that is light-colored or is fresh drywall. New drywall will absorb paint like a sponge absorbing water, and the paint may begin to look uneven and dull.

When painting brick or concrete, a primer should also always be used first. The small holes in both of those materials will make it difficult for paint to stick to them. Masonry primers will seal the plane to help the paint last longer and go on smoother.

In fact, a primer should be used on all surfaces, even when painting raw wood. Wooden surfaces, just like new drywall, will absorb paint like a sponge. It also absorbs it at different speeds and causes the paint to be uneven. A primer seals the wood and puts an end to that problem.

Multiple Layers of Primer May Be Necessary

When you’re changing colors drastically or painting over a bright or dark color, you will often need to use 2 or more separate layers of primer. If you don’t use complete coverage, old colors can bleed through, making it show up on your new paint job. Sometimes this won’t become apparent for several days.

Is It Better to Use Primer or Paint With Primer?

Paint with primer is acceptable to use if the wall has been previously painted. Of course, if the color change is drastic, then you still need to use a primer before painting.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, it’s best just to use primer as it was intended; To block old paint, damage, or stains from showing up when you put fresh paint on the wall. Cutting corners just isn’t worth the risk. It’s not like you paint every day and you will have to look at these walls for a long time.

In fact, you are better off not priming at all if you are not going to be painting immediately. Please take my advice and save your money to do it right the first time.

I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for reading!

Jim James

Jim James spent most of his childhood outdoors fishing on lakes in his area. Due to his scouting background, he has always been interested in survival, camping, and the outdoors in general. Jim is a best-selling author and has a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. He lives with his family in Charlotte, NC.

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