Using the Right Product for the Right Reason

Oh my goodness, this really shouldn’t be this complicated!

I’ll never forget the first time we went to Lowes to grab some primer.

There had to be 50 different types with 6 different brands at so many price ranges we had no idea which one to buy. Basically we just guessed and bought one. There was no way we could have bought one based on what we saw on the labels because we were totally new to the game of furniture flipping.

Even the person working in the department had no idea, couldn’t answer our questions and basically walked away as confused as we were.

Now, years later, I’ve got a handle on it, but oh my, I’ll never forget that day. I can see it in my mind as if it were yesterday. We left the store feeling like a termite in a yoyo.

I don’t like being confused. I don’t like realizing I have no idea what or why about something.

Fast forward to years later and now I’ll share with you what I know to be true based on experience, a LOT of reading and asking questions. I’ll outline each one of the most popular primers and then you hopefully will have an idea of what to use when and why.

I have used all of the ones listed below. OK, that was a lie. I’ve used some of them. My DH has used them all.

NOTE: Most primers can be tinted right at the store from which you purchase. Gray is suggested for colors like red and pinks as well as with dark colors that may require several coats for coverage. I have used white primer for dark colors just fine, so don’t think you have to run out and get gray just because I mentioned it would be good. We furniture flipping teachers and mentors like to talk in specifics even though in real life we work in generalities.


A primer (/ˈpraɪmər/) or undercoat is a preparatory coating put on materials before painting. Priming ensures better adhesion of paint to the surface, increases paint durability, and provides additional protection for the material being painted. Primer (paint) – Wikipedia

STIX Bonding Primer

Premium unparalleled adhesion to glossy surfaces making it a great adhesive primer for the most challenging surfaces. Water-based, dries fast.
  • Use this to be sure paint will stick to shiny surfaces like glass, plastic and laminate, or surfaces with a glossy finish.
  • STIX takes care of adhesion on tough surfaces.
  • STIX does not prevent bleed through or seal in odors.

Amazon Prime afflink – 1 Quart is about $15


Extra Bond is a water-based, concentrated acrylic. It can be mixed with the first coat of milk paint to promote adhesion to surfaces other than bare wood.

  • Mix Extra Bond into the regular formula of Old Fashioned Milk Paint so it will stick.
  • If you use the OFMP Safe Paint or are painting directly onto bare wood, Extra Bond isn’t necessary.

Amazon afflink – 1 Pint is about $15 + Shipping


Zinsser BIN is a synthetic shellac-based primer, water-based, for interior priming and exterior spot priming. Fast dry time, low odor.

  • This is the most popularly used primer, comes in white only
  • Odor sealing, stain blocking
  • Helps with adhesion
  • Seals knots, sap and tannins

Amazon Prime afflink – 1 Gallon is about $50


Prevents bleeding. Seals the surface and blocks tough stains from water, nicotine and graffiti. This is the best product for sealing in tannins.
  • Oil-based, can be tinted
  • Odor sealing, stain blocking
  • Helps with adhesion
  • Seals knots, sap and tannins

Amazon Prime afflink – 1 Gallon is about $30


Interior/exterior use on new or previously painted surfaces. Dries in 30 minutes for a quick solution, mostly used for convenience.
  • Oil-based, spray can
  • Odor sealing, stain blocking
  • Helps with adhesion
  • Seals knots, sap and tannins

Amazon Prime afflink, white – about $5  Amazon Prime afflink, gray – $5-$7


Bulls Eye de-waxed shellac is an alcohol-based solution of lac, a natural resin. Dries transparent with a faint, golden cast that is much lighter than oil-based varnishes. Dries quickly.

  • Odor sealing, stain blocking
  • Seals knots, sap and tannins
  • Nearly clear – good for distressing down to the wood

Amazon Prime afflink: About $8


Zinsser odor killing primer is a low odor water-based primer that kills existing odors on interior surfaces. Use odor killing primer to eliminate difficult exiting odors from pets (including urine), food, cigarette and cigar smoke, fire, and smoke damage. We used this on our sub-floor before laying our wood flooring.
  • Seal the most difficult odors
  • Applies white, dries clear

Amazon Prime afflink: 1 Gallon is about $46


Have you ever seen paint just peel right off? I have. We need our paint to stick. We clean and we sand to create small scratches/variances in the surface to give the paint something to hold onto. A bonding primer just adds a bit more of a guarantee your paint will bond.


Some woods like mahogany have more tannins than others and can be brought to the surface by applying water-based products. It can even take up to a year for the tannins to show up. The wood needs to be sealed to block them before painting.


Some colors like reds and pinks need more coats to give good coverage. Typically boutique paints are more pricey, so using a gray primer work best and can save money and time aiding coverage for those colors. Or, if you’re painting a light color over a dark color, the primer will bridge the gap.

There are so many products.

It takes time, effort and experience to weed through them all. Hopefully I’ve save you some time and frustration. If you have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. After all, it’s good to help one another in this biz.

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Happy Painting!


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