Posts Tagged ‘renovating’

Drywall primers… again!

December 20, 2008
DSC_3833aI receive countless emails asking when to use a drywall primer with all the talk today about self-priming wall paints. Many paint contractors commented on my videos on YouTube saying I should use a wall primer on bare drywall rather than applying wall paint directly over it. What do they know that I don’t? So let’s take a closer look at wall primers and their purpose. What is a wall primer supposed to do? (Click any photo for larger views).

Bare Drywall

IMG_0078The objective priming bare drywall is to seal the porous paper and drywall topping (mud) to provide a nice foundation for the paint to bond with. What this means is achieving an ultimate seal and bond with the paint to the porous fibers of the paper and the porosity of drywall mud. We also want the wall primer to produce a solid uniform sheen for the top coat of paint.

Our goal has four parts:

1) seal the porous paper surface
2) provide a surface the paint can bond with
3) seal the drywall mud
4) prevent top coat sheen degradation

What can go wrong using primer:

What if the top coat of paint did not bond with primer? What if the primer didn’t bond with the drywall? What if you had a nice bond to the drywall but not to the drywall mud? What do you do now? You primed right? The paint isn’t sticking that well is it? Did you try the tape test or maybe you tried washing it and the paint and primer came off back to bare drywall? Did you remove the masking tape from the baseboard and it tore the paint and primer off the wall exposing bare drywall?

The label on the paint can says to use a primer. The paint store rep said to use a primer. You read online, you read it in a magazine, you always heard – ‘use a primer’ and you did. You even used the paint manufactures recommended primer.

So now what? Is it too late; you already have a coat of paint over the primer? Was the surface clean? Did you remove all the drywall dust left behind from sanding? Did you shop vac the walls and the paint still didn’t stick? Did you try wiping down the drywall with a damp sponge? Yeah, so did we. Did the primer fail? Yeah, so did ours. Did you do something wrong?

Lucky for you, we have all the answers and before you get discouraged we also have a fix so you can achieve that finish and bond that you initially tried for.

We tested a total of 14 wall primers over bare drywall and not one of them performed as well as a drywall sealer such as Zinsser Gardz. Let’s take a look at why this is.

The Test

2paintYou perform the test yourself. Let’s say for example you have a piece of bare drywall sitting on your lap and 1 tablespoon of water and 1 tablespoon of any wall primer of your choice, there are tons of them out there, pick one. Now, take the tablespoon of water and slowly pour it on the drywall. The water dissipates into the drywall right? Now take the tablespoon of primer and do the same. Not exactly the same result huh?

If you want to dive deeper into testing, try this test over bare drywall mud, it will provide similar results with a completely different effect with the primer.

Do this small test too. Take a sanded drywall patch, clean it, dust it, vac it, damp sponge it if you want and run your finger over it when its dry. I suspect your finger will have a white dusty powder on it.

So what does this test tell us? No matter how well you clean up new board for paint there is only one thing that will prepare it to accept paint. Apply a sealer that will penetrate both the paper and the mud and bond all of it together. Thinner material penetrates better – right?

Click the photo above. Notice the first 24" inches from the corner doesn’t look as nice as the next 24", then you see another 24" that doesn’t look as nice as the 2nd area. That 2nd area that looks best in the photo is 2 coats of eggshell paint over bare drywall. The first 24" is primer plus one coat of eggshell paint.

Sheen degradation

One huge set-back you get from using a primer is top coat sheen degradation. Some primers are better than others but nonetheless, you will lose some sheen that will get absorbed in the primer coat. The loss of sheen is very apparent in the photo above.

proform004Here is a photo of a drywall sealer applied directly over the drywall mudded horizontal seam. You can clearly see how well the sealer absorbed into the mud. The next photo shows what the horizontal seam looks like when you apply one coat of an eggshell paint over it.
proform005Again, you can clearly see the sealed portion of the wall and what was not sealed.

 Primer vs. Paint

Img00970001Think back to a time you applied a coat of paint over bare wood. Do you remember what happens with the paint? Do you recall how much of that paint absorbed into bare wood? Do you remember applying a second coat of paint and it too absorbed into the bare wood, even your third coat looked questionable? (Click any photo for larger views)

Well check this out… the same thing happens when you apply paint over bare drywall. Exactly the same thing but with varied results depending on the paint you use.

There are paints that penetrate bare drywall better than a primer and provide a better bond and also look great when you apply 2 coats over bare drywall. So here we have a classic case of Best, Better and Good options.

The photo above shows a coat of paint over bare drywall (the darker color). The window wall and into the corner is a tinted primer. So you can clearly see some finish paints perform nicely over bare drywall with coverage. The paint used in the above photo outperformed all 14 primers in coverage over bare drywall. How messed up is that? – paint performing better than a primer designed for bare drywall.

Looking at the photo above, would you honestly say a primer is needed over bare drywall if I can achieve both coverage and tight bond with a paint that is far better than if I used a primer? I’m saying… knock yourself out. If you feel that you have the desire to waste money and labor on a primer coat, then do it.

But let’s take a look at what is best because that’s what this site is all about.


eggshellThe best product known to me for bare drywall is Zinsser Gardz and thankfully we have that product because it makes me never want to use a wall primer again. I say this because I see primers fail all the time, hence the abundance of people writing me about primers. Apply Gardz directly over bare drywall and then for best results – 2 coats of paint. Remember this is new board and you need to build a foundation so use 2 coats of paint. Think about this, even with one coat of Gardz, and 2 coats of paint, your total dried mil thickness is still minimal at best.
gardz2Gardz is a thin clear sealer and most of the product will dissipate into the fibers of the board and mud. This product is similar to injecting glue into the drywall and mud. This is why in the photo above you see a very nice uniform finish with one coat of Gardz and one of finish.


UH1412_01aBecause there are paints that I know adhere better than all 14 primers we tested I am going to say straight quality paint is better over bare drywall. The only problem you may experience is a need for a 3rd coat – prime plus 2 coats is a total of three coats anyway but you can achieve better stick this way. Ok, to be fair the other argument to this method is achieving a uniform finish with paint like an eggshell or semi gloss. But think about this, 1 primer and 2 finish is 3 coats too.

In the photo above the long wall is split half way with two different wall paints and the photo was taken after they dried. Notice in the front most left portion how one product covered and dried much nicer than the other closer to the window.


barrington 24 027aThe cheap and less expensive route is using a primer over bare drywall. You have an advantage utilizing this method but it also disadvantages. The advantages are – you can do one tinted coat of primer and one coat of finish but you lose the stick or bond some of us need to tape off walls, hang wallpaper over and even wash or scrub depending on what your paint allows.

Remember when you got the job, she told you she was hanging wallpaper at a later time. So, do you shortcut her at this point or prepare the job for what is to come? What if its you hanging that paper? Too many guys are doing the "right-for-now" work instead of what is best for down-the-road work.

Primer is generally less expensive than paint. So if your intent is to never wash or touch the walls then do this method but what you might find is what you see in the photo. It looks like it needs another coat of paint.

Primer also requires MORE attention to rolling than wall paint. If you roll primer on any old way – you will never get the finish to look right no matter how many coats you stick on it. Here is a clip on rolling. Utilizing the last stroke down method will provide a level of finish that is consistent. The finish in the Best Method was done with last stroke down.

Something to think about

Here is something else to think about for those of you shooting commercial work. Think about how much you can save on materials utilizing a better method. What is that high-build primer suppose to be shot at??? 20 mil thick? That is crazy!!! Actually its ridiculous. If you are shooting walls – you are already wasting materials and damn near twice as much vs rolling it on.

Here is an interesting tid bit. Same two houses done two different ways. One guy sprayed the walls with 60 gallons and the other rolled it with 15. The guy spraying had a guy back rolling too. What a huge waste of time and money and an extra guy. Guy spraying spent $1,380 on materials and the guy who rolled it spent $345 There was no difference in workmanship.

Funny how a certain manufacturer makes an executive decision to create a primer that requires such a heavy layer of it to cover bare drywall. But that same question also begs the question, was a product like that designed because guys don’t know how to paint or does the manufacturer not know how to make a product that works without laying it on so heavy. If you apply anything at 20 mil, it better look good!

The argument

440i My argument with using a wall primer is the lack of a fail-safe method and I need that in my business. While I enjoy the 440i I received from a paint store due to primer failing, I am not going to have another homeowner come back to me complaining she washed the paint and primer off the wall and obviously this has happened to me otherwise I wouldn’t be posting a fix to this problem online. I have a ton of information and previous test on wall primers. Do a Google search on jackpauhl+wall primers or click this link.

The Fix

So let’s say you too fell sucker to the “use a primer” method and you are in that same situation where the paint washes off the wall or you had to apply masking tape to do some wild painting scheme you found on TV. There is a fix and leave it to no other than Zinsser to have your back! Zinsser Gardz can be used to apply over a paint that was previously undercoated with primer utilizing the Good method above. Gardz will assist with penetrating the paint and the primer and help with bonding them to the drywall beneath and not only that but moving forward with a new coat of paint will give you the ultimate finish you see in the Best method above.

Painting highly visible walls

Let’s say you get a call and their house is a few years old with builder grade flat paint on the walls and they want you to paint the 16′ high foyer wall that extends to the back of the house (windows on both ends). You go to the basement and see the left over paint and know putting an eggshell over that flat paint might require a certain degree of finesse to make a highly visible wall look right. Your best bet here is to apply Zinsser Gardz over that flat and proceed with one or two coats of eggshell paint.


Pan vs. Bucket Rolling

April 8, 2007

The debate is on! Some people, even self proclaimed professionals, suggest rolling out of a bucket is the best method for seemingly endless reasons in comparison to rolling out of a traditional paint pan.

Some of the suggested benefits of bucket rolling are:

Easy to move bucket without spilling
Buckets hold more paint
Less likely to step in a bucket
Quicker and easier to load a roller cover

There are about 20 more reasons I know of but one reason keeps me away from bucket rolling. Bucket rolling is downright messy, period! It’s messy while you work, it’s messy on the wall, its messy on the screen, it’s plain messy.

One inherent issue when rolling out of a bucket is the art of skillfully dunking the cover without getting any paint on the end-caps and roller frame. When you dunk the cover too far, (past the thickness) of the nap, the paint will always sling drips on the wall and even you. The drips are not always easily detected until the paint is dry. The fast drying paint on the screen is another issue. So for that simple reason, I remain a pan man.

Paint with a roller

April 8, 2007

Paint efficiently with a proven system and $20

By Jack Pauhl
Originally Published Jan 1999 on
In this article, we’ll teach you an advanced painting system and the tools required to quickly apply a smooth, consistent coat of paint. We’re going to show you how to avoiding common problems such as light or heavy spots and roller marks.

The best system will not work with poor-quality tools. Selecting the proper roller cover is the first step. It’s important to purchase a quality roller cover designed for your project and the paint you plan to spread. Quality roller covers will have a plastic core, tapered edges and not shed fibers.

When selecting a roller cover, remove it from the plastic bag; grasp one end of the cover, quickly and lightly using the thumb and index finger of your other hand, run your thumb and finger down the cover a few times. Loose fibers indicate a poor quality cover.

Poor-quality covers will continue to shed each time you run your hand down the cover. Tiny fibers will end up stuck in the paint finish leaving you with less than desirable results. Quality covers will shed very few fibers if any. Generally, white woven nap covers are good for semi-gloss, eggshell or low sheen paints. White woven covers can be used with flat paints but may add more time and energy rolling.

Selecting a quality roller frame is the next step. Stay away from cheap throw away all-in-one paint kits. You can clean up and reuse a quality set and have it for years for about $20. Look for a rigid 90º roller frame. A quality frames cage will have noticeably heavier metal in comparison to the cheaper frames. Be sure your roller cover fits the frame.

Our next step is selecting a roller pan, roller pans come in various sizes. The largest pan is 21” which accommodates an 18” roller frame. Look for the next size down, 13” deep-well tray which accommodates a 9” frame and holds 3 quarts of paint, now available in plastic and metal. Plastic throw away liners used in conjunction with metal pans are also available for changing colors quickly without much cleanup. Simply toss away the liner.

The last tool we need is an extension pole. Professionals use a telescoping extension pole that attaches to the end of the handle on the roller frame. Extension poles can be costly but an inexpensive alternative is a threaded wood handle found at paint stores. Be sure the roller frame has a threaded end (most do), not socket and pin style unless you are purchasing that particular set.

Shopping List

1 – Roller Cover ½”
1 – Roller Frame 9”
1 – Roller Pan 13”
1 – Wood Extension Pole

Benefits of quality tools go beyond having them around for years; you will work more efficiently.
Here’s a quick TIP

How to get started with immediate professional results. If your project requires more than 1 gallon of paint, it is necessary to pour all single gallons into a single larger bucket called boxing the paint. By boxing (mixing) the paint, you make sure any differences in tint between gallons are mixed together. This is important! Colorant or tint machines are known to produce slight varying results between gallons. You can purchase a color in the morning and another gallon the same color in the evening and the two may be slightly off.

Always be sure to have enough paint to complete the project, and never leave the paint store without checking the color of each gallon.

Let’s get started painting.


Pour approximately ¾ of a gallon of paint into the deep-well pan. Place the roller cover on the frame and load the roller cover in the pan using a sweeping motion down the ramp of the pan. Allowing the roller cover to spin slightly until the roller cover is loaded with paint (as shown on the left). Repeat the motion approximately 12 times; make sure the entire surface of the cover is heavily loaded. Allow the loaded cover to sit on the ramp for 5 minutes. This process is called marinating the cover. When you return, most if not all the paint that you loaded initially should be absorbed into the cover. Proceed by loading the cover a few more times down the ramp. This load will be placed on the wall. Screw the wooden extension pole into the handle of the roller frame.


Starting from a corner and assuming you cut-in everything doing the ceiling line last, place the loaded cover on the center of the wall. Avoid using too much pressure. Move the roller up the wall first approximately 2’ then roll back down another 2’ from center starting position. Proceed up the wall past your last position then back down further than the previous pass. Continue this gradual up and down motion until you reach the top and bottom of the wall. If the paint appears too light or you find yourself pressing hard on the wall for coverage, take another lighter load and finish the area in the same manner. If you have too much paint, gradually move the cover over into the next area until you reach the desired results.

QUICK TIP – If you need to take a break for any reason try to complete the wall first.

Simply repeat STEP 2 over and over slightly overlapping the previous section as you move down the wall to the next corner. Keep a wet look. It may be necessary to work a 3’ wide area consistency before you proceed across the wall.

Edited and republished with permission from Superior Home Care Services

Renovating a house

April 7, 2007

A viewer wrote-
Got a little house I am renovating. New doors and new windows among many other things. I have painted the casing trim around the doors and windows with a semi-gloss paint. What is recommended for the window wood around the panes and the doors? Flat or semi-gloss too?Thanks in advance!

Coming from over 20 years experience of a painting contractor. The best method for new bare wood windows is to use an oil-based primer such as Zinsser Cover-Stain (found at most home stores) and apply the primer in a way that the gap between the wood and the pane of glass is filled with primer. Finish with 100% acrylic semi-gloss.

When the paint is dry, you can remove paint from the glass with a single edge razor, carefully scraping the paint on the glass into the slight gap you filled with primer. The dried paint flakes are best cleaned up with a shop-vac brush attachment. The less paint on the glass, the less effort cleaning up.

By sealing the gap, you provide a seal that will prevent moisture and condensation from absorbing into the wood. Latex and acrylic primers DO NOT provide the level of protection an oil-based primer does.

As for the doors, same rule applies if these are doors on an outside wall that has potential for moisture.