The 6 Best Primer for Bare Wood – Reviews & DIY’s Guide

Top-favorite bare wood primer for a great finish
Best primer for bare wood image

As someone who worked in the construction field for decades, I remember I struggled to find the best primer for bare wood in the beginning. The primers would not create a strong bond, and the paint would peel immediately. But with time, I found what I needed. 

If you’re in the same spot I was years ago, I’m here to help. In this guide, I will focus on the best primers to use on bare wood so you can pick the most suitable one for your project. 

The Best Primer for Bare Wood Reviews (Updated List)

To compile this list, I spent hours comparing the features, drying time, odor, and coverage. I’ve also analyzed all the customer reviews and added my personal insight to come up with the best primer for bare wood.

1. Best Overall Primer–Zinsser 00904 B-I-N Pigmented

Zinsser 00904 B-I-N Pigmented Shellac Primer-Sealer & Stain Killer, White, 1 Quart
  • This item is a B-I-N Shellac Base Primer & Sealer Stain Killer 00904 (1 Quart)
  • Purpose of use for Painting Supplies, house-primers
  • This product is manufactured in United States

If your bare wood has any stains that you worry about, you should consider this product. It is meant for wood to seal and cover any stubborn stain that might be visible through the paint or ruin the paint quality. 

The product can kill stains like oil, grease, rust, tannin, mildew, soot, and water, allowing you to obtain an excellent and uniform paint job. 

On top of that, it can block odors, be it smoke, fire damage, pet urine, mildew, and more. As such, the painted wood becomes of use without inconveniencing you with its smell. 

It works on bare wood and painted interior surfaces like cured plaster, drywood, and others. This offers versatility and ensures you can use it for multiple applications. 

You’ll be happy to know the product dries fast with an outstanding adhesion if you don’t want to wait too long before applying the coat of paint. Zinsser adheres to glossy and dense surfaces, and you won’t have to sand or degloss the surface first. 


  • Amazing and uniform coverage even over surfaces with sap streaks or knots
  • You don’t have to wait too long until it dries
  • It’s a versatile product
  • Stains and odors will not be a problem anymore
  • It adheres amazingly to any surface


  • It doesn’t have a pleasant smell
  • The price is pretty high
  • Difficult to apply

2. Best Budget Primer–Kilz 10902 Original Multi-Surface

Kilz 10902 Original Multi-Surface Stain Blocking Interior Oil-Based Primer/Sealer, White, 1 Quart
  • A good primer makes paint stick better to surfaces, makes paint color truer, and lets you use less paint. It covers existing stains and odors, and helps block new stains and odors.
  • KILZ Original oil-based primer blocks most stains including water, smoke, tannin, ink, pencil, felt marker and grease. This primer also effectively seals pet and smoke odors.
  • Use this versatile primer on interior surfaces including wood, drywall, plaster, paneling, wallpaper, masonry, brick, painted metal and properly prepared glossy surfaces. Not recommended on flooring.
  • Use for walls or ceilings with medium to severe stains. For a water-base equivalent, look at KILZ Max. Dries to touch in 30 minutes. Recoat or top-coat after one hour.
  • This is a 1-quart can of KILZ Original Oil-Based Primer, Sealer, and Stainblocker for interior surfaces in white. Covers approximately 300-400 square feet per gallon.

This Kilz product is ideal if you want something good that also fits your budget. It is great for covering bare wood with paint. 

It adheres nicely to the surface, allowing you to make the paint color look more intense. You don’t have to use a large quantity of paint over the primed surface either. 

Stain- and odor-blocking are some of the features you get with this product from Kilz. The primer covers both old stains and new stains. With it, you can cover all sorts of stains, from water to grease and even ink. 

Kilz requires surface preparation before you prime, though. Make sure the bare wood is clean, without any rust, mold, chalk, grease, dust, or peeling paint. 

Besides, it works great on glossy surfaces, wallpapers, drywall, paneling, plaster, brick, painted metal, and masonry, apart from wood. Its versatility makes it great for a lot of projects. 


  • It dries to touch very quickly
  • It’s affordable
  • It sticks efficiently to surfaces and lets you apply less paint on top
  • You can even cover heavy stains and odors with it


  • Foul smell
  • It can be very sticky and difficult to clean off
  • It’s quite watery

3. Best High-End Primer–Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain

Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer Sealer, 1-Quart, White
  • Cover stain, QT, Oil based stain killer primer/sealer
  • Adds extra shine to your product
  • Manufactured in United States
  • High-hiding formula blocks most stains and helps seal water, smoke and nicotine stains
  • Sticks to interior and exterior surfaces and sands easily

A good quality product like this Zinsser one can help you complete your projects despite any obstacles. First of all, it acts as a stain blocker, so any stain that your bare wood might have will be covered accordingly. 

It works even on smoke, water, and nicotine stains. Therefore, you will be able to apply the paint without any visible stain underneath, ensuring an impeccable and uniform job. 

You can use the primer on both interior and exterior surfaces, as it adheres properly. Sanding it is very easy too. Not only will this save you time, but also ensure you won’t have issues with the product sticking to the surface. 

To save you more time on your project, it also dries quickly to touch. Meaning, not long after using it, you can proceed to apply the first coat of paint. 


  • It works even in harsh environments and on difficult surfaces
  • It acts like a stain killer
  • It makes the paint you apply afterward stand out
  • Very versatile, and you can use it on a variety of surfaces
  • Very easy to use


  • It might be a bit messy
  • Not mold and mildew resistant
  • May peel off after a while

4. Best Adhesion Primer–KILZ L211101 Interior Latex

KILZ L211101 Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer/Sealer, White, 1-Gallon, 1 Gallon, 4 l
  • A good bonding primer is essential to ensure that topcoats adhere to tough-to-paint surfaces. High adhesion primer increases painting possibilities by bonding to a wide range of surfaces.
  • KILZ Adhesion is a unique latex primer developed to bond securely on slick surfaces where a traditional water or oil-base primer will not adhere. Viscosity - 93 - 100 KU. Roller - Smooth Surface - 3/8 - 1/2 inch nap.Roller - Porous Surface - 1/2 - 3/4 inch nap. Spray Pressure - 2,500 - 3,200. Spray Tip -.015 - .021 inches
  • Bonds to tough-to-paint surfaces including Kynar, PVC, Formica, vinyl, glass, tile, glazed brick, chalky paints, glossy finishes, fiberglass and metals. Topcoat with either latex or oil-based paint.
  • Use on most interior and exterior surfaces where a secure bond is critical. This problem solving primer can be used under epoxies, lacquers, and products containing Xylene or other solvents.
  • This is a 1-gallon can of KILZ Adhesion High-Bonding Interior/Exterior water-based Primer in white. Covers approximately 300 square feet per gallon.

This particular product does a great job on bare wood, creating a strong bond on the surface. It works even on surfaces where your typical water or oil-based primer doesn’t work. 

Whether you use it on interior or exterior surfaces, the bond will be secure, which is a plus when you want to make sure the primer lasts for a very long time. 

What makes it best for a big project is because it comes in a large quantity. You can cover as much as 300 square feet with one gallon. Therefore, if you have a lot of bare wood you need to cover, this product will do the job. 

It only takes 30 minutes for the product to dry, after which you can apply your paint. Before you apply the primer, though, you will have to make sure the surface is free of any mold, rust, grease, dust, or chalk. Without preparing your bare wood accordingly, it will be harder for the product to stick. 

Apart from wood, you can also apply it on other surfaces, including fiberglass, plastics, laminates, glass, tile, and others. So, if you need a primer for more applications, this will serve best.  


  • Good adhesion, making sure the primer sticks for a very long time
  • Wide coverage
  • It dries very fast
  • Works on multiple surfaces


  • Despite stating you don’t need to sand the surface, it may still need sanding to stick better
  • It’s quite expensive
  • The fumes are terrible

5. Best Stain Blocker Primer–Rust-Oleum Zinsser Bulls Eye

Rust-Oleum 2004 Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer, 1 Quart, 946 ml, White
  • Suitable for interior and exterior application. Contains a rust inhibitor making it ideal on new metal surfaces
  • Water-based formula sticks to most surfaces without requiring sanding for ease of use; Cleans easily with soap and water
  • Water-based formula resists mildew growth, blistering and peeling
  • Covers 100 sq. ft. per quart
  • Great for high pH surfaces like new concrete

When you paint a piece of bare wood, especially an older one, you may be worried about the stains on your surface and how to cover them. 

Luckily, with this primer, you can say goodbye to the annoying stains. It does magic at hiding stains underneath, helping you to paint uniformly.

The formula is water-based, and it’s easy to stick to surfaces. Thanks to this, it doesn’t take too long to dry, so you can apply the paint immediately afterward and finish your work sooner. Besides, you can easily clean it with soap and water, making its maintenance easy. 

It works on both interior and exterior surfaces, giving you more options. The primer is ideal for any type of wood; at the same time, it works great on metal surfaces. This is because it has a rust inhibitor which increases the durability of the surface and the paint. 


  • It adheres amazingly on different surfaces
  • You don’t need to spend time sanding it
  • The formula is resistant to blistering, peeling, and mildew growth
  • It slows down the rusting process when applied to metals
  • It’s flexible


  • It may leave a textured finish
  • It’s pricey
  • It’s thin

6. Best Water Based Primer–INSL-X Stix Waterborne Acrylic

INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix Acrylic Waterborne Bonding Primer, 1 Gallon, White
  • Premium-quality, acrylic-urethane bonding primer-sealer with unparalleled adhesion to the most challenging surfaces, including glossy tile, PVC, vinyl, plastic, glass, glazed block, glossy paint, pre-coated siding, fiberglass, and galvanized metals.
  • Bonding primer for drywall, plaster, ceiling, acoustical tile, wood trim and doors, Formica, ceramic tiles, glossy surfaces, PVC plastic, masonry walls, wood, trim, shutters, masonry, stucco, concrete, cement block, galvanized metal, aluminum, and other challenging surfaces.
  • Bonds to "hard-to-coat" surfaces and can be top coated with almost any product.
  • Fully cures in temperatures as low as 35 °F.
  • Coverage: 300 - 400 square feet per gallon.

If you’re looking for a water-based product, then INSL-X yet another good choice. It can properly bond to surfaces that seem hard to coat, such as old wood with stains. 

The product adheres very well to wood and other surfaces that are tricky to coat, like PVC, glossy tile, glass, plastic, and vinyl. All you have to do is prepare the surface, and once you apply the primer, it will help make the paint on top stand out. 

The product is fit for covering large surfaces. One gallon is enough for 300-400 square feet. If you have a big bare wood surface you need to cover, it will save you time and a lot of work. Furthermore, it cures even at 35 °F temperatures. 

It has low VOC levels making it less toxic with an unpleasant smell to be around. Furthermore, you can easily clean it up with nothing but water and soap. 


  • It barely has any VOC, making it less toxic
  • Adheres well to a variety of surfaces
  • One gallon covers a very large surface (300-400 square feet)
  • It’s easy to clean up 
  • It makes the paint stand out


  • It may scrape off easily
  • A bit expensive
  • Very thin

Advantages of Using a Primer for Bare Wood

You should always prime bare wood before painting to protect the surface. 

The primer allows you to create a shield between the paint coat and the sensitive wood surface since bare wood can be quite sensitive. This way, the wood does not get damaged, and the paint looks better and sticks longer.  

By priming bare wood, you`re sure that everything you apply on its surface will have an impeccable aspect. 

Priming the wood will seal and keep it in ideal condition for a very long time. It’s important to think of the way wood works. Over time, things such as mildew, mold, rot, and decay can affect it, ruining its surface and quality.

The paint will also adhere better to your bare wood, meaning there will be no peeling or bubbles. Everything will look smooth and flat. 

The primer works by combining every loose particle of the wood, which helps make the surface smoother. As a result, the paint is able to stick to the surface in the long term while drying with such a beautiful look and applied by a professional.  

Oil-Based vs. Water-Based: Which Is Better for Bare Wood?

One problem you may encounter is the difficulty to choose between oil-based vs. water-based wood primers. Well, after trying both, I can tell you what they do when applied to wood. 

  • Oil-based primers are a traditional way to prime wood. Not only do they dry evenly and create a hard finish, but they can also give you a smooth surface
  • But although they are excellent in offering an appealing finish on wood, oil-based take ages to dry, so they may not be the best if you’re in a rush. 
  • They can also get quite messy. One oil-based primer is the aluminum wood primer, which is okay to use when you need to prime wood with high resin amounts. 
  • Meanwhile, water-based wood primers are the best because they have outstanding coverage power, dry quickly, and don’t have a lot of VOC. 
  • The disadvantage is that they aren’t ideal in areas where there’s a lot of rain, not to mention that water-borne stains tend to bleed through acrylic paints very often. 

So, both primers can be good, but you have to consider where your painted surface is located and the primer’s drying time, among other considerations. 

How to Choose the Best Primer for Bare Wood

Bare wood needs the best primer to seal it properly, but it’s often hard to find the right one. So, here are some things to consider when looking for a primer for bare wood:

Interior vs. Exterior

You can use all primers indoors, but you cannot use all primers outdoors. Not all of them are meant for exterior use, meaning you have to be very careful and get a primer that suits your purpose. 

Luckily, you can find many primers today that are suitable for both uses, and besides, you don’t have to pick a complicated product. After all, you will cover it with paint. 


Some types of wood may get unpleasant odors, especially if the environment had smokers, pets, or anything that could’ve given them bad smells. 

The foundation scent is important because working with a surface that has a bad smell can make it harder to apply the paint. Some primers can lock odors and help you get rid of them. 

Finish (matte vs. glossy)

Some primers will give the surface a glossy finish, whereas others offer it a matte one. Here, you should choose the primer based on how you want your bare wood to look at the end. 


Have an estimate of the area you’re going to prime before buying primer to make sure you purchase one with good coverage. You don’t want to find out you’re left without a primer in the middle of the project. 

Ease of Applying

The last thing you want is to spend ages trying to apply the product. Pick something easy to apply because some primers are harder to spread compared to others. 

Drying Time

If you want to make sure the primer dries quickly on your bare wood, you should look into latex primers with fast-drying capabilities. Otherwise, if you go with an oil-based option, you may have to spend a long time waiting for it to dry. 


1. How Long Should it Take for the Primer to Dry on Bare Wood?

Primer’s drying time depends on the product – some dry faster than others. When applied to dry wood, some products will take 30 minutes to dry, but this is only a minimum. 

Ideally, you should let it dry between 1- 4 hours, just to make sure it’s alright to paint it. Water-based primers tend to dry faster, so if you’re in a rush, consider using them. 

2. How Many Coats will I Need When Applying the Primer?

If you want to ensure a good bond between the primer and the wood, you should apply at least 2-3 coats of primer. 

Of course, it also depends on the product you buy, because some are thicker and others thinner. 2-3 coats should make it possible to cover any stains on the wood. 

3. Is There a Special Kind of Brush that I Should use When Priming Bare Wood?

When you apply primer on bare wood, you should use a brush from nylon and polyester. They don’t cost a lot, and they are also pretty easy to find. On top of that, they do a great job at applying primer. 

4. Does it Matter What Type of Paint I use After I Prime the Bare Wood?

Yes, it does. Not all primers will work with any type of paint. Some paints will create a weaker bond with the primer, and you want to avoid this. 

You should always research the paints you want to use and make sure you buy a primer that suits them. If you can, talk to an expert to find out some accurate information in this regard. 

Final Thoughts on the Best Primer for Bare Wood

In the end, if you want a good primer for bare wood, you should consider the Zinsser 00904 B-I-N Pigmented Shellac Primer-Sealer & Stain Killer. It is the best for overall purposes, adheres nicely to bare wood and other surfaces, covers stains, and kills odors. 

It’s easy to use, dries fast, and makes the color stand out. Though expensive, the primer can do everything the other products on the list can do combined, and you get a lot of value for the price. 

If you’re looking for the best primer for bare wood, you should check it out because it has an outstanding application. Remember, the other primers on the list are also great to use, so make your choice wisely.

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