Painting over kitchen cabinets can be quite tricky, especially since they come in so many different shapes and types. Obviously, for the paint to stick, you will need the best primer for kitchen cabinets.
Over the years, I’ve made some thorough research on the best primers. Now, I’ve put all that information together, all so you won’t have to do the legwork yourself.
In a hurry, don’t worry.
Best Primer for Kitchen Cabinets
- KILZ Adhesion High Bonding Interior Latex Primer – (Best Overall)
- ZINSSER Cover Stain Interior & Exterior Primer – (Best Bonding Primer for Kitchen Cabinets)
- KILZ Restoration Primer Maximum Odor and Stain Blocking – (Budget Choice )
- Rust-Oleum, Flat Gray Primer 1980502 Painters Touch Quart Latex – (Best water-based primer for kitchen cabinets)
- XIM Advanced Technology UMA Bonder and Primer – (Best Adhesion to Wood)
- INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix Acrylic Waterborne Bonding Primer – (Best Applying Formula)
- KILZ Original Multi-Surface Primer – (Best oil-based primer for kitchen cabinet)
- Rust-Oleum Corporation 270976 Advanced Synthetic Shellac Primer – (Best for Odor Blocking)
- Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Base Primer – (Best for Bleeding Prevention)
The Best Primer for Kitchen Cabinets Reviews (Updated List)
We’ve selected the best primer for kitchen cabinets based on wood type, finish and customer feedback. With this information, here are the top primers for painting kitchen cabinets.
1. Best Overall Primer–KILZ Adhesion High Bonding Interior Latex
- 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.
If you are looking for a high-quality water-based primer, you might want to try Kilz interior bonding primer. It’s the perfect latex primer for a cabinet paint job, and one gallon of this can cover as much as 300 square feet.
With superior adhesion properties, this is the perfect choice for using on a difficult surface. It adheres properly, prevents peeling, and dries off in as little as 30 minutes. It is the perfect primer for kitchen cabinets if you wish to finish with priming and painting, all in one day.
For any kind of painting method, you can use this formula. You can roll it, brush it, or even spray it if that’s your preferred method. Plus, considering that it has a water-based formula, this Kilz primer has quite an impressive coverage.
- It dries very fast
- It can be layered
- It is compatible with multiple surfaces
- Great coverage
- High price in comparison to alternatives
- Requires a second coat for some stains or imperfections
2. Best Bonding Primer –ZINSSER Cover Stain Primer
- 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
If you have a lot of stains on your cabinets or you intend to cover natural wood, then you might want to try the Cover Stain from Zinsser. Not only is this oil-based primer perfect for covering nasty stains, but it is also great for acting as a base for your paint.
This primer features a high hiding formula that makes it amazing for kitchen cabinets. Not only will it hide the stains and sap bleed from underneath, but it will also make it easy for you to clean and maintain the cabinets.
While it is an oil-based primer, it dries quickly in comparison to other similar primers. Plus, the Cover Stain is the kind of primer that can stick to any kind of surface without sanding. Just make sure that you clean the peeling parts and the grease before applying the oil primer.
- Very efficient at hiding stains
- Adheres quite easily even without sanding
- Dries very quickly
- Doesn’t usually need two coats
- Has a very strong smell
- It may take longer to dry if you add a second coat
3. Best Budget Primer–KILZ Restoration Primer
- KILZ Restoration (formerly KILZ MAX) is a water-base primer, sealer and stain blocker developed with new technology that is formulated to perform like an oil-based product.
- It tackles tough stains including medium to heavy water damage, rust, smoke, nicotine, grease, tannin, ink, pencil, felt marker, pet stains and more.
- Topcoat with latex or oil-based paint. Use on properly prepared interior surfaces, such as: brick, ceramic tile, drywall, glass, masonry, painted metal, plaster, stucco and wood.
- Use on properly prepared surfaces free of dust, grease, chalk, mold, rust and peeling paint. Mix well before using. Apply with brush, roller or airless sprayer.
- This is a 1-gallon can of KILZ Restoration Latex Primer, Sealer, and Stain blocker for interior surfaces in white. Covers approximately 300-400 square feet per gallon.
If you are on a budget but still want to find a good quality primer for your kitchen cabinets, then you might want to try this product. Its restorative properties can bring run-down cabinets back to their old glory.
This primer is highly versatile and can be used on anything from wood to metal and glass. This means that this primer should offer great coverage if you wish to paint every part of the cabinet – wood, glass, and hardware – a fresh color.
Since this primer is water-based, it does not take as much time to apply. This makes it the perfect choice for those who are still beginners at cabinet painting. Since the formula is very easy to apply, you should not have to worry about any stray streaks.
Moreover, the latex formula gives it a very quick drying time. It takes only 30 minutes for one coat to dry – which means that even if you have to do a second coat, you’ll be done within an hour. If you are in a hurry and want your kitchen renovation project to be done fast, then this is the right primer for you.
- Very affordable primer
- Quick-drying time, even with multiple layers
- Streak-free, regardless of the brush used
- Can cover even difficult stains
- It takes longer to dry if you use a brush or a roller
4. Best for Wood Cabinets–Rust-Oleum, Flat Gray Primer 1980502
- Use for a variety of indoor and outdoor project surfaces including wood, metal, plaster, masonry or unglazed ceramic
- Water-based acrylic formula is low odor, resist chips and provides long-lasting protection
- Covers up to 120 sq ft and dries to touch in 30 minutes for quick project completion
- Flat finish minimizes surface imperfections, goes on smoothly and provides excellent base
- Prior to application sand surfaces with 180/200 grit sandpaper, then wash with a degreaser, allow the surface to dry and apply paint
If you are looking to paint your cabinets into a deeper color, then you might want to choose a darker, deeper shade as opposed to classic white. With its gray formula, the Rust-Oleum product will cover surface imperfections flawlessly and provide you with an even base.
This primer has a water-based formula, meaning that it is very easy to apply and can even be sprayed on if that’s your preference. Moreover, it releases a lower odor level, which means that you won’t be as bothered by the smell as compared to other similar products.
The primer dries off with a flat finish, which means that imperfections will not be visible – not even the streak kind. It increases adhesion and bonding with the paint, reducing the chances of peeling. With that in mind, while you can use it without sanding, you will get the best results if you offer it a smooth base.
- Excellent adhesion on wood cabinets
- Perfect for spray gun use
- Dries fast even in humid conditions
- It is still rather light in color
- It may take a second coat for proper stain-blocking
5. Best Adhesion to Wood–XIM Advanced Technology Primer
- This item is a XIM 11052 Advanced Technology UMA Bonder and Primer/Sealer, 1-Quart, White
- Purpose of use for Painting Supplies, house-primers
- This product is manufactured in United States
- White Bonding Primer/Sealer provides excellent adhesion
- Interior or Exterior use
If you are looking for a good bonding primer, then you might want to try this oil based primer from XIM. Its white formula will offer you a flat finish that will not only cover all the imperfections but will also provide excellent adhesion.
This is because the formula lists three roles in just one product: primer, bonder, and sealer – all at the same time. This will save you quite a bit of time, as you will not have to look for different products to suit each purpose.
The primer has a low odor as well as low VOC levels, making it an environmentally friendly option. It is not as toxic as oil based primers, making it the perfect choice for surfaces you touch frequently.
This primer creates a base that won’t let any dirt from seeping into the surface. This makes maintenance easy to handle, even if it gets really greasy and dirty. All you need is water, soap, and a clean rag.
Bear in mind that if you want to avoid blistering and splinting with this product, you might want to sand the surface first. This will prevent the old paint from peeling, particularly if it already has chipped areas all over.
- Low odor and VOCs
- Great for bonding and sealing
- Very easy to clean after it has dried
- Dries quite easily compared to other primers
- The layers are thick and unsuitable for sprayers
- You’ll need to sand the surface for proper adhesion
6. Best Applying Formula–INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix Primer
- 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 are not confident in your painting skills and haven’t painted any kitchen cabinets before, then you might want to try the water based Stix primer from INSL-X.
This one is the perfect choice if you decide to paint your kitchen cabinets, as it can cure even in lower temperatures (as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit).
This primer works on every surface, not just wood – although the best adhesion does occur on properly primed wood. That being said, if your cabinets have metal appliances that you wish to paint as well, this primer will help you out.
Thanks to the water based formula, this product does not release any strong odors either. It has low VOC levels, which means it’s not toxic and it’s safe to touch once it dries. With proper ventilation, the smell should not linger on your kitchen cabinets for too long either.
The water based primer leaves a flat, matte finish, making it the ideal choice if you want to follow up with water-based matte paint. That being said, even if you want to obtain that glossy look, you may still use oil-based paint instead.
- Very easy to apply
- Covers even the most difficult stains
- Can be used with a sprayer gun
- Beautiful matte finish
- It peels if you do not prep the surface properly before you prime it
7. Best for Tough Stains–KILZ Original Multi-Surface Primer
- 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 Low VOC oil-based primer blocks most stains including water, smoke, tannin, ink, pencil, felt marker and grease. It also blocks odors. VOC is 344 g/L compared with 443 g/L of KILZ Original.
- 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 (32 Fluid Ounces) can of KILZ Original Low VOC Oil-Based Primer, Sealer, and Stainblocker for interior surfaces in white. Covers approximately 300-400 square feet per gallon.
If you have a problem with covering stains from your kitchen cabinets, then you might want to go straight to the basics and purchase a good oil-based primer.
An option recommended by most painters is the Kilz original primer. This product can be easily used on any surface, including wood – bringing back its former shine.
Even if this primer is an oil based formula, it only takes about 30 minutes for one layer to dry. The cases when you’ll need a second layer are rare, but if you do, the drying time should only go down to about one hour at most.
The formula for this primer works for both bonding and sealing at the same time. This makes it quite resistant to stains, and just as easy to clean in case it gets dirty. All you need is soap and some water, and you’ll be good to go.
The thick formula for this product makes it easy for you to cover even the more difficult stains with just one layer. Despite that, you can still have an easy time applying it, due to its easy flowing formula. The chances for streaking to occur are very low with this oil primer. ]
- Very efficient at covering odors
- Excellent coverage with just a single coat
- Dries very quickly compared to other oil based primers
- The smell and fumes are strong when you are painting
8. Best for Odor Blocking – Rust-Oleum Corporation 270976
- This item is a Rust-Oleum Corporation 270976 Advanced Synthetic Shellac Primer, 1-Gallon, White
- Purpose of use for Painting Supplies, house-primers
- This product is manufactured in United States
- Superior odor sealing
- Ultimate stain blocking
Everyone needs a primer that can effectively seal off odors and stains, and this Rust-Oleum product can do the job. The formula was made to help anyone fight stubborn stains and obtain a uniform, impeccable surface. This shellac primer has incredible stain-blocking properties, and it can get rid of unpleasant smells, thus creating a better working environment for you. It also has a low odor itself, and it dries very quickly, which makes the process much faster too.
What is great is that even more severe stains are covered by this solution. For example, if you want to do any water and fire restoration or remodel, it will work amazingly. It is a shellac-based primer, and it is great for both interior and exterior priming. The product is easy to work with, and the coverage is ensured by the thick texture.
- It will not take ages to dry
- It can cover even some of the most stubborn stains
- You will not feel any odor anymore
- It is easy to apply
- It is great for both interior and exterior surfaces
- It does not have the smoothest finish after sanding
9. Best for Bleeding Prevention – Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Base Primer
- This item is a Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Base Primer, 1-Gallon, White
- Purpose of use for Painting Supplies, house-primers
- This product is manufactured in United States
- Shellac-base primer-sealer
- For interior and spot exterior use
The Zinsser B-I-N shellac-base primer is great if you have kitchen cabinets you want to paint. This is because the primer has some incredible adhesion – not only will it stick to the surface and help the paint resist for a longer period too, but it will also adhere despite any imperfections on your kitchen cabinets.
One thing that the product is known for is that it prevents bleeding. If there is any tannin bleed, then you can rest assured that this product will stop it.The shellac primer can cover any stain effectively, and it will not allow any odor to pass through either.
The formula is a fast-drying one, so you will have your surface ready for a recoat in no time. Besides, it also makes sure you get to paint the cabinets faster, saving time this way. The primer may be a bit watery, though, so you may need to spend more time trying to obtain an even finish.
- It will prevent bleeding
- It can effectively cover stains and seal off odors
- It adheres to the surface for a long time
- It dries very fast
- It is very watery
Primer for Kitchen Cabinets Comparison Table
Factors to Consider
There are several aspects that you may want to consider when picking the best primer for kitchen cabinets, mainly depending on the type of paint that you are using. Here is what you need to keep in mind, based on the surfaces.
1. New Wood
New wood is likely the easiest to prime, particularly if it’s unstained and unpainted. Beginners might want to try rolling an oil-based primer over the surfaces of the cabinets, as a base primer will protect the wood while adhering to the surface.
Also, if you want a smoother application and want to experiment with the paint patterns, then you might want to try a latex based primer instead. It will give you a different finish. Unless you feel like you need to somehow smooth up the surfaces of the wood, you can likely paint your cabinets without sanding.
2. Stained Wood
If you have stained wood cabinets, then you might want to get a primer with stain blocking properties. This is very often the case with cedar and redwood cabinets, as they often have a lot of texture.
Very often, this is a default feature of most primers, so you should not be worried about stain blocking. However, it doesn’t hurt to make sure the primer says it’s specifically covering stains.
3. Painted Wood
More often than not, if the old paint is in good condition and you just need a color change, you probably don’t even need to prime the wood. You already have a good base to work with.
However, if the old paint is chipping or chalking, you might want to use an oil-based primer. Make sure that you sand the surface before applying the primer, as this will remove the chipped paint and give you an even surface to work with.
4. Weathered Wood
With weathered wood, you could probably get away with the same treatment as you would with new wood. You either need a good quality oil based primer or latex primer to give the weathered woods a new look.
Similar to painted wood, make sure that you sand the surface of the cabinets or use any other method to remove the paint. This will make sure to remove any impurities or remaining paint. Once you see that the newer wood fibers are inching more towards the surface, you may get started with the paint job.
Types of Primers
There are several types of primers on the market that you may use based on your own convenience. Here are your options:
1. Latex Based
Latex based primers are the beginner’s choice and can be applied with anything, from sprayers to rollers and brushes. Moreover, since the latex based primer dries much faster, they are a great choice if you wish to finish with the priming and the painting, all in one day. The latex primer also has low VOC levels, making it an environmentally friendly option that does not smell as much.
2. Oil Based
The oil based primer is the type that you’ll want to get if you’re looking to achieve that glossy-satin-like feeling. These primers are the best in terms of bonding, as they prevent staining from the penetration of the top coat.
It takes a bit longer for oil based primers to cure, but they can easily be used on any type of surface – including wood. This is why most experts use oil based primers. Bear in mind that oil based primers and paint are quite toxic, so you need good ventilation.
3. Shellac Based
The shellac based primer is the type of multifunctional product that can work on wood and metallic surfaces alike, offering a smooth layer with a stain blocking properties. Shellac is also very easy to clean and maintain, making it a great choice for a house with kids. Even better, it keeps the crayon marks and other prints from sticking.
4. Primer and Paint in One
If you are running low on time and do not want to bother with waiting for the primer to dry, then you might want to try a primer and paint combo option. The risk of peeling is a bit higher, as it is basically a thicker kind of paint – but if you only want to use one product, then you should try this one. Self-priming paints usually do the trick, particularly if you like to paint your cabinets often.
Related: zinsser 123 primer vs. kilz
How to Apply Primer on Kitchen Cabinets
Applying the best bonding primer for kitchen cabinets is not that complicated. Here are the main steps that you’ll want to have in mind:
1. Remove the Cabinet Door
When painting the kitchen cabinets, you need to remove the cabinet door first. This way, you should be able to paint over the surface without awkward twisting and turning around the cabinet doors. The result will be smoother paint and fewer missed spots.
2. Degrease Cabinets
If the cabinets are greasy, the paint won’t be able to stick – even if you use an oil based primer. This is why you need to degrease them so that you get a smooth surface.
3. Sand the Cabinets
If you have peeling paint or uneven surfaces, the primer will not adhere properly. To avoid any peeling or paint cracking, the third step should be to use sandpaper to remove the imperfections.
4. Apply the Primer
Whether you are using an oil based primer, shellac based primer, or waterborne, now it’s time to apply it. Once the surface is all smooth, you can proceed. One coat of paint should usually be enough when you apply the primer, but a thinner primer or darker cabinets may need two coats.
Ideally, you should wait about 24 hours before applying the paint. That being said, if you use latex-based primers on your wood kitchen cabinets, you might be able to paint them on the same day. Latex cures much faster.
How Long Should Primer Dry on Kitchen Cabinets
Generally, you should wait about 24 hours for the primer to dry. Some primers, such as the water-based kind can take as little as 30 minutes to cure.
It mostly depends on the primer that you have chosen, so you might want to make sure that it has mostly dried before you add the actual paint. This way, you won’t have to worry that the primer will mix in with the paint job.
Should I Roll or Spray the Primer?
This depends on the type of primer that you are using. For example, while latex based primer can be applied with anything, things are different with oil based primers. A watery primer can be sprayed, whereas an oil based primer is much better rolled.
What is the Best Primer for Laminate Kitchen Cabinets?
Laminate kitchen cabinets are slightly more difficult to paint, as they require you to prime them with a special kind of product – formulated just for laminate cabinets. After the specially formulated primer dries off, you might want to follow up with latex or oil based primers.
What is the Best Bonding Primer for Kitchen Cabinets?
Typically, oil based primers are the best bonding primer options for kitchen cabinets, particularly those that were made from oak. An oil primer is very efficient in covering the stains, giving better adhesion for the coming paint.
Can I Prime and Paint Over Chipping and Peeling Paint?
You can prime and paint – but there’s no guarantee that the peeling problem won’t happen again. For you to prevent peeling, you need to prep and prime the surface correctly. This includes sanding and using the proper primer. Unless you have a solid foundation for the paint, it will continue to chip and peel, particularly if you use oil based primers.
Final Thoughts on the Best Primer for Kitchen Cabinets
Primers are essential if you wish to get that smooth, stain-free coverage for your kitchen cabinets.
The best primer for kitchen cabinets is the KILZ Adhesion High Bonding latex primer, but you may get results that are just as good with the ZINSSER Cover Stain. Those who are on a budget might also find the KILZ Restoration primer to be a good alternative.
These products have the best coverage and are the least likely to require two coats. Moreover, they are very quick to dry. Just make sure that you prep the cabinet wood properly and remove any chipped paint, lest you could end up with a case of peeling even in a good primer.
As long as you choose the appropriate type of primer for the wood, the final surface should look flawless.
Check out the best primer for bare wood guide.