Which is the Best Exterior Primer for Old Wood

Which is the Best Exterior Primer for Old Wood

It’s tough to locate a suitable primer, especially if you’re painting an exterior area. You need to choose the greatest exterior primer because the elements are often unpredictable. But, with so many options, which one would be the greatest fit for you?

I’ve dealt with exterior primers previously, on various projects. I’m aware that indoor surfaces behave differently from those on the outside. I can advise you on the appropriate primer for any exterior wood job based on my experience. You won’t have to go to the bother yourself this way.

Reviews: Which is the Best Exterior Primer for Old Wood?

brown and black wooden surface
Old wood

We’ve compiled a list of the seven finest exterior primer paint brands to help you finish your project. The features and benefits will help you choose the best option.

1. Kilz Premium High Hide Stain Blocker is the best overall primer.

White 1-gallon KILZ Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer

Kilz Premium High Hide primer is a popular choice for a multitude of tasks, including interior and exterior surfaces. It has excellent stain-blocking capabilities and can cover 300-400 square feet.

Because this is a water-based primer, it has a very low toxicity. It also has a lower odor, making it safe to paint without a mask (though using one isn’t a bad idea).

Because it’s designated as an interior/exterior primer, you can utilize the leftover primer to finish indoor tasks as well. Even on porous wood, the adherence is smooth and hides defects.

This primer is mold and mildew resistant when compared to other exterior primers. It works well under oil-based or latex paint and can be used for color upgrades as well as complete color changes.

It can be used on a variety of different surfaces as well. After you’ve finished painting the wood fence, you could, for example, paint the metal handles.

This latex primer’s formula dries quickly, which can be both a benefit and a drawback. It’s ideal if you need to complete a project quickly but also need to work rapidly. Otherwise, brush marks may appear.


  • Formula that is resistant to mildew
  • It serves as both a primer and a sealant.
  • The mixture is water-based and dries swiftly.
  • Toxicity and odor are low.


  • Because it dries quickly, you must work swiftly.
  • It has the potential to leave brush marks.
blue painted wooden board
Old wood

2. Rust-Oleum Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer is the best budget primer.

Zinsser 02004 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer, Quart, White Zinsser 02004 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer, Quart, White

Use on new or previously painted drywall, concrete, wood, masonry, metal, and shiny or tough surfaces both indoors and out.

The water-based composition seals evenly and adheres to the surface without the need for sanding.

It dries in 35 minutes, is ready to topcoat in 1 hour, and covers between 87 and 112 square feet. per quart ft.

It can be used with any oil or latex topcoat and has great stain resistance.

By enhancing hide and topcoat coverage, one coat hide saves time and money.

This exterior primer is less expensive than the Kilz Premium High Hide primer, which is on the higher end of the price scale. With that in mind, even if the price is modest, the quality is not compromised.

This device is quite adaptable, since it may be used both inside and outside. It can be used on a variety of surfaces, just like Kilz’s High Hide (i.e. wood, plastic, metal).

This water-based primer also includes a rust inhibitor, making it an excellent choice for rust-prone surfaces. This primer’s formula is antibacterial, which helps to prevent mold formation.

This latex primer for the exterior contains stain-blocking characteristics as well. Regardless of whether you’re dealing with water, smoke, or grease stains, the recipe should provide adequate coverage.

This exterior wood primer is also resistant to blistering and peeling in terms of quality. It boasts an easy-to-apply formula that produces fewer brush marks than the High Hide, earning it bonus points.


  • Mold and mildew resistant
  • Works on a variety of surfaces
  • Toxicity and odor are low.
  • Excellent stain-blocking abilities


  • If you want to totally modify the hue, you may need to apply many applications.

Read: Best wood hardener

brown wooden fence with white and black paint
Old wood

3. Kilz General Purpose Latex Primer is the best primer sealer.

Exterior KILZ General Purpose Latex Primer, 1 Gallon

This fast-drying latex primer and sealer is designed specifically for outdoor use to eliminate difficulties caused by surface texture and porosity variations.

KILZ General Purpose Primer seals porous surfaces and gives most outside surfaces excellent adherence.

Use on stucco, wood, masonry, and brick, among other external surfaces. Flooring, glossy surfaces, and stainblocking are not advised.

It’s ready to brush, roll, or spray, and it can be topcoated with latex or oil-based paint after one hour.

KILZ General Purpose External Latex Primer Sealer in White is a 1-gallon can for exterior surfaces. Per gallon, approximately 300-400 square feet are covered.

Following that, we have another Kilz offering, the Kilz General Purpose Primer. Although it doesn’t have the same stain-blocking capabilities as the High Hide primer, a second coat can still do wonders.

This exterior primer’s composition dries quickly, curing entirely in about 30 minutes to an hour. As a result, it is a wonderful option if you need to complete the painting project quickly.

Kilz General Purpose also works wonders when it comes to sealing porous surfaces. One gallon of this product will cover approximately 400 square feet of wood, allowing you to complete even the most ambitious tasks.

It has no strong odors, just like the other products we described, making it a pleasant primer-sealer to work with.

Kilz General, unfortunately, does not perform well on glossy surfaces or flooring. However, since you’ll be using it as an external wood primer sealer, this shouldn’t be an issue.


  • There are no unpleasant scents in this formula.
  • Superior sealant capabilities
  • It dries in 30 minutes.


  • Stain-blocking characteristics are poor.
  • Glossy surfaces are not effectively adhered to.

4. Kilz Adhesion Primer is the best for porous surfaces.

KILZ L211101 Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer/Sealer, White, 1-gallon, 1 Gallon (Pack of 1), 128 Fl Oz KILZ L211101 Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer/Sealer, White, 1-gallon, 1 Gallon (Pack of 1), 128 Fl Oz

To guarantee that topcoats cling to difficult-to-paint surfaces, a suitable bonding primer is required. By attaching to a variety of surfaces, a high adhesion primer expands the painting options.

KILZ Adhesion is a one-of-a-kind latex primer that is designed to attach to slick surfaces where a typical water or oil-based primer will not. The viscosity should be between 93 and 100 KU. Smooth Surface Roller – 3/8 – 1/2 inch nap. Porous Surface Roller – 1/2 – 3/4 inch nap. Spray pressure ranges from 2,500 to 3,200 psi. .015 -.021 inch Spray Tip

Bonds to Kynar, PVC, Formica, vinyl, glass, tile, glazed brick, chalky paints, glossy finishes, fiberglass, and metals, as well as other difficult-to-paint surfaces. Apply a topcoat of latex or oil-based paint.

Use on most interior and exterior surfaces that require a strong bond. Under epoxies, lacquers, and products containing Xylene or other solvents, this problem-solving primer can be utilized.

KILZ Adhesion High-Bonding Interior/Exterior water-based Primer in White is a 1-gallon can. Per gallon, approximately 300 square feet are covered.

Because porous surfaces are so tough to work with, you’ll want to look for wood primers with excellent adhesion capabilities. This is why the Kilz Adhesion High Bonding latex primer is ideal for porous, aged wood.

This product is extremely versatile because it may be used as an interior and exterior paint primer. It also features a gentle recipe that doesn’t bleed.

Per gallon, Kilz Adhesion can cover up to 300 square feet. You won’t need a second coat, unlike with the Rust-Oleum Zinsser Bulls Eye primer.

The Kilz Adhesion, like the other products listed, can be used on both interior and outdoor surfaces. It can also be used on surfaces that have already been painted. Remember that if you use a primer on this type of surface, you will also need to sand it.


  • Even on porous surfaces, it adheres perfectly.
  • Superior stain-resistance primer
  • Prevents the formation of mold and mildew


  • Because spray painting isn’t particularly compatible with it, you’ll have to use a brush.

Read: Does polyurethane cause cancer?

5. Rust-Oleum 7780730 Primer is the best for durability.

Stops Rust Clean Metal Brush On Primer, Half Pint, Rust-Oleum 7780730

Weather and corrosion resistant primer adheres closely to exterior/interior surfaces such as wood, metal, concrete, masonry, and more to offer exceptional top coat adhesion.

The oil-based solution provides a long-lasting protective layer with exceptional rust resistance.

It dries in 2-4 hours and covers up to 22 square feet. ft.

Primer creates a strong foundation for adhesion and can survive harsh, heavy-use conditions.

This product produces a flat white finish that can be topped with any topcoat.

The Stops Rust from Rust-Oleum is an oil primer, unlike the other primers described above. Because of its capacity to survive extreme weather, many people consider it to be the ideal exterior primer.

Although it was designed for metal surfaces, it also works well on brick and worn surfaces. It can easily cover an oil-based stain, and latex and oil paint coats can be applied thereafter.

Because the primer has a good adherence, it can even be used on previously painted surfaces. Furthermore, it has been designated as an interior/exterior primer, indicating that it can be used on a variety of applications.

This one, like the Rust-Oleum Zinsser Bulls Eye, prevents rust and contaminants from forming on the surface. It also has a lovely flat finish, so it’s a good choice if you want to keep your appearance matte.


  • Adhesion to any surface is strong.
  • Excellent corrosion and stain resistance
  • Stunning flat finish
  • Hardy in the face of adversity


  • It can’t be utilized unless it’s been sanded.

6. INSL-X Prime Lock Plus Primer is the best primer for painted wood.

Prime Lock Plus Alkyd Primer, 1 Gallon, White, INSL-X PS800009A-01

Fast-drying, multi-purpose Alkyd-based coating with outstanding adherence that primes and seals a range of substrates and hard-to-block stains.

Alkyd primer with a high hiding power that seals stains from water, smoke, and other sources.

Excellent adherence to shiny surfaces

It dries quickly and can be re-coated in as little as 1 hour.

Per gallon, coverage ranges from 300 to 350 square feet.

INSL-X has always been known for its high quality and long-lasting products. The INSL-X Prime Lock is an oil primer that is suitable with exterior surfaces, just like Rust-Stops Oleum’s Rust.

Despite the fact that oil-based primers are supposed to take longer to dry, this one just takes one hour. It’s one of the best exterior wood primers since it doesn’t peel in hard weather.

Unlike the Kilz General Purpose latex primer, which can’t be used on a shiny surface, the INSL-X primer can.

Just make sure you don’t use it in temps below 45 degrees Fahrenheit or you can end up with peeling.


  • Adheres to glossy and painted surfaces well.
  • Water stains are effectively sealed.
  • Quick-drying qualities


  • The cost is quite high.

7. Kilz Klear Stain Blocking Prime is the best for easy cleaning.

Interior/Exterior KILZ Klear Primer, Clear, 5 Gallon

With a strong, flexible, and breathable clear covering, this high-performance clear primer bonds and seals porous and chalky interior and outdoor surfaces.

KILZ Klear is a clear primer and sealant that is alkali-resistant. It protects topcoats from “hot” alkali found in masonry, cement, and plaster, and it can be used on new concrete with a pH of less than 13.

KILZ Klear primer is extremely versatile, and it may be used to seal porous surfaces and enhance adhesion with a transparent flat finish that’s especially useful for same-color painting.

Drywall, plaster, wood, galvanized, aluminum, architectural plastics, masonry, and brick can all be sealed with this product. It’s easy to clean with soap and water, and it dries quickly, allowing you to recoat in under an hour.

KILZ Klear Multi-Surface Latex Transparent Primer, Sealer, and Binder in a 5-gallon bucket. It produces a clear primer film that is both durable and flexible.

Most primers include a color base, which makes cleaning them even more difficult. Kilz recognized this issue among many DIYers and developed this transparent exterior latex primer to address it.

Unlike the other exterior primers described above, if you miss a few locations, it will not be as visible. The primer serves as both a primer and a sealant, preparing the surface for the paint.

Plus, all you’ll need to clean up is some water and soap once you’re done.

This is the ideal exterior latex primer for quick projects due to its quick drying time. You should be able to complete the painting in around an hour.


  • Quick-drying characteristics
  • It’s incredibly simple to clean.
  • Bonder and sealer with high efficiency


  • Because of its thickness, it is not ideal for spray painting.

Read: Best polyurethane for spraying

8. Rust-Oleum Zinsser Cover Stain is the best primer for bare wood.

Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer Sealer, 1-Quart, White Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer Sealer, 1-Quart, White Zinsser 03504

Oil-based stain killer primer/sealer, QT, Cover stain

Enhances the luster of your goods

Produced in the United States

Most stains are blocked, and the mixture helps seal water, smoke, and nicotine stains.

It sticks to both inside and outside surfaces and sands readily.

Zinsser continues to provide us with the best prep paint for both indoor and outdoor wood. Even raw, porous wood can be covered with this primer paint, which can cover tough stains.

This one fills the pores of bare wood thanks to its smooth, quick-dry formula – but at a lesser price than the Kilz Klear or Kilz Ahesion.

You may use this over latex paint as well as bare wood. The only disadvantage of this product is that it has a high VOC content due to its oil base.

Still, as long as you wear a mask while painting, this shouldn’t be an issue.


  • It sticks to latex paint.
  • The surplus product can be simply sanded.
  • Drying time is short.


  • The odor can be rather intense.

9. Kilz All-Purpose Primer is the best mildew resistant primer.

White 1-gallon KILZ 2 Multi-Surface Stain Blocking Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer

Quickly dry

Water as a foundation


Covers 300 square feet. 400 sq. ft. on porous masonry surfaces on non-porous surfaces ft.


Exterior surfaces, such as wood, require something to keep mold and mildew at bay in high-humidity environments. The Kilz All-Purpose can ensure that the wood withstands harsh weather thanks to its mildew-resistant layer.

This product does not have a strong odor like the Zinsser Cover Stain or the INSL-X Prime Lock. It also dries quickly, allowing you to complete the project in as little as 30 minutes.

If you want to use latex or oil-based paints, this is the product to utilize. It also attaches to any other surface effectively.

As a result, you can use the remaining of this can to prime some metallic handles after priming the wood. You can cover a 300-square-foot area with with one gallon of this product.


  • Dries quickly.
  • Mildew resistance is exceptional.
  • Excellent adherence avoids peeling


  • It will almost certainly require numerous coats.

Read: Unique wood staining techniques

Outdoor Primers: What Are They and How Do They Work?

There are several different types of primers for exterior surfaces. These are the ones you’ll typically come across:

1. Primers with an oil base

When it comes to painting wood, especially external wood, oil-based primers are the most frequent.

Although high-quality oil-based primers are among the most durable, they can contain a lot of VOCs.

You may need to use a mask due to the toxicity. Furthermore, it may take longer to dry.

2. Primer with a Water Base

When compared to oil-based paints and primers, water-based primer (also known as acrylic primer or latex-based) is slightly less hazardous and dries significantly faster. However, because it isn’t as thick, you may need to apply many coats.

3. Shellac

Shellac primers are highly recommended for external jobs and porous, difficult-to-work-with surfaces. The only disadvantage is that they are a little harder to clean.

Gloss: The option with the maximum shine, which can improve the appearance of gloss paint.

Matte: A matte finish has the least degree of shine.

Satin primer is a cross between a gloss and a matte primer.

The three types of primers listed above are available in a variety of finishes:

All of the above types can be reduced to a primer and paint in one depending on the situation. Because it is a combination of primer and paint, this sort of primer can also be used as paint. With this in mind, most experts advise that if you have the time, you should purchase paint and primer separately.

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How to Pick the Best Exterior Primer for Old Wood

When it comes to selecting the best exterior primer, there are various factors to consider. Here are some characteristics to look for in an exterior primer.

1. Low-Smell

Painting jobs can take several hours to complete. You don’t want a strong-smelling primer that will distract you from your work.

Look for primers that don’t have a strong odor. You won’t have to worry about harsh odors with these primers because they don’t contain as many chemicals.

2. Non-Toxic

Every exterior primer has some level of toxicity. Higher toxicity levels, on the other hand, are harmful to your health, especially if you spend a lot of time painting.

This is why you should choose a product that is branded “non-toxic.” These exterior primers contain less chemicals, making them less hazardous to those who come into contact with them.

3. Coverage

Depending on how much product is in the can, each can of exterior primer will have a different coverage. You should be able to see it on the label in most cases.

The majority of primers will cover 300-400 square feet, however there may be exceptions. Calculate how much primer you’ll need based on the surface.

You might wish to buy an extra can if you’re not sure. Buying too much primer is preferable to not having enough for your project.

4. Finish

The finish of the primer has no bearing on its quality. It will also have no bearing on the paint and primer’s longevity.

It will, nevertheless, have an impact on the final appearance. If you want a glossy finish on your surfaces, you should choose a primer with a glossy finish. The same may be said for matte finishes.

When it comes to resistance and application, the finish you choose makes little difference, so pick one you like.

4. Time to Dry

It can take 10 to 30 minutes for some primers to dry. Others could take one hour or twenty-four hours. Each primer has a distinct drying time depending on its recipe. That brings us to the following point.

5. How Much Time Do You Have?

The drying time and this normally go hand in hand. If you don’t have a lot of time, go with a water-based primer that dries quickly.

If you have the time, though, apply an oil-based primer. The latter usually takes longer to dry. You may be able to skip a step by using a paint primer, but the quality may be compromised.

6. Resistant to Scratches

The primer’s scratch resistance determines how long the paint will last. While scratch resistance isn’t required in an interior or exterior primer, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Rust resistance is another feature to consider.

7. Is It Environmentally Friendly?

For many primer customers, this may not be a concern. If you want to be environmentally conscious, opt for a clean primer. Typically, the label will state whether the product is quick-drying or not.

8. Is it suitable for use indoors?

The majority of primers may be used both indoors and outdoors. If you’re working on both an indoor and an outdoor project, make sure the label says “interior/exterior” so you may use it for both.

Considerations for Primer Paint Surfaces on the Exterior

There are a few things to keep in mind depending on the surface you’re painting:

Exterior Wood – Bare Wood

If you’re going to paint raw wood, a latex primer or an oil-based primer can be a good choice. These primers will help the paint cling better to the wood surface if it has never been painted previously. This will also boost the wood’s durability.

Exterior Paint for Painted Wood

If you use the improper priming, painted wood can become chalky. The best option here is to use an oil-based primer, which will provide a smooth finish. It’s also significantly more effective at preventing flaws thanks to its denser recipe.

Surfaces That Are Susceptible to Stains

Some surfaces are more prone to staining than others. If you have this problem, you should consider using a stain-blocking primer.

If you want to hide water-based stains, a latex primer might be the way to go. However, if the stains are caused by grease or smoke, you should use an oil-based primer sealer instead.

Surfaces with a sheen

Glossy primers can be difficult to work with, so opt for a bonding primer instead. This primer was created with glossy surfaces in mind, such as glass and plastic. It doesn’t matter what base you use as long as it specifies that it’s also a bonder.

Wood that can be stained on the outside

Exterior sustainable wood, like bare wood, must be treated with care. This is why an oil-based primer, or even a shellac primer, might be a good choice.

Final Thoughts

The Kilz High Hide Stain Blocker is the clear winner for the best exterior primer, but if you’re on a tight budget, the Rust-Oleum Zinsser Bulls Eye may provide similar results. Although all of the products are excellent at what they do, those two appear to be the most popular.

Some people seek mildew resistance in a good primer, while others simply want to get the job done faster. This is why it is critical to examine all of the features.

Hopefully, our guide has assisted you in locating a suitable exterior wood primer for the job. Have fun shopping!

Shirley B. Leavitt

Shirley graduated with a Carpentry Technology Certificate Program at Northwestern Michigan College. Her study focuses on art criticism in its various forms, the history of Canadian and American art after 1940, and the psychology of creative thought. Sixty of her pieces have been published in periodicals such as Art International, Arts, Vie des arts, Studio International, The Canadian Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Art. The Caro Connection: Sculpture by Sir Anthony Caro from Toronto Collections, The Heritage of Jack Bush, A Tribute (Robert McLaughlin Gallery), and Caricature and Conscience: The Sculpture of Dora Wechsler (with Carolyn Robinson) are among the exhibitions she has produced. Shirley has served as a guest critic and speaker at various universities in Canada and the United States, including the Emma Lake Artists' Workshop and the University of Toronto. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations honored her with their award for teaching excellence.

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