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My Review of Kilz Original Oil-Based Primer

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Matt is a professional painter who owns and operates his own painting business, specializing in interior and exterior house painting.

The product in question

The product in question

Does Kilz Oil-Based Primer Block Stains Well?

I have used Kilz oil-based primer many times in my painting career to seal over tough stains on drywall that would otherwise bleed through latex paint. The primer bonds really well with latex paint while sealing the surface to prevent annoying stains from leaking into the top coat.

I use Zinsser Cover Stain primer the most because I can use it for my exterior projects too, but for interior priming, Kilz Original is another excellent option that does what it's supposed to do. The primer also sands very easily into a fine powder when fully dry, which takes about one to two hours.

In this article, I cover some of the pros and cons using this primer over the years.

Oil Primer Smells Nasty

Like most oil primer, this stuff smells horrible, even the low VOC addition. A painting respirator is definitely needed if you're spraying and rolling it on walls and ceilings. The odor is very strong and intoxicating if you don't wear a mask. Ventilation is important. I always open windows and set up a fan for air circulation when using solvent-based products indoors.

Most people reach for water-based primer to bypass the strong odor of oil-based coatings, but water-based products don't always do the job. There is a newer and less smelly water-based product called Kilz Max that's supposed to perform similarly to the original oil-based version, but I haven't personally used that product yet.

Most water-based products are ineffective for covering water stains on drywall. I do know that Kilz 2, a water-based primer, doesn't work well for covering tough stains, and it won't work at all for covering water stains. Oil primer smells bad, but it always seals surfaces the best to prevent stain bleed-through.

Priming Nicotine Stains

Kilz (oil-based) has worked really well for me in the past for priming nicotine stains. Painting over smoke-stained walls is difficult without primer because nicotine seeps right through paint if the surface isn't primed first. I've used this product several times on walls and ceilings covered in brown stains from smoking. The primer was applied without even washing the drywall first, and the stains never bled through the paint.

Using a latex primer over nicotine stains usually doesn't work. While there are some water-based products that claim to seal out smoke stains, I recommend using oil primer because it's worked for me every time without fail. You can also use alcohol-based, BIN shellac primer, which works great too, but Kilz Original is the cheaper alternative and does the same thing.

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Brushing and Rolling

Oil primer is very messy, and Kilz is no exception. The consistency of the material is thinner than latex paint and sprinkles everywhere when brushing and rolling. If you're rolling this product, the flooring beneath must be carefully protected. Wearing a long sleeve shirt is a must too otherwise your arms will be covered in sprinkles.

The best roller sleeve to use with this product is one that's lint free. I use the soft woven rollers from Sherwin Williams, which are lint-free. Purdy White Dove rollers are great too, but they cost more and are pretty much the same as the one from Sherwin Williams.

Kilz works well as a surfacer for priming bare wood indoors. Latex semi-gloss paint sticks well to it, and it sands nicely after it fully dries.

Oil-Based Kilz for Priming Cabinets

In the past, I have used Kilz primer (oil-based) for priming stained cabinets too. Water-based primer should never be used on cabinets, in my opinion, unless the surface is already painted with latex paint and in good condition. The paint dries too soft, and it usually doesn't seal the surface like oil does. This product works well on sanded oak cabinets. Oak holds a lot of tannin that bleeds into paint very easily without good primer underneath.

Two coats works best, sanding between coats, to ensure a solid seal for paint. I prime all of my cabinets with two coats of BIN shellac primer because it levels better than oil primer and dries with the same hardness, if not harder. BIN also dries faster, typically in less than one hour for the next coat.

On cabinets, if I had to choose between Kilz and Cover Stain, I would choose Cover Stain for a step up in quality, but either one works fine. Never use Kilz 2 on cabinets.

Questions & Answers

Question: I understand that the basic rule of thumb is to avoid layering oil based paint over latex paint. However, I just painted Killz restoration interior primer over old paint in a failed attempt to lock the tar/nicotine tar from bleeding through. So my question is very specific. Since Kilz Restoration Primer is uniquely different from other latex primers (acts like a shellac type paint), can I layer Kilz oil based primer over Kilz Restoration Interior Primer?

Answer: Kilz Restoration primer, formerly Kilz Max, is a water-based product that can be top coated with oil-based and latex paint. My concern is how well the Kilz Restoration, or the layer underneath that, is bonding with the surface. If the latex primer's scratching off easily with your fingernail, or rubbing off, I would strip it off and prime with oil primer. If the only issue is the bleed-through, priming with oil-based primer will stop the nicotine bleed-through and work fine over the latex underneath.

© 2018 Matt G.


lw crim on May 14, 2020:

18 months ago i used Zinsser primer on bath wood then painted with good latex paint. Now I need to do it again. This time I am using Kilz original interior primer which is oil based. Will apply 2 coats of primer before painting. Can I use this kilz as a sealer after I have painted? Thanks

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