Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.
Best Primer for Cabinets
I use the white pigmented shellac primer from Sherwin Williams exclusively for priming cabinets. The primer I used previously was Zinsser BIN, but I switched to the primer from Sherwin Williams because I'm able to get this product at a lower price and it performs the same.
FAQs About SW White Pigmented Shellac Primer
Based on my experience, here are the answers to some important questions you may have about this primer.
How fast is the drying time?
White shellac primer is alcohol-based with a faster drying time than oil primer. The primer dries as the alcohol evaporates. As you can imagine, the smell is horrible. You absolutely have to wear a respirator when spraying this product, or even when rolling it onto a large space.
Is it easy to brush and roll?
It rolls on with ease. Keep in mind, however, that all white shellac primers, including this one, has the consistency of milk, which means it's extremely messy using a brush and roller. If you're rolling a wall, you must be very careful to cover the floors beneath with thick drop cloths; otherwise, you're going to have a major mess to clean up. This stuff sprinkles everywhere.
Brushing this product is no different than rolling; it's messy. The fast dry time makes brushing out large surfaces a little difficult because the primer starts to dry on the brush within twenty minutes, so you have to work fast.
I don't recommend this product for brushing and rolling. Instead, I'd use Zinsser Cover Stain primer (oil-base). The extended dry time makes it a little easier to work with and it's a little less messy.
Is it good for spraying?
I spray this primer on cabinet doors with an airless sprayer and it lays out beautifully on doors when spraying them flat. You have to be mindful of runs when spraying vertical surfaces, even cabinet door edges. If you make one too many passes with the spray gun, the primer will drip.
With the fast re-coat time of one hour, I can spray out kitchen wall cabinets, two coats, on the same day. I'm able to spray all of the doors on the same day too.
The main downside of spraying this product is the primer wreaks havoc on your spray equipment if you don't clean the filters and pump really well, using the right cleaner. I clean the filters about every hour when I'm spraying this primer all day long. You shouldn't leave shellac primer in your sprayer for more than two to three hours without flushing a mix of ammonia and water through the pump.
Does it block stains well?
One of the reasons I use this product on cabinets is because it blocks stains and tannin bleed really well. However, it won't block marker. For that, you'll have to spot prime with oil primer. I keep a spray can handy.
I know white shellac primer is supposed to be excellent for priming smoke stains, but I haven't personally used it for that purpose. I do know that it works great for removing nasty odors if you prime walls with it.
Where this product really shines is for priming oak cabinets. The super-thin viscosity of the primer allows it to seep into the crevices of the wood grain easier to seal it. Cabinet doors look smoother and less grainy.
Does it sand easily?
This primer dries hard and doesn't sand as easily as oil primer. Scuff sanding between coats with a sanding sponge is fine, but drips and imperfections in the primer are difficult to sand out without using an electric sander.
When I spray cabinets, I apply two coats of this product, sanding in between coats with a fine-grit sanding sponge. The sanded surface comes out really smooth and bonds well with the paint I use.
Is it durable?
Yes, it's very durable when used correctly. This is the wrong primer to use if you need to prime the whole exterior of your home, because the coating can crack and peel when exposed to high temperatures, but you can use it as a spot primer (wood knots, rusty nail heads, etc.).
When used indoors, this stuff is excellent for blocking stains on drywall and wood tannin. The re-coat time is faster than even latex paint. You should always wear a respirator when working with this product indoors and open windows for ventilation. The VOCs are worse than oil-based coatings, but I find that the smell is gone a lot faster, especially with plenty of ventilation and a fan circulating airflow.
This is a great choice for spraying unpainted interior doors, trim, and cabinets. The coating effectively seals unpainted wood and provides a hard surface for durability. This combined with durable paint like Emerald urethane (Sherwin Williams) is ideal for cabinet painting.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Matt G.