My Review of Zinsser Cover Stain Primer

Updated on April 8, 2019
Matt G. profile image

Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.

Zinsser Cover Stain Oil-based Primer

Zinsser Cover Stain is an oil-based primer I've used a lot over the years for priming cabinets, exterior wood, and wall stains. The primer I use the most now for cabinet painting is Zinsser BIN shellac, but I still use Cover Stain in certain situations.

Cover Stain is a good stain blocker that usually seals surfaces in one coat, but on oak cabinets, a second coat is sometimes needed to completely stop tannin bleed. Not always, but I've had problems with this a couple of times.

Is It Easy to Sand?

Cover Stain primer sands easier than other oil-based products I've used in the past, but only after the primer has had plenty of time to dry out. If you try sanding it right after it's dry to the touch, the surface is harder to sand and tends to rub off easily along outside corners.

When I used this product on cabinets, I'd let the primer dry overnight before sanding or try to get all of the priming done early in the morning so that I could sand everything later that day. If you let the primer dry longer than recommended, it sands very easily into a super smooth finish. This product sands a lot easier than Zinsser BIN shellac primer.

Cover Stain vs BIN Shellac Primer

Both products are excellent but serve different purposes. In my experience, Cover Stain does not spray or level out nearly as good as BIN shellac. I've had problems with Cover Stain fully atomizing through my Graco FFLP tips on my spray gun, due to the thickness. BIN sprays like a dream because it's so thin.

Both products start to tack up fast after application, but Cover Stain doesn't level out much, whereas BIN does, and rolling it, even with a foam roller, leaves heavy stippling if you aren't careful.

Price wise, Cover Stain is much cheaper at around $25 per gallon, but BIN costs close to $45. One of the reasons I don't use Cover Stain as much anymore, at least for cabinets, is the slower dry time and lingering odor. BIN dries fast and can be sanded and recoated in less than one hour.

Both products smell terrible, but the smell of BIN goes away fast once the alcohol has completely evaporated from the coating, which is usually under two hours. Oil-based primer dries at a slower rate, so the smell takes hours to go away.

Is Zinsser Cover Stain Primer Worth It?

Cover Stain oil-based primer is my go-to product for priming raw wood and stains on drywall. I've also used this product many times to prime and paint over old wallpaper. You can also use it for priming cabinets. The primer provides a good bond coat with paint and sands easily into a fine powder once fully dry.

This primer is also good for both interior and exterior use, where other products are for interior application only. I keep a gallon of it in my truck.

At under $30 per gallon, the price is reasonable for quality primer, but for a faster dry time, or if you're looking for a thin primer that levels a lot better when spraying kitchen cabinets, I recommend BIN shellac primer instead.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • What grit of sandpaper do you use to sand coverstain?

    I use a sanding block, but a finer grit like 220 is good if you're using sandpaper.

  • How do you get rid of the smell of primer quickly?

    Open windows.

  • I have primed my cabinets twice using cover stain but it has been 11 days since I've applied it. Do I need to prime again in order to paint because of the lapse of time?

    Yes, but you should sand anyways, even if you're painting the next day. Sanding the primer and wiping off the dust gives you a smoother paint finish. It also removes crumbs and imperfections in the primer. Cover Stain sands nicely into a fine powder after you let it dry overnight.

  • How do you prep oak cabinets before applying the BIN? Is scuffing necessary to achieve a solid bond?

    Yes, I always clean and sand cabinets before priming, using an electric sander. Sanding helps the primer stick better, and you'll have a smoother finish if you sand between each coat.

  • Can I use Zinser cover stain primer over a dark enamel paint then use a latex paint?

    Yes, but the surface should be sanded first so the primer forms a stronger bond with the enamel underneath. Latex paint over Cover Stain oil primer is perfectly fine.

© 2018 Matt G.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Matt G. profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt G. 

      2 weeks ago from United States

      Since there are multiple coatings on the cabinets, I would use either BIN or oil Kilz to prevent any chance of bleed through or bonding issues.

    • profile image


      2 weeks ago

      Old house. Oil over latex, latex over oil etc. on cabinets. I want to repaint yet another layer. It was latex last time. Would BIN work to prime the cabinets before I paint again or would Kilz work just as well? The old paint is fairly worn away to old, probably oil based, paint by the handles. I want to use latex again

    • Matt G. profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt G. 

      13 months ago from United States


      You can spray doors vertically with BIN, you just have to be careful not to spray too heavy. The second coat dries faster than the first coat. Spray a light first coat and a heavier second coat.

    • profile image

      Matt P 

      13 months ago

      If you were hanging doors vertically to spray which of the primer's would you use? Sounds like the BIN is runny and you said it levels well horizontally but will I have issues with runs.

    • Matt G. profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt G. 

      16 months ago from United States

      Using the right paint is key. I paint over Cover Stain primer with Sherwin Williams CHB and Duration, and the paint covers in two coats. You should also use a roller sleeve of 1/2" nap, or 3/4" if you're not already. The thicker nap puts more paint on for better coverage.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Any tips about painting Coverstain with white acrylic paint?

      Seems to take a lot of paint to cover the colour of Coverstain.

    • Matt G. profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt G. 

      21 months ago from United States


      No, I've never heard of BIN failing on cabinets due to heat from appliances and I've never had a call back on any of my cabinet jobs where BIN was used as the primer. I'll look into that though.

    • profile image


      21 months ago

      I am going to paint some kit cabs coming up. I usually use the cover stain to prime but know that bin has the best stain blocking ever. My question to you is have you heard that the bin will fail because of heat if you use it next to the stove top or dish waster. I have read that but have no experience with it.

    • profile image


      24 months ago

      Thanks much for this comparison. We are remodeling and this info will be good to keep in mind.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)