How Long Does Primer Take To Completely Dry? DIY Guide

Primer before painting

When you are redoing your home, the chances are that it will also need a paint job. This gives your home a fresh look and makes it as good as new. However, if you don’t apply primer before painting, then it probably won’t. Painting over walls without applying a coat of primer first can make them look uneven. You will also need to apply a few layers of paint before it starts appearing on the walls, hence increasing the chances of chipping.

There are many reasons why you should be applying primer before painting walls, but the major thing you should be concerned about is the drying time of the primer before you apply paint. Typically, primer takes about one to four hours to dry; however, there are certain factors that impact the drying time.

If you are wondering exactly how long you should wait to let your primer set, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a thorough guide on applying primer, letting it set, factors affecting drying time, applying paint afterward, and much more.  

What is Primer and Why Is It Important?

Before we dive into the how-to’s and the factors impacting primer drying time, it’s important to first get a detailed answer on what exactly a primer is and why it’s a crucial step in the wall painting process. Put simply; a primer quite literally prepares the wall for an even application of paint. It acts as a blank canvas, making painting much easier and allowing it to adhere better to the surface of the wall.

With a coat of primer, all joints and seams are hidden, and the paint lasts for a longer time. It would also not let the paint bleed through the walls and make it look much better.  If you are painting over wood, then it becomes imperative that you apply primer for these reasons and to help preserve the material.

Though it may seem like a relatively straightforward task, for individuals priming walls for the first time, it can be slightly daunting and confusing. You have to ensure that certain steps are completed beforehand, and all factors are considered. More importantly, you must ensure that your primer has completely dried before you can add a coat of paint.

When Do I Need To Apply Primer?

If you are on the fence about whether or not a primer before painting is necessary for you, take a look at these conditions when it is recommended to apply primer. Not all of these conditions need to exist, but even one of these is reason enough to use this pre-step.

· You Have A Highly Porous Surface

Surfaces that are highly porous require primer before paint. These can include a newly built drywall and materials like barewall and masonry.

· The Drywall Is Skim-Coated

Though skim-coated drywall is not that common, if you have one, you will likely need to apply primer to it because it can be highly porous.

· The Previous Coat Is Glossy

A layer of gloss over the wall means that the paint will not adhere well to the wall. Hence, you should roughen up the wall using sandpaper and then add a coat or two of primer. Even if you don’t want to scuff up the wall with sandpaper, simply applying a layer of primer will significantly help in allowing the paint to stick.

· The Color Is Changing From Dark to Light

Laying down multiple coats of light paint over dark colored walls can be expensive and does not last long. Instead, applying a layer or two of white primer can provide a blank canvas for you to paint over. Alternatively, if you are going from a dark to light color, then you can consider using tinted primers that have a color closer to your finish shade.

· The Surface Is Spotted Or Stained

Surfaces such as these can considerably benefit from a thick coat of primer as it can help cover these spots and stains well. You should use a thick and robust primer in this case.

When Is Primer Not Necessary?

Even though it is generally recommended at all times, there are some instances when you don’t necessarily need to apply a coat of primer. Primer is usually the safest bet, but if you are short on time or budget, you can skip this step. You can go without applying primer under the following conditions:

· When Your Walls Are Clean

If your walls are pretty clean, you might get away without a coat of primer. You could also consider cleaning them instead of primer by using a DIY solution. This consists of water mixed with tri-sodium phosphate. Wipe down the walls with this solution and cloth. Alternatively, you could just vacuum the walls to remove any cobwebs, dust, or debris.

· If You Are Painting a Similar Color To The Previous One

One of the reasons why primer should be applied to the walls is because it helps create a blank canvas for the next coat of paint, which is normally a different color. However, if that is not the case for you, and you are applying the same shade or a similar one, you might not need a primer. Though it is still recommended to apply primer, the need is slightly reduced.

· When Using A Combination Of Paint And Primer

It is recommended that you use two separate paint and primers for your paint job, but if the walls are in good condition, you can simply use a two-in-one paint and primer solution. This is thicker than regular paint, providing a much thicker coat as well. It should be important to note that this type of paint is not as long-lasting compared to separate primer and paint and will also take longer to dry.

Factors Affecting Primer Drying Time

There is no conclusive answer to the question, ‘how long does it take for primer to completely dry,’ because there are several factors that affect their drying time. Depending on these factors, it can take as less as an hour or as long as four hours. Let’s explore these factors to see how long you should wait before painting over the primer.

1. Type of Primer Used

The first thing to consider when you are figuring out the drying time is what type you are using. This is because the formulation of the primer itself determines the drying time. There are three main types of paint primers that are commonly used for home projects:

· Oil Based Primer

These are the best types of primers to use on wood materials as they allow the paint to adhere to the wood without any seams or cracks being noticed. However, compared to the other type of primer, oil-based primer takes much longer to dry. For example, they can take up to 24 hours to dry. Moreover, they are also somewhat more challenging to work with.

These are some of the factors that can contribute to the drying time of oil-based primers:

  • When you spray paint the primer rather than applying it with a brush or roll-on, the drying time is reduced. This is because the spray will apply a thin and even layer of primer
  • When there is less humidity, the primer dries really fast as compared to high humidity areas. If that is an issue for you, however, you can use a dehumidifier
  • High temperature of the room can lead to lower primer drying time
  • If you are painting indoors or outdoors, it also impacts the drying time of primers. For example, if you are painting outdoors, then the condition of the environment will determine the drying time of the primer

· Latex Primer

These ate water-based primers and are comparatively much easier to work with because they don’t take as long as oil-based primers to dry. For example, they take a maximum of three hours to dry- all things equal. If strong odors are a problem for you, then also you should consider latex primers because they don’t give off such a smell and are relatively mild.

Unfortunately, a considerable downside of latex primers is that they don’t provide the robust kind of protection that oil-based primers provide. This means that your material is open to effects from air, wind, dust, and whatnot if you apply a latex primer.

The amount of coats you apply of the primer also determines its drying time. For example, if you apply more than one coat of primer, it will take much longer for it to dry as compared to just one coat. You should apply thin coats of the primer because they enhance the chances of adhesion of paint and reduce the chances of uneven edges popping up. Remember that thin coats are always much better than thicker ones, no matter how many of these coats you apply.

· Drywall Primers

These are another type of primers that are also known as Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA), and they include solid particles in them. The particles enter the empty cracks and pockets of the wall while priming it to prepare for painting. As a result, there is even application of the paint.

Most of these PVA primers take much less time to dry as compared to the other two types of paint primers. For example, they take an estimated half an hour to an hour to completely dry. However, there are also some types of drywall primers that take much longer, for example, a total of 24 hours to dry. The environmental conditions will also impact these drying times, besides the quality and type of drywall primer used.

2. The Environmental Conditions

Another considerable factor that you must notice is the environmental conditions of your home, whether indoors or outdoors. All in all, the ideal temperature and humidity level of the drying time for primers are 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity level. However, a general idea is given below in detail. These factors can affect how long it takes for the primer to dry. Let’s take a look at what these are:

· Temperature

As mentioned earlier, the cooler the temperature, the lesser it will take for the primer to dry. The hotter temperature will take much longer because of the humidity, which is the primary enemy of primers.

· Humidity

The higher the humidity, the longer it will take for the primer to dry. The atmospheric humidity, regardless of whether outdoors or indoors, can increase or decrease the primer drying time. This is because there are more water molecules, or vapors, suspended in the air. To speed up the drying time of your primer, you can close the windows or switch on a fan, air conditioner, or dehumidifier.

· Coating Thickness

There is a rule of thumb when it comes to priming that the coating thickness should not be too much. No matter how many layers and coats of primer you apply, if it is overall thick, then it will take much longer for the primer to dry. For this reason, most people recommend latex primers because typically, no matter how many layers of it you apply, it does not get too thick.

· Amount of Ventilation

Much like the case with humidity and temperature, the ventilation has a dire impact on the primer drying time. In a stuffy room where there is no good airflow and ventilation, your primer will take much longer.

3. Surface Being Primed

The material that is being primed also has somewhat of an effect on the drying time. However, the type and environmental conditions of the room tend to have a more significant impact. For example, regardless of whether it is wood, drywall, or any type of material, the drying time is the same and tends not to change as such depending on the surface being primed.

Primer drying time

How To Apply Primer

Now that you know which primer to use after looking at the types of primer and environmental conditions, here is how you can apply primer:

Step 1: Prepare the Surface

Before you begin priming the walls, you should prepare the wall and the entire room. Apply masking tape on anything you don’t want the paint to come on. Take your time with this step because it is very important. Place a tarp on the floor along the walls to ensure the paint does not drop on the floor.

Step 2: Apply the Primer

Now it’s time to apply the primer. Before you do, make sure you shake the bottle well so that it is completely stirred. Pour the primer on the paint, try and begin applying the primer with a paintbrush and roller.

As you are applying the primer, make sure there are minimal drips on the floor. You can apply more than one coat of primer, depending on your preference. However, make sure it is not too thick.

Step 3: Wait For it To Dry and Check Regularly

At this point, once you have applied the primer completely, you should let the primer dry completely. Depending on the type of primer, environmental conditions, and the surface that you are priming, you can determine the primer drying time. Keep checking to see if it has completely dried, and then move onto the next step of applying paint.

Step 4: Sand If Necessary

Now that your primer is ready and completely dry, it’s time that you sand it. This depends on how much you want to paint, the material, and whether you think the wall needs it. If you are working with a porous surface or one that might not accept a seamless coat of paint, only then should you sand the surface. However, typically sand is not exactly necessary.

How To Know When Primer Is Dry

The best way to know whether your primer is completely dry is to keep checking by touching the surface with your hands. If it is too sticky and wet, then you might need to wait a bit longer. If it’s not too tacky and not coming on your fingers, then your primer is ready for paint and completely dry.

But to be on the safe side, even after your primer feels dry and not too tacky, you should let it dry further for another thirty minutes before you apply paint.

Tips To Make Primer Dry Faster

If you are in a rush and want your primer to dry much faster, then you can consider some of the following tips to reduce the drying time:

  • Run a humidifier, or fan in the room to increase ventilation
  • Use a spray for applying primer because it leads to a thin coat, which takes less time to dry
  • Increase the temperature in the room with a heater because that might reduce the drying time because of the high temperature
Primer before painting and drying time

FAQs About Priming

By this time, you know everything about applying primer before painting, including how long it will take to dry, how to apply it, and how to increase the drying time. Here are some more commonly asked questions that people have about priming walls.

1. What Supplies Do I Need To Paint Over Primer?

Typically, you need a list of supplies for applying primer. Here are some of the things you might need. You might make omissions and additions depending on the size of the room and their availability:

  • Paintbrush or roller
  • Pain tray
  • Tarps for the floor
  • Masking tape
  • Gloves
  • Outerwear
  • Drop cloths
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint

2. What Happens If You Paint Over Primer Too Quickly?

If you paint over primer too quickly, the entire surface will become wet, sticky, and tacky. The results of the paint might not appear apparent either, and it will not be long-lasting. You might need to remove the primer and paint and start all over again.

3. How Long Should Primer Dry Before Painting?

That depends on a number of factors such as the temperature, humidifier, ventilation, coating thickness, the surface that needs to be primed, and the type of primer. Typically, it can take anywhere between half an hour to a few hours or an entire day. You will need to analyze these factors to get a better idea.

4. Is My Project Done After Painting?

That entirely depends on the house project you have undertaken. Normally, people are done at this point, but they might want to apply a layer of gloss, patterns, textures, and even wallpapers. This is upon your preferences and the kind of end result you want.

Final Thoughts

Here is everything you need to know about primer before painting and their drying time. At this point, you are ready to begin your home project. Letting your primer dry and knowing how long it takes for it to dry is extremely crucial to the success of your paint job. It is important that you consider all the factors we have highlighted in order for a good application of paint. Good luck!

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