What is the Best Primer for Plywood? — Exterior & Interior Surfaces (2024)

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Applying a primer helps seal the plywood’s surface, preventing moisture from seeping in and protecting it from damage. But if you use the wrong primer, you expose your furniture to early wear and tear, or worse, mildew or mold.

For this reason, I’ve tested and evaluated the best primers for plywood to help you decide the most ideal product for your project!

Premium Choice
Tamiya TAM87042
Editor's Choice
Zinsser 02004
Budget Option
KILZ 2 20000
Tamiya TAM87042
Zinsser 02004
KILZ 2 20000
• Highly adhesive
• Durable finish
• Evens a rough surface
• Stain blocking
• Semi-gloss
• Best as top coat
• Water-based primer
• Indoor/outdoor use
• Prevents mildew
Premium Choice
Tamiya TAM87042
Tamiya TAM87042
• Highly adhesive
• Durable finish
• Evens a rough surface
Editor's Choice
Zinsser 02004
Zinsser 02004
• Stain blocking
• Semi-gloss
• Best as top coat
Budget Option
KILZ 2 20000
KILZ 2 20000
• Water-based primer
• Indoor/outdoor use
• Prevents mildew

Reviews of the Top Primers for Plywood

1. Zinsser 02004 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Water-Based Stain Blocking Primer/Sealer

I often recommend the Zinsser 02004 Bulls Eye as a reliable indoor primer. Primers like this one are made for surfaces that have been painted before, like brick, metal surfaces, shiny surfaces, wood, painted plywood floor, and anything else that might be difficult to paint.

The most effective method for preventing painting problems is to apply multiple thin layers rather than one thick one. Approximately one hour after application, it will be dry to the touch.

The Zinsser 02004 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Water-Based Stain Blocking Primer in White is terrific since it prevents stains very effectively and can be used with either oil or latex paint. This primer only needs one thin coat, saving you time and money.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

2. Tamiya TAM87042 Surface Primer in Light Gray

The Tamiya TAM87042 Surface Primer is built to last, with exceptional resistance to abrasion and extreme temperatures. These aerosol primers are highly adaptable, user-friendly, and level well.

When I’ve tested this plywood primer on various surfaces, it dries to the touch in just an hour or two. I’ve applied it on wood, metal, and even fiberglass, and the results are consistently impressive. As a result of its matte and smooth finish, plywood surfaces will look great even after years of use. 

If you need to do touch-ups, you have the option of using either a paintbrush or a roller. For ensuring optimal paint adhesion on plywood, I highly recommend this primer. It just provides such a solid bond for a variety of paints.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

3. KILZ 2 All-Purpose Primer, Interior/Exterior

The KILZ 2 All-Purpose Primer is an excellent choice for preventing mildew growth, which in turn safeguards surfaces from stains and covers over the old paint job. Painting over an already-existing surface will be unnecessary.

With this primer, you won’t have to worry about peeling paint, ink, grease, pencil, and felt marker stains. Using it to paint plywood will strengthen the bond between the first coat and succeeding coats.

It is suitable for indoor and outdoor use, including plaster, glossy surfaces, interior and exterior drywall, paneling, previously painted drywall, masonry, brick, stucco, and other surfaces.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

4. Rust-Oleum 207014 Marine Wood and Fiberglass Primer

This Rust-Oleum product is an excellent primer, particularly for wood and fiberglass. It’s touch dry after one or two hours, but must dry for a whole night to cure correctly. Depending on the surface, one can cover up to 100 square feet of plywood walls.

It’s also very simple to sand. You can use the primer on both unfinished wood and previously painted surfaces.

The Rust-Oleum 207014 Marine Primer can also be sanded quickly. It produces a smooth, even surface, but concealing dark colors requires three or four coats, while light colors need a thin coating or a second coat.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

Primers for Plywood: Buyer’s Guide

Stained/Unstained or Painted/Unpainted Plywood?

Whenever working with wooden surfaces that you don’t intend to stain or paint with oil-based paints, make sure to prime them. The nature of this wood demands a compound that really sticks.

For previously painted or stained plywood, it is important to use a stain-blocking primer. Find one that ensures superb adherence over a single coat of stain or paint.

Plywood’s Age

I recommend using an oil or latex primer for old plywood because it can enter the wood grain more effectively, allowing the paint to adhere better.

buying plywood

Nature of Your Project

It is crucial to select the best plywood primer that’s suitable for your project. to avoid the most common painting issues. This choice can make or break the final outcome.

Depending on your project, an interior or exterior primer will be your best bet. In addition, the right primer not only stops mildew growth but also reduces surface cracking.

Final Color

Users might have to add a layer of paint to cover up the current dark tone. What constitutes the best primer for covering a dark stain is ultimately determined by what you hope to accomplish.

Invest in a white primer if you want to use a light color on the walls. If you want the primer to match the paint, you can mix the paint into the white primer or go for a tinted base coat.

Type of Primer: Oil-Based, Latex/Water-Based, or Shellac-Based?

Most surfaces, including masonry and galvanized metal, can be applied with an oil-based primer. Yet, this primer is the most widely used for wood since it completely seals the wood’s surface, allowing subsequent coats of paint to adhere without a hitch.

Water-based primers are great for use on both indoor and outdoor surfaces. Primers made from shellac produce the most remarkable results. It works well on any surface and prevents tannin staining, water damage, and corrosion.

Primers made with shellac do an excellent job of masking and avoiding stains while sealing unpleasant odors, including those caused by food, pets, and smoke [1].

Do You Need to Prime Plywood Before Painting? What are the Advantages?

It is recommended to prime plywood before painting it because it seals the wood and provides a smooth surface suitable for paint. Therefore, it is a crucial stage in the painting process. Painting plywood without first priming might lead to peeling or chipping the paint.

Improves Adhesion

Priming the plywood surface enhances the paint’s ability to adhere to the wood. The paint might stay put on the wood with a primer and eventually peel or chip.

Seals Wood

Plywood is made of thin sheets of veneer bonded and typically chemically treated to prolong its lifespan. The primer seals the wood, and any contaminants in the wood will not seep into the paint.

Hides Flaws

As a result of priming, flaws in the wood, like knots, are less noticeable. In the case of painting over rough plywood, this is of utmost importance.

Enhanced Durability

Plywood’s painted finish is more long-lasting with priming first. Without a primer, the paint could not hold up as well against the elements.

Painting Plywood in 4 Steps

Step #1: Fill Gaps & Holes

To prepare the wood for painting, use a putty knife to fill up any cracks, gouges, cuts, or nail holes that have formed due to knots or other surface deformations.

Let the filler dry for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the temperature and product, and then sand away any wood filler that isn’t level with the wooden surface. This way it won’t be tough to paint surfaces.

Step #2: Get Rid of Sharp Edges, Sand, and Clean Your Plywood

Round off the plywood’s edges to avoid injury when relocating heavy furniture. Use a power sander or fine-grit sandpaper and lightly sand any rough spots.

Speaking of power sander, you might want to check the following

sanding surface of MDF board

Protect the plywood wood filler from further damage by covering up the repaired holes with joint compound and letting it dry for a full day.

Step #3: Apply Your Chosen Primer

After cleaning and lightly sanding the surface, you can apply two coats of oil-based, shellac, or latex primer by brushing or spraying. Ensure your electric spray gun is suitable for use with priming before beginning.

You should give the layers 4-6 hours to dry. Before painting, softly sand the plywood to remove dust and other debris that could contaminate the paint.

Step #4: Apply Your Chosen Paint

Spray guns require fast, smooth, and uncut passes with consistent trigger pressure. If you want a professional-looking result, use only the best materials for plywood.

spray painting MDF board

The one significant difference is that much preparation is required to get a homogeneous and smooth surface. 

More product recommendations here

My Top Pick For a Primer for Plywood:
Zinsser 02004 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Water-Based Primer/Sealer

My top recommendation for the best primer for plywood has to be the Zinsser 02004 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Water-Based Stain Blocking Primer/Sealer. It lasts long, even when exposed to the elements, making it ideal for any plywood project. 

It is also easy to apply on various surfaces, including fiberglass, wood, and metal.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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