The 7 Best Exterior House Primers in 2023 – Top Picks

best exterior primers

Like all things in life, you must have a good base to build off of to have a sturdy building.

Paints are exactly the same way. If you use a poor-quality primer, you will get a poor-quality paint job.

But wait one second, what even is a primer?

A primer is used as a middleman between the surface you want to paint the paint itself.

Paint has trouble adhering to certain surfaces due to the way paint is made.

So, to get paint on tricky exterior surfaces such as bricks or metal, you have to use a primer.

Primers can stick onto surfaces with relative ease and paints can stick onto primers a lot easier than a raw surface.

But things get complicated relatively fast in the primer world. Like it’s difficult to find out which one you should use.

Each primer has its own use case. Some are great for hiding stains, while some are designed specifically for wood.

But considering the article name, you are probably here to learn about exterior primers.

In this article, we test many primers on lots of exterior surfaces so we can tell you which are the best seven you should look into.

And we will tell you what you should look for in an exterior primer if the primers we recommend don’t fit into your project.

So, without any delay, let’s jump in.

Best Exterior Primers

*Last update on 2023-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Top 7 Primers for Exteriors

Exterior primers are usually pretty specific, as they usually are considered sealants as well, to help seal off the surface from the outside elements.

This is especially important for some materials like metal or wood that can rust or rot if it gets wet outside. 

So, if you are planning to buy a good primer for protecting these exterior surfaces, below are our top recommendations…

1. KILZ Exterior Latex Primer 

KILZ General Purpose Latex Primer, Exterior, 1 Gallon
  • This fast-drying latex primer and sealer is specifically formulated...
  • KILZ General Purpose Primer seals porous surfaces and offers excellent...
  • Use on almost all exterior surfaces including stucco, wood, masonry...

*Last update on 2023-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Much like in our wood primer article, KILZ is the brand to go for. This is simply the best primer that you can get.

It is great for almost anything that you can think of, but it completely excels on porous materials such as bricks.

The primer will fill in the cracks and the holes, giving the paint a nice smooth surface to adhere to.

It has one of the faster dry times of about thirty minutes to an hour and can cover over 400 square feet of the surface.

The best part about it is that it has barely any odor.

So, if you have a sensitive nose as I do, this is it!

• Great primer + sealer
• Offers excellent adhesion
• Dries fast in about 30 minutes
• Good for sealing porous surfaces
• Cover 300-400 square feet per gallon
• Easy to apply with brush, roller, or sprayer
• Cannot resist mold- and mildew
• Not for glossy surfaces, or for stain-blocking

2. Diamond Brite Paint Oil Primer 

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Although we should be talking only about exterior primers, this primer can also work inside!

It seems like the Diamond Brite Paint Oil Primer is also the best primer for exterior metal surfaces as it has rust protection within the primer.

If you have some steel pipes, tanks, doors, equipment, trim, or handrails you have to paint, this is the choice.

Overall, it is just a solid product that can be used for a variety of exterior or interior surfaces.

• Seals and prep
• Interior/Exterior surfaces
• Good for oil enamel painting
• Easily brushed, rolled, or sprayed
• Adhesion issues

3. Rust-Oleum 286258 Primer 

Zinsser 286258 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 All Surface Primer,...
  • Interior/Exterior use on new or previously painted drywall, concrete,...
  • Water-based formula seals uniformly and will stick to surface without...
  • Dries to the touch in just 30 minutes, ready to recoat in 1 hour and...

*Last update on 2023-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Honestly, Rust-Oleum is a brand that is always great. Their paint is amazing, and their primer is better.

Although it can also work inside, this model was designed specifically for exterior use.

It can hide any stains or scuffs your surface may have. This primer will give you a solid base for your paints.

Although we find it to chip away a little faster than other choices in some instances, no one comes close to the prime this primer beats.

And I must confess that the Gray color of this primer range works very well under various paint colors, even when you are picking some solid vibrant colors for your exteriors.

Above all, it is cheap and effective; we just love it.

• Water-based formula
• Does not need sanding
• Stick and seals uniformly
• Good at hiding the stains
• Fast drying in about 30 mins.
• Not very durable
• Scratches off easily

4. INSL-X Acrylic Water Sealer Primer

INSL-X AQ040009A-01 Aqua Lock Plus 100% Acrylic...
  • Multipurpose, 100% acrylic primer sealer that provides excellent...
  • Superior sealing and coverage qualities, product versatility and an...
  • Excellent stain blocking primer properties.

*Last update on 2023-04-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This primer was designed with the protection of the surface in mind.

The INSL-X Acrylic Water Sealer Primer protects against stains and even mold, which is a major factor outside.

It dries super quickly and gives you a solid base that both latex and oil-based paints can work on.

If you are unsure which primer to choose, you can mess up with this one.

We actually don’t have any complaints. 

• Multi-use
• Dries quickly
• Excellent at hiding stains
• Offers mold-resistant coating
• 300 – 400 square foot coverage per gallon
• Not for exterior wood floor

5. RTG 3014 Exterior Primer

RTG Exterior Primer (Quart)
  • Water-based polyurethane exterior primer with strong adhesion to wood,...
  • Easy to apply by nylon or polyester tapered bristle brush, roller, or...
  • Durable formula outperforms conventional latex and enamel primers....

*Last update on 2023-04-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The RTG 3014 Exterior Primer is the primer for our Eco-friendly audience.

It can do nearly everything all the other primers can do while being Eco-friendly.

But the thing that shocked us most about this particular product, is how easy it is to use.

Using a paintbrush or a roller, or even a paint sprayer, all worked flawlessly with this primer.

You can just pour the material out (that comes packed in a unique Pour Pak bag) for use and then save the unused material for future use.

The good thing about this versatile exterior primer is its ability to provide a mildew-resistant and rust-resistant coating that does not crack or peel away fast.

This is the newest product we have tested, but as a newcomer, this is a great product.

• Dries very fast
• Easy to apply and clean
• Excellent at hiding stains
• Eco-friendly and low-odor
• Coverage of 80-100 sq. ft. per quart
• Still new in the market

6. Prestige Paints Exterior Paint and Primer

PRESTIGE Paints Exterior Paint and Primer In One,...
  • Prestige Paints has created a comparable color based on color...
  • This Behr paint color name is a trademark of Behr. Prestige Paints is...
  • High hiding formula for excellent coverage with smooth application

*Last update on 2023-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This is quite an interesting product as it is a paint and a primer in one.

However, unlike the other ones, this isn’t a spray can, but rather liquid. It’s specifically designed to go on top of other coats of paint.

Meaning if you have an outside project that has been weathering, just slap some of this on it to give it a new fresh look.

It is pretty easy to use, but it doesn’t cover as much surface as the other primers for whatever reason.

• Low VOC
• Easy clean-up
• Smooth to apply
• Good for hiding stains
• Color issues after drying

7. Duckback Peeling Paint Exterior Primer

DUCKBACK PRODUCTS Duckback SC-4475-4 Peeling Paint...
  • Item Weight: 9.75 lb
  • Country of Origin: United States

*Last update on 2023-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This Duckback primer is another unique product simply because of what it was designed for.

As the name suggests, all this primer does is stop paint from peeling off.

For me, living in a very hot climate happens a lot so this product is amazing.

It felt like we had to use a lot of it to cover a small amount, but the results are great.

We don’t have any complaints about this one. It is even made in America!

• Good to resist peeling
• Works for exterior floors as well
• Still new in the market

Types of Primer for Exteriors

When deciding on a primer for priming your exteriors, you may come across various different kinds.

Some of the most common ones include:

1- Oil Based

Oil-based primers are the most common as they are versatile enough and can be used on most surfaces including rough bricks, wood, metal, etc.

However, these may come with a few drawbacks.

First of all, is its high level of VOCs that is generally the property of oil-based primers.

Due to this, it’s recommended to wear a safety mask even when you are using them outside.

Secondly, the oil-based primers may take longer to dry up compared to other types.

And also, the brushes or rollers can be hard to clean when you apply oil-based primers with them.  

2- Water-Based

Water-based exterior primers are comparatively safe than oil-based ones due to their lower VOC content.

Not only you can use them on most surfaces but can also clean them fast off your brushes and rollers when you are done.

The only issue with these primers is they are not as strong as other external primers.

So, if you trying to deal with bad stains or need to apply stronger coating on your exterior surfaces you may need to apply multiple coats.  

3- Shellac Based

Shellac-based primer is strongest for exteriors that can be used on tough stains.

It’s ideal for covering surfaces that are harder to deal with.

The main drawback of using these is it’s harder to clean and contain a lot of VOCs.

In addition to the above types, exterior primers can also be categorized according to the sheen or finish they provide.

Some of the common finishes are:

a) Gloss:

It’s the shiniest of all (most reflective) and can enhance the look of your paint if you are planning to use glossy paint.

b) Matte:

It’s the least shiny (least reflective) and good at providing a flat or matte look.

It’s good to cover imperfections that can be an eyesore for many.

c) Satin:

It’s the mid-way of glossy and matte sheen and is good to provide a surface nice cleaner look.

It’s often good for surfaces that need cleaning more often.

best exterior house primer

Factors You Need to Consider When Buying Exterior Primer

Hopefully, the list of our recommended exterior primers is a good starting point for your projects.

There are simply so many different primers for different tasks so we couldn’t fit them all on this list.

If for some reason our recommendations don’t fit your taste, you can try to find your own primer.

Here are some things you should consider when you buy a primer

1- Low Odor

I don’t think there is a single person who likes the smell of primers or paints, I know I don’t.

In general, if you want the least smelly primer, look for primers that offer low odor.

Usually, these primers have fewer chemicals, so you don’t have to worry about the smell too much.

2- Non-Toxic

Some people have some very strong opinions about the toxicity of paint and primers.

I personally don’t think it is a big deal if you are being responsible.

However, if you do experience problems with paint or primers, obviously try to get something that is non-toxic.

These usually just have less dangerous chemicals but should do the job just fine. 

3- Coverage

You don’t have to be too precise on this one but consider how much surface area you wish to prime.

This will help you decide how much primer you actually need to buy.

Most primers have an average coverage on their label, so all you have to do is some quick division to figure out how many units you will need.

The coverage will vary widely if it is a spray can or a gallon.

But, I’m a firm believer in buying too much rather than not having enough, so maybe buy an extra unit if the math comes up short.

4- The Finish

In my opinion, one of the less important parts of a primer is the finish.

Some primers will give you a matte look in the end, while some will give you a glossy finish.

These don’t really affect the quality of the primer or even the lifespan of the primer.

All it affects is the end look of your product.

If you have a desire for a glossy finish, choose a primer that has that result. But it doesn’t matter, choose whichever you prefer.

5- Drying Time

Like a lot of the other factors on this list, the drying time from primer to primer can vary drastically, taking anywhere between 10 minutes to 24 hours.

Only you know what you need.

If you need to complete your project in a day, look for a shorter drying time, but if you don’t mind some better primers take much longer to dry so you may want to look at those.

Keep in mind, your primer must dry completely before painting, if you don’t wait it will ruin the paint job.

6- The Time You Have

This factor goes hand in hand with the drying time of the primer.

If it has a long dry time, you have to wait that long dry time.

There are some primer and paint combinations that will help speed up your project as it will prime and paint at the same time.

These tend to be spray cans so if needed a project can be completed in less than half an hour.

On the other hand, if you don’t mind waiting, you may be able to get better results with a longer dry-time oil-based primer.

7- Scratch Resistant

Some people may not consider scratch-resistant a factor in primer, but funny enough it can.

Although it doesn’t seem like it, if the primer is scratch resistant it will make the top layer of paint scratch resistant as well.

It will protect your surface from the elements and some accidental scratches.

Overall, a nice feature to have but not a deal-breaker.

8- Is It Eco-friendly?

Being an eco-friendly primer may be the largest reason for a primer for some people, or the least important reason for others.

Obviously, if you care about the environment, try to find a primer that is environmentally clean.

Paints and primers don’t have the best reputation for being clean, but there are some out there that can do the job safely.

If it matters to you, it is probably worth it. 

9- Can It Be Used Indoors?

Although this article was about exterior primers, some primers are able to be used inside and outside.

If you have some projects that are inside and outside, make sure to get one that can be used in both scenarios, so you don’t have to buy many different primers.

This does not hold true always.

As we mentioned, if you are working on an outside project, get an exterior primer, or if it is inside, get an indoor primer.

best oil-based exterior primer paint

What to Use as an Alternative to Paint Primer for Exterior Surfaces?

There are instances when you do not have primer available or you simply do not want to invest in a gallon can for a very small project.

Fortunately, there are a few paints and primers substitute available that can be used for completing your job quickly and affordably.

I have used all these DIY homemade primer alternatives before and hopefully, you will find them useful too…

a) Latex Paints

Latex paint can be one of the most suitable replacements for primer if you want to apply them to your exterior walls.

If you have some old latex paint stored in your garage or storage room, you can mix it with some water and create thin paint.

This can homemade water-based primer be applied to the exterior walls as a primer before you apply the topcoat.

The thinned latex paint will be absorbed by the walls and bricks, giving you a smoother surface to paint over.

This surface will also absorb less amount of paint which lowers your overall cost to primer and paint the exterior walls.

b) Enamel Paints

If you plan to primer and paint exterior wood surfaces, you can make your own oil-based primer using enamel paint and solvent.

Thinning of oil-based paint can be done as you have prepared latex primer above and it’s a highly cost-saving method.

Instead of water, you will just need to use a solvent like paint thinner, mineral oil, or turpentine.

  • Purchase standard paint or use the one that you have stored in your garage
  • Thin it with mineral oil or your other preferred solvent in a 1-1 ratio of paint and solvent
  • Stir the mixture evenly to get a uniform color of your homemade primer

When preparing your own DIY homemade paint primer for exterior brick and wall surfaces keep in mind that you use a flat finish or satin paint that comes with no gloss.

Getting a dull finish will cover the dents and bumps on the exterior walls better and you will be getting a smoother surface that will be easier to paint over.

c) Drywall Conditioner

Use a drywall conditioner product, such as Wall-Prep Latex Drywall Conditioner from Duron or the Drywall Conditioner from Sherwin-Williams.

Drywall conditioners can also act as a great primer alternative as they can seal the surface and keep them away from any damage.

I have personally tried Sherwin-Williams Drywall Conditioner, but products like Wall-Prep Latex from Duron can also work great depending on the surface and project you are working on.

The beauty of this primer alternative is it smooths the surface and dries clear so that you can easily paint over with your preferred paint color without any problem.  


So, there you go.

By now you should be an expert on all things about exterior primers.

If not an expert, I hope you learned something or were pointed in the correct way for your project.

Just keep in mind, the primer you use is important and will affect what your finished product will look like.

But we recognize that there are a lot of options out there and going down that one aisle in your hardware store can be frightening.

If you are ever unsure, just ask an employee and they will surely help you out.

Or, you can just consider our recommendations.

The KILZ Exterior Latex Primer is a great choice for almost any project, so go with that if you don’t have the time or desire to research.

We hope that you will be able to complete your project with your exterior primer soon!

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