Do You Need to Primer New Drywall Before Painting?

When you put up new drywall, it may seem that all you need to do is add two coats of regular paint and you are done.

However, if you want to avoid potential issues with the new paint, then you will need to add a coat of primer as well.

While primer for new drywall may seem at first like an unnecessary step, there are good reasons why (and when) it should be applied first to your new drywall.

prime new drywall
Prime New Drywall

I will try to cover all these reasons along with proper steps on how to prime your new drywall in this article.

But let’s start with basics.

What is drywall, what it is made up of and why it’s getting popular than ever before in home construction?

What Is A Drywall?

Drywall panels are primarily made of gypsum.

It is a naturally-occurring, non-toxic mineral found in massive sand beds; or they seem to be like sand which often has a pink, yellow or gray tint to them because of impurities.

Gypsum is mined in 85 countries around the world. The chemical formula of gypsum is CaSO4·2 H2O which is showing it comprises a large part of water.

These are in crystalline form which is why individual gypsum molecules are dry.

To be utilized in the wallboard panel, raw gypsum is heated to partially dry out water molecules from the compound to produce hemihydrates of calcium sulfate,  CaSO4· 1⁄2 H2O.

Mixed with a variety of additives such as starch, paper pulp and an emulsifier (or a thickening agent); a thick gypsum paste is formed by blending the mixture in water.

The final product is a board that is completed, once again, by sandwiching the wet core between two sheets of fiberglass mats.

This formation passes through drying chambers which are heated up to 500 degrees of Fahrenheit.

The dried material is rigid and strong enough to cut out in typical sheets of 4×8 feet.

The face paper is the front paper of the panel which is white in color and the back paper is of a light brown shade.

Sizes and Types

The standard size of a wallboard panel is 4 feet in width and 8 feet in length.

However, popular variations in lengths of 10 to 16 feet are being introduced for easy installation purposes.

Drywall comes in a thickness of ½ inch, ¼ inch, 3/8 inch, and 5/8 inch.

For dry locations, the usual drywall can be used while humid areas of the house require moisture-resistant sheets also named as ‘green board’ for its green face paper.

Another specialty is fire-rated drywall for high-fire resistance in areas such as garage and flexible drywall, which is a thin panel used for curved structures.

Difference between Drywall and Plaster

Plaster (as in plaster of Paris) is an old construction method that was commonly used until the 20th century as a form of interior wall finishing.

The wet plaster used to be repeatedly slathered over numerous wooden strips called laths.

It would then harden to form walls and ceilings after a long drying time and needed redoing to achieve a perfect finish.

This technique, regardless, was excruciatingly labor-intensive, time-consuming and required great skills.

Drywalls are a godsend; interior construction that almost took a month could be finished in a few days with added advantages of excellent durability and moderate pricing.

primer on drywall

Why Do You Need a Primer for Drywall?

The basic reason to add a coat of drywall primer is to provide the paint with a place that it can stick and hold.

This is because the drywall primer is not the same as regular paint.

The primary ingredient of primer is polyvinyl acetate or PVA. This is basically the same as the carpenter’s glue.

When the PVA is applied, it seals up the surface of the drywall to prevent any leakage from affecting the paint.

Plus, it provides a surface that allows the paint to really stick and take hold.

No matter you are priming the drywall in your living room or a garage, you can choose a thin primer that covers the surface or a thicker version that covers the nicks and marks to create a smooth surface.

When Do You Need to Prime?

You need to apply the primer after the drywall is ready and dry.

This means that if you need to fill in any small cracks, nicks, or marks, it’s best to do so before applying the primer.

You will want the drywall to be fully sealed, dry and ready to go.

You should open the windows and add fans not only to ensure that the room is well ventilated but also to dry out any potential trouble spots.

Be sure to address any potential issues before you start adding the primer.

If you see an area that is quite slow to dry, for example, you may want to investigate to see if the drywall is over the pipes.

Adding extra insulation now can save you from having to repaint later.

Check the instructions on the primer to see if there is a time frame for application.

Otherwise, once the drywall is set you should be ready to start adding the primer.

How to Prime and Paint Over New Drywall?

Everything begins by having the right primer, paint, and tools to do the job.

This also means that you get some floor covers as protection from dripping primer and paint.

Also, you will need a painter’s tape to edge off areas outside the drywall, and the right clothes that you do not mind getting paint on them.

Step # 1 Cleaning

You will need to start by cleaning and preparing the new drywall. This is not that difficult if the drywall is new because it should be in pristine condition.

You will need to ensure that any covering is removed so that the wall itself is exposed and ready to be primed and painted.

Go over the drywall to ensure that any changes you need, such as adding holes for outlets, have been made.

Step # 2 Priming

Now you are ready to prime the drywall.

You add the primer just like you would add new paint.

Start by using a brush to apply paint to the edges along the walls, floor, and ceiling.

In this step, you are creating a frame by which the rest of the primer can be applied.

Make sure that you do not create any brush marks when applying the primer.

Step # 3 Prime again

Once you have created the frame, you can then use a roller to apply the remaining primer to the wall.

Run the roller up and down the wall until you have covered it all with the primer.

Step # 4 Inspect and dry

Once complete, step back to see if you have missed any spots. Cover such areas with a new application.

After you have inspected your work, let the primer fully dry.

Step # 5 Painting The Drywall

Before you add the paint, check to see if the primer is dry by gently touching a small area.

If you notice color differences that may indicate the primer is still wet, it is best to err on the side of caution.

You may want to run a fan to circulate the air and dry the primer faster.

Once dried, you can apply the new paint in the same manner as the primer.

This means creating a frame of new paint along the edges with a brush, then filling in the ret with a roller.

Once the first coat is dry, check to see if you need to add another coat of paint. If required apply one more coat of paint.

Generally speaking, a single coat of primer and two coats of paint provides maximum protection for the wall while still conserving the amount of paint that you use.

Drywall Sealer Vs Primer: Is There Any Difference?

You may hear about drywall sealer and primer and wonder what is the difference?

After all, many painters will use both terms as if they are the same.

However, in terms of products both drywall sealer and primer are quite different.

This is why you may see a two-in-one combination of drywall sealer and primer in one product.

Called primer-sealers, they help to smooth out the textures while sealing the drywall itself.

But their primary function is to create a surface sticky enough for standard paint to apply.

They are well suited for use over walls that may have strong differences in existing colors.

By creating a new surface of primer or sealer, such differences in colors can be smoothed out considerably.

The combination of primer and sealer is most effective when used under wallpaper.

You can even tint the combo so that it blends in well with the paint that you are about to use.

This saves you time and money as fewer coats will be necessary.


The primary purpose of a sealer is in the name. It seals up the tiny openings on the surface of the drywall.

The result is that when finished the surface is now properly protected and provides an even surface for the paint to stick.

You can purchase sealers in a variety of pigments or choose the clear versions.

However, there are some sealers that are not designed to have additional coats of paint added to the surface.

Check to see before you make your purchase to ensure that you can add the paint you want. 


The primary purpose of a primer is to provide a sticky surface for the paint to adhere.

They are quite similar to paints as they include many of the same pigments and fillers, but they are also intermediary coats that are not designed to stand on their own.

In other words, they need the paint to cover their surface because it will be uneven in most cases.

The uneven appearance of a primer is not really an issue when it will be covered by standard coats of paint.

But the advantage of tinting means that to get the desired looked when you complete your painting, fewer coats will be needed.

Self-priming Paint vs. Tinted Primer: What’s Better?

It is important to understand the differences between both of these so you can choose the right type of paint or primer for painting your new drywall.

Self-Priming paint is designed to provide even coverage without having to add a third coat.

The advantage of self-priming paint is that it does contain PVA, so it will stick to the surface.

However, if you have purchased a specialty paint or simply want to use the paint that is in your home, then adding a tint to the primer may be the best option.

Even with the tint, it will not be the same color as the paint that you use, but it should be close enough that it will not show through the top coat of paint that you apply afterward.

What are the Benefits of Using PVA Drywall Primer?

One of the most important benefits of using a PVA drywall primer-sealer is it helps in reducing the number of expensive topcoats you will need to apply on your drywall.

This means you can save money by applying fewer paint coats.

Additionally, the drywall primer when applied makes sanding the surface much easier for smoothening the walls.

This means, when you have properly applied the primer on your drywall you can save a good deal of time and energy while sanding the surface as compared to the surface that’s not primed.

Another benefit of applying a PVA primer on your sheetrock is it smoothens the surface and eases the painting.

The new sheetrock is often dry, and when not primed it sucks the moisture in paint instantly when you apply the paint with a brush or a roller.

This makes you apply more effort to glide the paintbrush smoothly along the surface.

But when primed with a high-quality sandable PVA primer, the surface is already smoothened which makes you glide and spread the topcoat very easily.

This also means you will be getting a perfectly smooth surface with right finish when you have completed mudding and painting the drywall.

What Is the Best PVA Primer Sealer to Use on New Drywall?

As such, there is a huge variety of PVA primers available to buy online. These are specially designed for drywall coating and comes at a great price range.

Some of the best brands that I have ever worked with include Glidden, Kilz, Behr, Valspar Pro, Benjamin Moore, Zinsser, and Sherwin Williams

When buying, I usually prefer to look for the primer that can be sprayed, brushed as well as rolled on.

Also, it should be available at a generous price as investing in something that is overpriced does not make sense due to the fact that they all need to go under the topcoat.  

As long as the sealer product can seal up the wall perfectly well and allows me to apply uniform topcoat, it’s a perfectly fine product for me.

For all these reasons, I typically use KILZ Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer/Sealer that works amazingly fine for me.

I never had any issues working with it and being available at a great price on Amazon this best drywall sealer is my top choice among all.

Few other features that come with this drywall primer are:

  • Perfectly seals up new drywall and other surfaces
  • Unlike traditional water or oil-base primer, it provides unique adhesion
  • Dries to touch within 30 minutes and makes the surface ready to recoat in an hour
  • Can be easily used under epoxies, lacquers, and products containing Xylene or other solvents

Not to mention, KILZ has been making premium primers and paints for over 40 years now.

And I am pretty sure that you can never go wrong when choosing their products.

KILZ L211101 Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex...
  • A good bonding primer is essential to ensure that topcoats adhere to...
  • KILZ Adhesion is a unique latex primer developed to bond securely on...
  • Bonds to tough-to-paint surfaces including Kynar, PVC, Formica, vinyl,...

*Last update on 2020-10-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How Many Coats of Primer Do You Need on a New Dry Wall?

As mentioned before, you should only need a single coat of primer to do the job.

That is because you are going to add at least one, if not two coats of regular paint on top. Plus, the PVA in the primer is designed to seal the drywall and mud effectively.

Adding additional primer is generally not necessary, although you may want to touch up specific areas that need a little extra attention.

Once you have applied a coat of the primer, let it dry and look at the results after 3-4 hours.

If it seems too thin, then you may want to apply a second coat of sealer just to be sure.

How Many Gallons of Primer You will Need for Priming New Drywall?

How much primer you will need for priming your new drywall will depend on various factors.

In general, the rougher the surface is, the more quantity of primer you will require to completely cover the sheetrock.

I have worked with around half a dozen of primer brands over my lifetime and have found these facts…

Typically, under most of the natural conditions, 1 gallon of primer will help you cover approximately 225-275 square feet of surface of new drywall.

For smooth surfaces (like old drywall that has been primed or painted before), 1 gallon of primer tin will cover around 300-350 square feet of the surface.

You can use this as a rough estimation when buying the number of gallons for your new drywall.

If you are unsure, you can always double-check with the primer manufacturer.

The recommended coverage is most of the time printed on the primer/paint can you will be using.

Can you spray primer on drywall?

Spraying primer on new drywall is definitely no problem and you can do it just as you with spray paint.

Make sure you use a proper spray gun and clean the surface well before spraying. Spraying primer on your new dusty drywall may also require “back rolling” to create good adhesion.

Can you paint new drywall without primer?

You can paint new drywall without primer but it’s not worth trying. Painting without priming will often require more effort and primer quantity.

Plus, the flat paint will not adhere well to a rough un-primed new wall which will make the job tougher, time consuming and more expensive.

How many square feet will 5 gallons of primer cover?

For most of the contractors and painters, 5 gallons of primer will cover around 1150 square feet of area. This is especially true when you are priming a new unfinished rough drywall.

If you are priming smoothened drywall you can however cover around 1650 square feet of area with 5 gallons of primer.

The bottom line

With all the above information in mind, it’s now clear that using a high-quality primer that comes at an affordable price is important when you want to paint your drywall.

To get the right finish and shine, consider picking a sandable Polyvinyl Acrylic primer sealer that can be used with a brush, roller or a spray gun.

When done right on your new drywall you will be amazed to see how perfectly it offers the shine and finish you always desire for.

If you still need some help regarding how to apply primer to your new drywall, you may check a quick video guide below.

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