Of the many primers that I have tried over the years, the Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 water-based primer for interior and exterior use has been one of the best.
This primer may be matched by the Kilz Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking primer for interior or exterior use.
It is true that both primers have names that are difficult to fit on the label, but they have built a reputation for being quite good for most painting situations.
Of the two products, I have to say that the Zinsser is superior thanks to its ability to cover the area quickly and with few issues.
While the Kilz is also quite good, it is subject to some bleed-through depending on the surface to which it is applied.
This means applying a thicker coat of paint on top, which means more work and expense compared to using the Zinsser.
One area that I’ve found to be quite superior for the Zinsser is its ability to cover metal surfaces.
Because their Bulls Eye 1-2-3 primer has a rust inhibitor, it will create a stronger bond to the metal surface even if it is rusted.
Apart from those issues, the Kilz primer matches the Zinsser in most other ways.
Both primers are quite good at covering stains. Plus, they create a uniform appearance once they are applied.
Before you pick one for your project, let’s compare both these options head-to-head below…
Comparing the Zinsser 1-2-3 to the Kilz Primer
Created by Masterchem Industries, Kilz primers carry a strong reputation and a wide array of choices.
This product is known for covering stains and sealing off odors. The High-Hide Stain Blocking primer for interior or exterior use is arguably the best of all Kilz primers.
Meanwhile, the Zinsser is from the Rust-Oleum company, which is highly respected around the world for its paints and primers.
The Bulls Eye 1-2-3 has a strong, well-deserved reputation which was garnered from the product’s performance.
The B-I-N Shellac-Based primer from Zinsser is quite good at blocking odors created by pets, tobacco, and smoke.
While the Original Primer and Adhesion Primer from Kilz is well-suited for surfaces that are difficult to paint.
Both brands are popular with professional painters and contractors.
For the following comparison, I will discuss the Zinsser 1-2-3 and the Kilz Premium Primer.
1- Adhesive Qualities
I’ve found that you do not need to sand the surface unless it is high gloss when using the Zinsser 1-2-3. The adhesive qualities are quite remarkable in this regard.
However, the Kilz Premium Primer tends to work best when the surface is sanded.
So, you will need to take more time to prepare the surface compared to the Zinsser 1-2-3. While it may be possible to avoid sanding the surface, it is not recommended.
Ideally, you will want to prep the surface no matter the primer that is used.
At the very least, the surface should be cleaned of any grime, dirt, wax, or other contaminants.
2- Primer Odor
In my experience, working in a well-ventilated area is a must, no matter the primer.
But the stronger the odor, the harder it is to concentrate and finish the job.
The odor that emanates from the Zinsser primer is strong but not that bad compared to the Kilz, which is not only distinctive but quite foul, in my honest opinion.
The water-based primer from Kilz is better in terms of its odor, but I still recommend the Zinsser 1-2-3 if the odor is an important consideration.
3- Resistance to Mold
In terms of how each product resists the buildup of mold, I have to say that both the Zinsser and Kilz do about the same type of job.
They both block mold quite well and prevent it from establishing a beachhead on surfaces that include walls, furniture, cabinets, and more.
So, I can recommend both products equally in terms of how they resist the buildup of mold on the surface.
When choosing a primer, consistency is one of my top expectations.
Sometimes it needs to be thinner, while other times, it needs to be thicker. What follows are my recommendations in terms of overall consistency.
If you want a thinner primer that is easy to stir, the Kilz products are generally better.
It is why I recommend this brand to those who have never painted before. It’s not only easy to stir but also easy to spread on the surface.
However, the bleed-through of the Kilz primer is considerably greater compared to the Zinsser. This may be a good or bad thing, depending on your desired results.
Plus, a thinner primer may not have the coverage you want compared to a thicker one.
For those who have some experience in painting, Kilz is normally not their first choice.
Zinsser has a thicker consistency which means better adhesion and durability.
And given the fact that a thicker layer means fewer coats are needed, less overall work is required when choosing the Zinsser primers.
Zinsser gets my recommendation over Kilz in terms of overall consistency. The fact that it has little to no bleed-through is another point for this product.
5- Cost of the Primer
If price is an important consideration, then the Kilz is generally the better choice.
I’ve seen prices as low as $8 per gallon, although depending on the selection, that may go up to $42 per gallon.
The Zinsser is considerably higher, with some of their primer products reaching $10 per quart. However, other primers from the Zinsser line are lower.
Still, Kilz wins the battle in terms of the overall cost.
The bottom line
Keeping the above notes and comparison in mind, the endpoint is that both the Zinsser 1-2-3 and Kilz primers are good choices, depending on your needs.
I recommend the Zinsser 1-2-3 primer for those who have some experience in painting. It is also a good choice if you are looking for a primer with fewer odors.
However, if you are working on a large project or want to save some money, the Kilz primer is generally the better choice.
It is also a good choice if you are new to painting, as the thinner consistency makes it easier to work with.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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