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Best Exterior Primers 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

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An exterior primerOnce you’ve zeroed in on your next painting project, you know that means it’s time to buy primer!

Since primer is of the most important parts of the paint application process, we recommend using these reviews as a tour guide.

Let’s head to the primers!


A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

ModelPriceCoverageEditor Rating
KILZ 58001
small KILZ 58001
Best Overall

Check Price
300 - 400 sq. ft.4.80/5
Rust-Oleum 286258
small Rust-Oleum 286258
Best Value

Check Price
100 sq. ft.4.60/5
Diamond Brite Paint 31900
small Diamond Brite Paint 31900
Premium Choice

Check Price
300 sq. ft.4.50/5
Krylon K05131807
small Krylon K05131807

Check Price
25 - 50 sq. ft.4.25/5
RTG 3014
small RTG 3014

Check Price
80 - 100 sq. ft. 4.20/5

The 8 Best Exterior Primers – Reviews 2020

1. KILZ Exterior Latex Primer – Best Overall

KILZ 58001

While the name is a bit intimidating, we can assure you that for most projects, this product totally “Kilz” it. This primer can be used on pretty much any exterior surface, making it a valuable tool. It may not be great for stain blocking, glossy surfaces, or flooring, but it is ideal for stucco, masonry, wood, and brick. Once you get started, you’ll be done rather quickly, as this primer from Kilz is fast drying and formulated specifically to mitigate and minimize problems caused by porosity differences and surface texture.

This product is a wonderful sealant for porous surfaces and offers a wonderful level of adhesion. Once rolled on, this primer from Kilz dries in 30 minutes and is ready to be top-coated after only one hour. One gallon can finish a project of up to 400 square feet. On top of all that, it doesn’t have an odor that will knock you out. Dare we say that this product is prime for priming?

  • No harsh odor
  • Great sealant
  • Dries in 30 minutes
  • Not good for stain blocking, glossy surfaces, or flooring

2. Rust-Oleum 286258 Primer – Best Value

Rust-Oleum 286258

When thinking of value, we often consider how well a product works for the task at hand, as well as what else it can do. This product from Rust-Oleum is a wonderful exterior primer that also works as a great interior primer. The versatility here, along with the long-standing reputation of Rust-Oleum, says plenty about this product and why we like it so much. Able to block the heaviest of stains, this primer can go over any oil- or latex-covered surface with confidence. You won’t have to worry about any leak-through when painting, as it’s formulated specifically to prime over vibrant or bright colors. The finished result looks smooth and professional.

One downside is that it starts chipping away sooner than you’d like. Still, we think that this is the best exterior primer for the money.

  • Covers vibrant and bright colors
  • Great for the heaviest of stains
  • Chips easily

3. Diamond Brite Paint Oil Primer – Premium Choice

Diamond Brite Paint 31900

This effort by Diamond Brite is especially useful for enamel painting, but it is also wonderful for rust protection. You’ll be thrilled with the dexterity of this primer, as it’s able to be used for both interior and exterior surfaces. You can choose your own application method: spraying, rolling, or brushing. You can also be confident using it on a varying surfaces, including steel, piping, tanks, doors, handrails, and trim.

This stuff isn’t the easiest to brush on, but once you do, you’ll be glad that you did. As for odor, it’s average — it won’t knock you out, but we wouldn’t recommend sitting there and breathing it in either. Also, this primer is not as adhesive as one would hope, but it is still a darn good product.

  • Great for enamel painting
  • Can be used for interior and exterior surfaces
  • Great for steel, piping, doors, handrails, tanks, and trim
  • Hard application process
  • Not very adhesive

4. Krylon ColorMaster Paint + Primer

Krylon K05131807

Krylon gives us our first two-in-one offering, and it is a good one. As paint and primer in one can, this product enhances adhesion and makes sure that the color and quality of paint are vivid and strong. Wonderful for uneven surfaces, this has a smoothing effect. For application purposes, Krylon doesn’t give you much of a choice here, as this is a spray paint, but it is a spray paint with a wonderful reputation. Being both a primer and a paint means that are finished quickly and — as long as your arm doesn’t tire out — easily. Even better is that you won’t have to kick people out of the house after you use it — this product dries in as fast as 10 minutes!

If you are looking for clear paint, this isn’t it. If you are looking for just primer, this definitely isn’t it.

  • Smoothing effect
  • Dries in 10 minutes
  • Will not go on clear

5. RTG 3014 Exterior Primer

RTG 3014

Another product that is truly a jack of all trades, you’ll be thrilled with what RTG’s exterior primer offers. It works great on a variety of surfaces, such as wood, brick, stucco, composites, and metal, among others. It’s easy to apply, and you can do so in a way that suits you best. Do you prefer a paint brush? How about a roller? Feel free to get messy and use it in a sprayer. This primer is wonderful for sealing, protecting exterior trim, and spraying doors (maybe not the metal parts, though) windows, shutters, and moldings. Of course, it is also great at priming. This product has a low odor, and you’ll be ready to overcoat in as little as an hour. You can do projects of 80-100 square feet per quart. This product is also eco-friendly.

This is a newer product on the market, so we don’t quite know the staying power, which is why we can’t place it higher on our list.

  • Easy application
  • Multi-use
  • Dries quickly
  • Newer product, unknown future quality

6. INSL-X Acrylic Water Sealer Primer

INSL-X AQ040009A-01

Able to be used both indoors and outdoors, INSL gives a pretty darn good primer that is 100% acrylic and promotes great adhesion. This is a good basecoat for both latex- and oil-based finishes. This product dries quickly as well, becoming tack free in about 30 minutes and ready to have an overcoat within the hour.

While it is a good primer, it is a good deterrent as well. This product protects against staining and lowers your chance of getting mold. Best for use when temperatures are between 50 and 90 degrees, one gallon of this product will complete projects of up to 400 square feet. This primer is not meant to be used on exterior floor surfaces, however.

  • Not meant to be used on exterior floor surfaces

7. Duckback Peeling Paint Exterior Primer

Duckback SC-4475-4

Duckback primer is meant to be used to prevent peeling and it works just fine. One gallon should be all you need for smaller jobs, though you will need to slather this stuff on pretty thick. Made in the U.S.A., Duckback has yet to gain a reputation. Duckback’s primer is acrylic based and good for priming latex- and oil-based finishes.

  • Works fine
  • Acrylic based
  • No reputation

8. Prestige Paints Exterior Paint and Primer

Prestige Paints E100-P-MQ6-4

Another paint and primer mix, this one is not as easy to use as the Krylon, simply because it isn’t spray paint. Meant to be able to be used over other coats of paint, this product does do its job pretty well. The product itself is 100% latex acrylic paint, so clean-up is a breeze. If you are painting over a glossy area, you’ll need to sand it first. This product should be used only when temperatures are at least 50 degrees and above. One of the slower drying primers on our list, this won’t be dry for two hours after application. The flat, matte finish will help hide imperfections in your walls or siding. One gallon of this can finish jobs up to 300 square feet.

Sadly, while the end product here is good, it can be difficult to work with. Be ready to put your whole body into the project you are working on.

  • Covers up rough patches
  • Difficult to work with

Buyers Guide

Priming a job can mean many things, so it’s good to have an understanding of the project you are working on beforehand. While there are tons of different primers out there, this is less of a competition for the best and more of a drill in specificity.

With exterior primers, you’ll want a product that will prepare your topcoat for harsh conditions. What are other things you should look for? We’ll go over them:

How old is your wood?

The type of primer you want will be largely based on how worn or weathered your wood is. The climate you live in can affect this as well, because of the different types of elements your wood is exposed to. While it would seem to make sense that someone would make a primer that would work for all wood, there isn’t such a thing.

Has your wood been painted before?

This is also important to consider. If the wood you are using hasn’t been primed before, you’ll need a whole different type of primer. If your wood has been painted before, however, the type of paint that has been used and the amount that has been used will go a long way in determining the right primer for your job.

Stained or shiny?

How do you want the final product to look? Some primers are much better for a matte finish, while others can really give you that shine. Both will wear down over time, but you can extend the look and life of your finish by making sure you use the right primer.

Exterior Paint Primer

Is your wood … wood?

Primer is also used for non-wood surfaces! Just make sure that whatever you are painting is compatible with the type of primer you are using. You also will want to be sure that the type of paint you are using is compatible with the project’s surface. Paint is, after all, a chemical, and wild things can happen when mixed with other chemicals.


As the world has increased awareness of being kind to our environment, paint and primers are moving toward that as well. While the best paint and primers are still not the most eco-friendly, there are products that do a decent job. These are typically a little more difficult to use during the application process, but depending on how important your carbon footprint is to you, it might be worth the trouble.

How much time do you have?

Different primers take different amounts of time to dry. Maybe you want that project done yesterday. While we don’t have a time machine, there are primers that dry in 15 minutes or less. On the other hand, if you are the type to take your time doing a project, you might want to look for something that doesn’t dry out right away.


While buying a primer is always important, buying one that works outside might be especially so. With your outdoor wood having to face all sorts of elements, you need something that will prepare it for the worst of the worst. It’s not easy to choose just one, and with how many options there are, it is even more difficult. We hope that these reviews have acted as a tour guide to the world of exterior primers. We enjoyed telling you all about primers, especially our top pick from KILZ or our value pick from Rust-Oleum. Best of luck in your shopping, and we can’t wait to see that completed outdoor project!


Image Credit By: artursfoto, pixabay

About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!