Another Reason To Love Oil-Based Paint

Are you tired of me going on and on about my love for oil-based paint?  Well, if you’re still undecided, I’m about to drop some knowledge on you that will change your mind forever.

Okay, this isn’t really about oil-based paint.  It’s about oil-based primer.  Are you ready to meet your new best friend?

zinsser oil-based primer

Now one of the biggest complaints I hear about oil-based paints is that they stink to high heaven.  That’s not really true so much anymore about oil-based paints (yes, they stink a bit, but not nearly as bad as they used to).  But yes, oil-based primers are incredibly stinky.

Have I made you want to rush right out and buy some oil-based primer yet?!  Of course not, because I haven’t gotten to the good part yet!

Are you ready for the really amazing part?  The part that will sell you on this product?  The part that will make you want to kick yourself for not giving oil-based primer a chance in the past…especially if you’ve ever taken on huge monumental tasks such as painting kitchen cabinets?  Here it is…two little words…


no sanding

It’s true.  With oil-based primer, you don’t have to sand first.  No hours lost using your palm sander to give the cabinet doors some “tooth”.  No extra money spent on sandpaper discs for your palm sander.  No having to drag all of the doors outside to sand so that you don’t cover every surface in your home with a thin layer of dust.

And if you’re still set on using latex paint, you can use that right over the oil-based primer.  (Never use latex paint over oil-based paint, but it’s fine to use it over oil-based primer.)

Ahhhh…have I got your attention nowWinking smile



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  1. No sanding even if you're painting a glossy surface? I'm planning to paint my kitchen cabinets and want the most durable finish possible. I'm seriously considering oil based primer and paint, but really thought I'd have to do quite a bit of sanding first.

  2. I'm using the Zinner 1-2-3 Primer, please tell me that's just as good lol. In fact I'm on break right now from priming my kitchen cabinets! The can does say no sanding required so I'm hoping this is good enough =/

  3. Yep, even glossy surfaces. I know it sounds too good to be true, but it's true. It even says it right there on the can. "Sticks to all surfaces without sanding." And from my experience, it's incredibly durable.

  4. OMG. Now she tells me after I've sanded and painted door and window casings all over the house. Do you think I'll remember in ten years when it needs it again?

  5. Kristi,

    I used this product on my last project and I totally agree–stuck to a slick surface just as if I'd sanded the piece. BUT…not sure what I did wrong here…the primer layer was so uneven. I used a 2 inch brush and tried had to do 2 layers to cover the shiny black surface I was painting over. After the 2nd layer of oil based primer I could see all of my gloppy uneven brush strokes. Any advice for next time?

    1. Penetrol sill help, but in my experience most are really thick and it just comes with the territory. You will need to sand down the primer but the good news is, while just as dusty as sanding joint compound, it sands incredibly smooth, and incredibly easily. Sanding the oil based primer coat(s) is much much easier done than sanding the starting layer of more than likely latex paint.

  6. I didn't realize you could primer over glossy surfaces. :O I used oil-based primer AFTER sanding off the varnish on my cabinet doors!

    At least I know for the rest of them. 😀

  7. Thanks for the info Kristi, I am just about to embark on a challenging paint project. I will keep this in mind, and skip the sanding!

  8. Sounds like great information to know! I hope I remember this when I'm ready to start my kitchen project.

    Is clean up for the oil-based primer the same as for the paint?

  9. OMG, when my husband and I moved in together 3 years ago, I planned on buying beautiful new (or new to me)bedroom furniture. Unfortunately my husband has a sentimental (hoarder) attachment to his grandparent's "1960's-nicotine stained-I don't know if this is supposed to be white or green-ugly god awful bedroom furniture". I dream of painting them a nice dark color and replacing the hardware but my laziness and hate for sanding has kept me from going for it. By god, because of this post, I will paint those horrible dressers now, I WILL!!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  10. Adrienne, I'm not sure why that happened! I've never had that experience. Were you using newly purchased primer, or a can that had been sitting in your garage for a while? I've had some frustrating experiences when I've used old primer and/or paint before.

  11. Jennie, yes you can use oil-based primer over latex paint.

    Terri, the clean up is exactly the same.

  12. Thanks for the tip. This is a super cute blog with a lot of color, I feel so inspired right now. I am your newest follower! Come on over and see what I do at

  13. Thanks Kristi! I am thinking of repainting my bannister (or getting my hubby to do it 🙂 I think he'll be more for it with this primer!

  14. When I discovered this it was better than Dr. Pepper (and in my world that is saying A LOT)! If there is one thing I hate more than using oil based paint it is sanding all of those uneven surfaces! I use oil based paint on my trim, woodwork and anything I want to be durable, but unlike you I am a tolerator, not a lover!

  15. Thanks Kristi!
    The primer was just purchased. I will give it another try, maybe a different brush or a roller this time?

  16. Ohhhhhh man, this is crazy talk! I believe you, but it's a bit shocking, NO SANDING?? I can put Latex paint OVER IT?!!?!? Be still my heart. This is some amazing news. That fine coat of dust was driving me mad. I've got half my kitchen done, but not having to sand half is great to hear. Thank you soooooooo much for sharing this!

  17. I am using this primer, but it tends to get thick and drag a bit on previously varnished doors (I have sanded, filled with MH ready patch, and re-sanded, then primed…can this primer be thinned with paint thinner…with what what effects???


  18. Hello! I found your blog via Pinterest and love it! I also follow your posts on Facebook now! Wish I could be as handy and creative as you!

    I just read your post about the oil-based primer and I also saw another oil-based primer online and it says it’s odorless! The description is basically the same as the one you showed above because they’re the same brand. But I wonder if you have tried the odorless version and if it works as good. The same as the other one, it also claims no sanding is needed! Has anyone tried using this? If so, any comments? I couldn’t find any reviews of this product online.

    Here is the link of the odorless oil based primer:

    I want to “renew” my small bathroom a little bit with paint in the future so I’m researching now.

    Oh and I know that you just moved and are busy with your new house. Congrats! I can’t wait to see what you will do with your new home!

  19. hi I’m in process of painting some very old doors there were so many layers of paint it was necessary to sand down in spots that had cracked etc. My problem now is whether to use oil or latex. Its been primed in an oil primer however when I put the first coat of oil (looked amazing) but stunk to high heaven (I was having trouble breathing and worried as we have 6 more doors to paint and its hard to keep windows open during the winter. Soooo we sanded down the oil and put latex over it and its just not looking as good. Seems like all the nicks and uneven parts are showing through more (semi gloss latex and oil was very high gloss) How is this possible? is it my imagination that the doors showed less of its wear and tear being painted with oil? We may go back and repaint over the latex with oil. I swear these doors are killing me ;/ Curious what your thoughts are in regard to oil paints coverage over old doors vs. latex..thx!

    1. It’s safe to assume that the original paint(s) on the doors are oil-based paint. That’s almost always what was used on old doors, and there might even be some lead-based paint in there as well, so I wouldn’t recommend sanding them indoors. Take the outside and use a mask while sanding. Then the doors will need to be primed with a quality oil-based paint. I use Zinsser oil-based Cover Stain primer. Once the primer is dry, you can use either oil-based paint or latex paint over it. The bottom line is that you can use either oil-based or latex paint over oil-based PRIMER, but you absolutely cannot use latex paint over oil-based paint. You must use a primer first.

      1. Yes those are the steps we followed. My ? Was really around coverage. It seemed the oil covered the imperfections better but wasn’t sure if I was imagining that since its such a high gloss how could that be(?). Wanted to know your thoughts on that. Does oil self level over an uneven texture?

  20. Reading this with interest. We are restoring some old cabinets and had to remove decorative (I use that term loosely) stuff that was glued on. The doors need repaired and repainted. Our handyman suggested painting them with oil-based primer prior to sanding, but after the repairs (wood filler) were mostly done. I’ve always heard it wouldn’t work well to put latex paint over oil-based paint and had assumed that extended to oil-based primer, but guess I was wrong. Thank you for clearing that up.

    What is the difference between the oil-based primer and the oil-based paint which allows for latex to go over the top?

    Also, to confirm … if we need to paint over oil-based paint, we need to prime before using the latex paint. Does it matter if the primer is oil-based or latex?

    1. I’m not sure what it is about the oil primer that allows latex to go over it, but I do know for sure that most of them allow it. I would check the label to be sure, though. The one I use — Zinsser Cover Stain (oil-based) — says specifically that you can topcoat with either oil or latex.

      If you’re priming over oil-based paint, and want to follow up with latex paint, I would always use an oil-based primer.

  21. Kristi,
    I am so thankful I am following you. I have some trim in a small entry hall from my garage. It is painted with oil base that was sprayed on when the house was built, 30 years ago. It is worn, not too dirty. Also, we have replaced the door from the garage with a steel door. It needs painting.

    My first thought was to come to your blog and search on oil paint. I was thinking of using oil again on the trim. Oil base is my fave for trim. Well, I knew nothing about oil base primer!! Imagine that.

    Heading down to Lowe’s with new joy in that I will be doing a good cleaning with almost no sanding! Yahoo!