5 posts / 0 new
Last post
To Prime or Not to Prime

I live in a 1920's home which still had quite a bit of high gloss paint on the trim/french doors which I assume was oil. Because some areas were chipping at the junction with the floor and I was concerned about lead exposure to my baby, I hired a professional painter to repaint it. After originally discussing using lead block, priming and painting, he only sanded and painted with one coat of latex paint. When I voiced my concerns about the longevity and feel of the paint, he said there was no need to prime. Should he have primed? What do I do now?

Re: To Prime or Not to Prime


Traditionally, painting over slick oil paint with a latex/acrylic paint would have been a real no-no. Recently, however, there have been new generations of acrylics which are capable of bonding to these slick, hard, oil surfaces. Insul-X is one, Behrs, Ultra Interior Enamel another. These paints are self-priming. I have personally tested the Behr's over high gloss urethane varnish and gotten terrific bonding, even without scuff sanding the surface, although I would recommend that you do so. I was testing for the worst case scenario. .

To the greatest extent possible, I would have de-glossed with a liquid de-glosser rather then too much sanding because of the possible lead paint. I would have reserved sanding to feathering out old chips and scratches.

Acrylics will have a somewhat gummy feel to them and never get hard, such as an oil paint will do. I believe this is to what you allude.

You will soon find out how good a bond the new paint has to the old paint. Old fashioned acrylics would have easily sc****d off with your fingernail.

My personal preference would have been to stick with oil paint, even though it has some disadvantages too. Oil is stinky, slow drying, yellows with age and gives off lots of VOC's. However, it levels beautifully when brushed and dries to a hard surface. It does not have that gummy feel to it and can be readily sanded when feathering out a damaged area.

What product did he use, if I might ask?

Re: To Prime or Not to Prime

The current finish does not feel gummy on some of the trim. Rather, it feels more like a primer. It is not at all smooth and the brush strokes are very visible in many areas. I checked the paint left over. It is Sherwin Williams Duration semi-gloss extra white. There is no mention of it being self-priming.

What to do now? Sand and prime. Sand with a finer grit and put on a second coat? What paint would you recommend? Previously, I have used a Benjamin Moore primer (which said it was okay for glossy paint, though not specifically oil) and a corresponding high grade BM paint. These were areas that I stripped prior to having children and being as concerned or educated about lead paint.

He also painted the spindles on the stairs with this paint. I was clued into a problem when the white paint which he got all over the glossy oil banister (the underside and lower portion painted intentionally) came off with a fingernail/scrubby part of a kitchen sponge. Here it does feel a bit gummy. In this area I think I could scrub it off with water and a sponge and start from scratch.


Re: To Prime or Not to Prime

Sorry, it doesn't sound to me like you got a professional painter. I would clean it off and at least follow ordjen's recommendations. Personally I would have de-glossed with a liquide sander and repainted with an oil based paint.

Re: To Prime or Not to Prime


Unfortunately, any additional paint will only be as well adhered to the surface as the paint you are going over. If you can sc**** it off with your fingernail, it will continue to be so poorly adhered, even with another coat.

Duration is Sherwin-Williams' top of the line interior "latex" paint. It is actually acrylic/styrene based. The tech data states that only a scuff sanding and cleaning of glossy surfaces is neccessary. It does not mention priming of a painted surface.

Acrylic paints in general don't level out as well as oil paints. This is especially true on detailed areas such as spindles. Latex paints set VERY fast. You must brush it rapidly and then leave it alone to give it the maximun time to level itself. The more you brush, the more you degrade the finish. Spindles require more brushing than flat, level surfaces. This is why the brush marks are more prominent on the spindles than on the other surfaces.

Again, unfortunately, latex paints don't sand well. They generally just clog up the sandpaper or curl up in tiny little flakes. This due to their gummy quality.

What to do now? The ultimate would be to strip to bare wood and start over - not a fun prospect. Alternatively, you could sc**** and sand, as best you can, to the original painted surface, if possible. Many times I have found paint so poorly adhered, that I could pop it off with a sharp putty knife.

Once the surface is stabilized as best you can, try priming the whole area with an oil enamel undercoater. This should help stabilze the surface. It will also be sandable and allow you to minimize the "ropiness" left in the old paint. Sanding will cause it to dust up and leave a suitable substrate for your enamel.

Finally, top coat with a good oil paint. For years I used Benjamin Moore's Oil Satin Impervo as my main woodwork paint. It has a nice satin sheen. A satin sheen will help hide the imperfections such as the ropiness encountered.

You will have a much easier time brushing oil , as it has much more working time before it sets. Often, I would thin Impervo with a little "Penetrol". Penetrol is a linseed based thinning agent which gives you more "wet time" and allows the paint the maximum time to level itself out. It is available at most paint stores. Your brush will also be less draggy with the Penetrol.

Benjamin Moore does make an acrylic version of Satin Impervo. It is a vast improvement over its other latex enamels, but still not as good as the oil version.

Hope I haven't depressed you. I would concurr with JLMcdaniel that your "painter" did not do you well :(

Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.