How Many Coats of Primer on Cabinets? Easy Guide to Priming

Image of kitchen cabinets but How Many Coats of Primer on CabinetsWoodworkers love primers, especially on structures such as cabinets, and you would understand why. Primers lay a foundation for proper adhesion of the subsequent finishes, such as paints, stains, and many more. Much as primers are key to achieving perfect finishes on different woodworking projects, you must get it right with its application. By right, you must not over apply or under apply the primer, so how many coats of primer on cabinets?

For cabinets, you need one coat of primer, not unless you have some dark cabinets. If that is the case, it would be best to apply the second coat of primer once the first coat has dried. 

There are two major types of primers, the oil based and the water based primers; the two perform differently on different surfaces and have other drying times with the water based on the fast drying primer if you compare the two types. 

How Long Should Primer Dry on Cabinets?

As soon as you have applied a single coat of primer to your cabinets, it would help if you allowed it to dry undisturbed. Essentially, I’ve always encouraged my readers to give their primed cabinets up to 24 hours to dry thoroughly. I’ve seen many homeowners or different wooden cabinet structure owners making a mistake by rushing into painting after priming; if you are reading this, you should know that that extra time you give your primer to dry will always give you better results.

Different Types of Primers

I have to stress that if you are looking to achieve the best finish on your painting project, you should always use a suitable primer. Primer refers to a specific type of paint that goes on first, preparing your wooden surface in this case for optimal adhesion, durability, plus coverage. 

You will agree with me that the market is flooded with a lot of primer options to the extent that it is quite a task to get yourself the primers that will be suitable for your woodworking projects. It is crucial for me to give you a breakdown of different types of primers that you will likely interact within your woodworking projects:

  • Oil-Based Primeroil based prime

The oil based primer is and has been a choice of many for a very long time, and you can attribute its popularity to its flexibility and top levels of performance. You can use this type of primer on various surfaces, such as wood, metal, and all non-masonry walls with the existing paint.

Oil-based primers guarantee the user good coverage and offer an effective way of preventing stains from seeping through the surface of your newly coated structure. Thanks to their versatility and other advantages, this type of primer have its downsides as much as we all love oil-based primers. First of all, the oil based primers dry slowly; they contain Volatile Organic Compounds and are not easy to clean.

  • Latex Primer

This primer type (Water-based latex primers) offers so much to those preparing unfinished drywall for painting. They effectively even out the surface making them perfect for the role stated before (preparing unfinished drywalls for painting). They dry a lot faster and offer so much flexibility than their oil-based counterparts. 

If you are looking for the best primer to help protect your peeling and cracking surfaces, you need to use this water based primer. Another fascinating fact about water based primers is that they contain low VOCs making them less toxic to the environment. Despite the many advantages you get while using this type of primer, it does not do well to cover stains.

  • Bonding PrimerImage of sanding block in use

This primer is the perfect one for “difficult” surfaces. So if you have a surface whose paint keeps coming off with ease, you need to use the bonding primer. When you apply this formula, it tightly grips the surface and helps promote adhesion to the new topcoat of paint that you shall apply. 

It would be essential to know that the bonding primers stick to slick surfaces; hence, they can save you time and money by skipping the sanding step in your preparation phase. One thing that you may not like about this formula is that they are costly. So you have to find out if they will be best for your projects without hurting your pockets.

  • Shellac Primer

Shellac comes in with a reputation as a trusted and time-tested primer that will give your surfaces undisputed stain protection and perfect for those looking to seal surfaces. Like oil-based primers counterparts, you can use shellac on many materials such as plaster, metal, as well as plastic. You can also use it with both oil and latex paint. 

You will not find it pleasant about shellac primer because it can emit more fumes than other options that I have discussed before. This primer type also calls for denatured alcohol for thinning and subsequent processes such as the cleaning of brushes and applicators.

How Long Does Oil Based Primer Take to Dry?

On average, it takes an oil based primer a range of 1-24 hours to dry depending on the manufacturer, using the primer and paint formula. You should wait at least 24 hours before adding the second layer among many elements that affect the drying time of the oil-based primer, including indoor and outdoor temperatures, the level of humidity, and the thickness of the coating.

For instance, a good number of fast-drying, oil-based interior primers, for example, the Kilz Original, need only one hour to dry. Like Benjamin Moore, other popular brands require that you allow it up to 8 hours to dry. Otherwise, most of the exterior oil-based primers need at least 24 hours to dry in 45 degrees Fahrenheit and above. When the temperatures are below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, these primers can take up to 48 hours to dry well.

How Long Does Water Based Primer Take to Dry?

They are fast drying formulas that take less time to dry, usually between 1 to 2 hours. Most homeowners and woodworkers, in general, prefer the water based primer to its oil based counterpart mainly because it does not have a lot of volatile organic compounds.

As much as they are water based, these primers are not far off the oil based ones as far as we are talking about the performance.

The oil based primers are great when it comes to protection against humidity and other elements; they also withstand heavy traffic when used on wooden floors. The water based primers are not far off and would equally do a great job in many areas.

How to Apply Primer on Cabinets

Image of kitchen cabinets but How Many Coats of Primer on CabinetsPrimers are great because they prepare your kitchen cabinets and other surfaces for subsequent finishes, such as painting. App primer before painting your kitchen cabinets will ensure that the new paint finish cures into a smooth and clean surface. In short, primers help keep the paint intact so it will not chip or peel during your everyday house use. 

Today, many paints come with self-priming features; even so, you must not skip the priming step unless you are 100% sure that your paint has a primer as a component. So how do you apply primer on a cabinet?

  • The first step you must get right when looking to prime your cabinet is choosing the suitable primer for your project. It would be best if you went for oil-based primers when painting over old paint or stain. They are thick, dry slowly, and require a natural-bristle brush and mineral spirits for cleanup once you are through. Water based or Latex-based primers are not the best, especially if you are looking to cover old stains or flows. Even so, they are quick to dry and produce less toxic substances. They are easy to clean, you only need water and soap.
  • Clear your cabinet. By clearing, I mean that you should remove your cabinet doors and remove all hardware inside. Put the hardware on a safe surface and have it covered using drop cloths just if there are spills and drips in the cause of your work.
  • Use at least 1 tablespoon of degreaser mixed in 1 quart of water to clean the cabinet doors thoroughly. You can choose to use a dishwashing soap because it does an excellent job for this purpose. Use clean cloths to dry your cabinet.
  • Sand the cabinets lightly using medium-grit sandpaper. Sanding helps with the removal of imperfections present on the cabinet as well as chipped paints. Clear the dust particles present in the cabinet using a vacuum cleaner and wipe it clean.
  • Apply your primer of choice using a paintbrush. Go for long, long, even strokes. Ensure that you feather the edges at the points of strokes overlap so that you end up with a flat, level finish.
  • Allow the primer enough time to dry completely as per the instruction on the label before applying the first coat of paint.

Different Situations that Require Priming

Presence of Water Stains: If your wooden structure surface has water damages, then you should consider a primer as a remedy. Usually, the Alkyd Primer is the best for covering water stains. It would be best if you applied the primer using a spray can. Apply two to three light coats, which will facilitate faster drying.

During Patch Work: Sometimes, you have lots of patchwork to do on your surfaces, and the best primer for these tasks is always the PVA Primer, especially if you are working on the entire wall. If the work is on a few spots, you should consider using Alkyd Primer in a spray can; you will need a few light sprays to get the job done. Remember, light sprays facilitate faster drying of the surfaces.

Newly Installed Drywall: Always ensure that you apply the PVA primer to your New Drywall before using any other thing. Priming new drywall first provides a seal in the drywall will prevent the penetration of solvents from the topcoat; this helps avoid possible cracking of the drywall. Acrylic primers are suitable in events where the drywall job was poorly done. You should apply just about one or two coats of acrylic. 

High build primers are also an alternative when looking to fill in minor defects present in the drywall. Even so, they are not great sealants like the PVA.

Smoke Damage On Surfaces: If there are smoke damages you are looking to cover, you need to use a BIN Primer. It offers fast drying qualities making it the best for the role above.

PVA and acrylic primers can also serve as alternatives but will need to apply at least two coats to prevent the smoke damage from showing.

Pressure washer is on way of How to Remove Paint From Wood Without ChemicalsLooking to Paint Chalky Areas: If you are looking to refinish chalky areas, you should consider priming. However, before you prime the area, you should first wash it using a pressure washer and a TSP. Once you have washed, you can now go ahead and prime the resistant chalky stain. Use an excellent acrylic primer on these surfaces because they bond like glue.

Cases of Extreme Color Change: Sometimes, you want to change the color from black to white completely. In such a case, you must consider using an acrylic primer. You will also find a PVA primer effective in extreme color changes.

Wooden Structures: Many primer manufacturers have done a great job in developing the best primers for woods than most other uses. One thing about primers used for wood is that they need to be high build to fill in the crack on the wood.

Most paint manufacturers make a good primer for wood. It should be a high build, so it fills in cracks. Acrylic primers work well with wooden structures. For the best results when priming wood, I’d always advise that you go for the oil based ones.


Priming is key if you are looking to get the best out of your cabinets. Even as you look to use a primer, you should have a proper understanding of the product to ensure that you are using the one that will be best for your wood type and project in general. Among other things that you should know include the number of coats of primer that you should use. So in the case of a cabinet…

How Many Coats of Primer on Cabinets Do You Need?

As I mentioned before, it is standard to have a single coat of primer doing just fine for your cabinet work. If you are working with dark cabinets, then you might consider an extra coat.

So, at this point, I want to believe that you have acquired so much from this content. It will help you get the best out of your painting projects starting with the priming. If you have a question, opinion or suggestion, please reach out to me, and I will get back to you with the right solution.