Primer on thirsty plaster walls
May 28, 2020 11:50 AM   Subscribe

I’m priming plaster walls before painting, and it’s not going great. Help?

I’ve painted before, and always had good, even results. However, this is my first time painting plaster. The plaster is in great shape - smooth, only tiny cracks here and there, and a very nice paint job from the previous owner.

I read online that plaster is super thirsty, and priming is the way to go. I’m using Kilz 2. I have used almost half a gallon in a small area, and you can still see a smattering of the existing paint, even though it’s a light color. Additionally, while the primer applied with a roller eventually looks smooth, I have a ton of trim and tight spaces in my old-timey house, and everywhere I’ve used a brush is super streaky.

I had the idea that primer is supposed to look like white paint when correctly applied, but now I’m wondering if it’s ok to be textured and imperfect? How many coats of primer should I reasonably apply? What does it look like when it’s “correct?” The paint I’m going to use is very dark in color, so I’m not as worried about color showing through; I just want the finished result to be smooth and even.

Also, with Kilz 2, is it important to paint within 48 hours? I’m realizing I might have to finish the room in sections because priming is taking forever.

I’m clearly floundering here. This is the first room I’m painting out of many, so this is the time to perfect my technique!
posted by missmary6 to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hey, we painted pretty much every wall in our home, which had been 100% wallpaper over unprimed plaster since it was built in 1925. We stripped all the wallpaper and were down to bare, pretty-good-condition plaster.* The primer (oil-based Kilz) DID NOT look like white paint. It looked streaky. But the paint looked nice (I mean, taking into account our fairly crap painting skills). We bought the big five-gallon drum and used every drop (on 1600 sqft house). We did not always paint within 48 hours - maybe that was a mistake but I didn't know that was a thing!

Basically I would say your experience sounds like it's within the range of normal.

* Fear not, we did not strip gorgeous vintage 1920s wallpaper - every room had been re-papered circa 1992, mostly with white-on-white damask patterns.
posted by mskyle at 12:09 PM on May 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

You say "nice paint job from the previous owner" which implies that the plaster has already been painted. I think that comments you read about plaster "being thirsty" refer to unfinished plaster, that has been my experience. Kliz2 does dry quickly, is thin compared to a finish coat paint and doesn't cover particularly well- I don't think it's really designed to. It's really more about improving the bond between coats and stopping bleed through than providing a near-final-finish result. Good luck! (I was just painting both unfinished and finished plaster walls last night and this morning with Kliz2!)
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 12:18 PM on May 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

In my experience, Kilz never covers 100%, and always looks streaky, even after several coats. If you absolutely need to cover the old paint, the best printer is Gripper by Glidden. Thick as hell and covers everything.

If you're going to be painting a really dark color, you're going to want to tint your primer. Most paint stores can do that, and you'd be saving yourself a ton of time and money, since primer's usually cheaper than paint.
posted by little king trashmouth at 1:04 PM on May 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

You guys, I have been using a SILLY amount of primer! Now that I understand the streaky/unfinished look this is a breeze. Thank you!
posted by missmary6 at 2:02 PM on May 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

Came in to recommend what little king trashmouth beat me to: you will save yourself a ton of grief (and money!) if you get the primer tinted.
posted by kate4914 at 4:53 PM on May 28, 2020

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