Should You Use Primer on a Porch Floor?

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Some home care questions spark strong answers, and priming is one of those questions. Painters who prime are convinced that priming makes paint jobs last longer. An equally vocal group of painters regard priming as a general waste of effort and time. Still others skip over the argument entirely, offering nonpaint solutions to a lasting paint job. Survey possible choices of how to proceed and make an informed choice that best suits your situation.

Primers Vote Yes

  • Those who advise priming before painting a porch floor point out several reasons to do so. Priming, they say, puts a slightly penetrating coat of paint on wood, preventing weather damage and improving adhesion of subsequent paint coats. Priming previously unpainted wood also ensures that further coats of paint cover wood evenly. Their only caution tends to be that oil-based topcoat paint needs to be paired with oil-based primer, or water-based with water-based. Agreement is nearly universal that applying oil-based paint over latex-based or all-purpose primer definitely increases your chances of peeling.

Nonprimers Vote No

  • Whether porch floors are wood or concrete, those who do not favor priming share several reasons for their opinion. Special primers, they suggest, waste money, providing no better coverage than ordinary topcoat paint diluted to two-thirds strength. On concrete porch floors, fluctuation in moisture levels can make primer no more effective than regular paint, and the goal of painting is to get it done during as dry a period as possible, rather than risking changes in moisture that can occur between applying coats.

A Different Approach

  • Since the major issue in choosing porch paint is how well paint will wear under foot and other traffic, another approach bypasses priming and concentrates on top finishing. Covering paint, primed or unprimed, with polyurethane is a strategy that produces long wear on gymnasium and other heavily used floors. The only caution is that, because of the impermeability of the polyurethane, the paint must be completely dry before the poly is applied.

Weighing the Arguments

  • All three primer approaches address the factors of weather, foot traffic and potential surface damage. Examining the situation of your porch will lead to the best solution for your circumstances. A porch attached to a house with, or in danger of, moisture problems needs protection from moisture that begins as close to the wood as possible. Thorough cleaning and application of primer lets a moisture-resistant substance penetrate into the wood surface. Matching the correct paint with primer ensures smooth and thorough protection from traffic and weather damage. Situations of fluctuating moisture and dryness may be handled by paint without primer, with the recognition that a slightly more porous surface may handle weather better but need more frequent applications of paint. The polyurethane seal approach suggests itself to porches that receive heavy foot and play traffic, so long as moisture fluctuations are low. Look at the weather stresses and traffic stresses facing your porch, and the priming question will likely answer itself.

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