You Don’t Have to Waste Money on Premium Paint and Primer in One!

The “Paint and Primer in One” Buzz

You’ve seen it on TV, you’ve heard about it at the home improvement stores… high-end “paint and primer in one” products are available from many of the major paint companies. They cost 20% to 60% more than the primary paint line and offer better coverage with less hassle – but are they worth the money, or is it just a clever way to get you, the consumer, to shell out a little more dough for a can of paint?

The most popular commercial is a Lowe’s advertisement where a young couple with a new house is desperately trying to paint over the bold green and white stripes left on the walls of their den by the previous resident. This poor couple can’t understand why their new red paint won’t cover up those terrible stripes! Luckily, the Lowe’s Paint-Counter Employee in the commercial is there to help… She happily reassures the desperate couple that all they need to do is buy this slightly higher (priced) quality paint – which is available right there in the store – and all their problems will be solved… whew!

Behr and Valspar

That commercial is for Valspar’s Signature line of paint which is a “paint and primer in one” product just like Behr’s Premium Plus Ultra paint line. These paints retail for $32 to $33 a gallon and claim to offer better coverage than standard paints. But the standard paint lines only cost $21 to $23 per gallon. That means the ultra paint line costs 45% to 55% more money. So do the signature/ultra paint and primer in one lines really offer 50% better coverage? And more important, is the amount of enhanced coverage worth the increased cost of paint?

Optimizing Your Primer

For starters, it may not always be necessary to use primer. Applying a new coat of latex paint (water-based, most common today) over an existing coat of latex paint does not require primer. At least, it’s not a physical requirement – in order to make the paint stick to the wall. However, using a primer is a good idea in order to help with coverage issues. In other words, putting down a coat of primer can help you cover the colors that are currently on a wall. The trick is that you have to know how to “optimize” your primer.

The secret here is something most professional painters don’t even realize, and paint retailers won’t tell you (especially now, with these high-priced premium paint lines on the market). That secret is this… you can tint your standard primer to whatever color you are painting with! That’s right, the common Kilz, Zinsser, or whatever off-the-shelf primer you want to use can be tinted to any color that your paint retailer sells… for free! Plus, not only is primer cheaper than signature/ultra paint – it is cheaper than the standard paint lines! A gallon of primer is typically $14 to $16 compared to $22 for standard paint and $33 for ultra. Wherever you get your paint mixed, just ask the employee behind the counter to add your paint color to your can of primer and they will happily oblige; and it doesn’t cost a dime.

Of course, there is a little bit more to it than that. This is where optimizing your primer comes in. It’s not always a good idea to tint your primer – for color coverage reasons. It may actually be more effective to use a plain white primer to get the best paint color coverage. It all depends on what color your wall is currently and what color you want to paint it.

Knowing exactly when to tint your primer and when to use plain white is another matter. If you’d like to read more about it click here. But for the purposes of this article, if you are using a lighter paint color than is on the wall, use white primer. If you are painting with a darker color than is currently on the wall, get your primer tinted. More often than not, it should be fairly obvious which option to choose for your situation.

Saving on the Cost of Paint

As long as you make this decision correctly, thereby optimizing your primer, you will definitely save money by using a standard quality paint line. If you begin by assuming that 2 coats of signature/ultra quality paint covers exactly as well as 3 coats of standard quality paint, then the price will be equivalent using either method. However, since your 3 standard coats can include 1 coat of primer, and primer is significantly cheaper, you will definitely save money taking the traditional route.

Plus, staying away from the paint and primer in one signature/ultra paint lines can save you a lot more money on bigger projects. While primer by the gallon is about 35% cheaper than standard paint by the gallon, when you buy it by the 5-gallon bucket primer is about 50% the price of standard paint. Furthermore, if you do get your primer tinted, you can apply 2 coats of tinted primer before your finish coats of paint. This would save you substantially over the signature/ultra cost of paint.

As it turns out, there are very few situations where you should opt to pay 50% more for paint and primer in one, when you can get regular primer tinted to your paint color for 50% less instead!


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