Can You Use Water Based Paint Over Oil Based Primer?

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You just finished applying oil-based primer on your walls and notice that you ran out of oil-based paint, all you have is some water-based paint left.

Can you use water based paint over oil based primer – probably this would be the first question to pop in your mind to avoid a lazy drive to the paint store to buy some oil-based paint.

can you use water based paint over oil based primer

Yes, you can use water-based paint over oil-based primer if you follow the proper technique. How? That’s what we are going to discuss in this article. So, you may leave the car keys now and grab the paintbrushes again.

What Is Water Based Paint?

In simple words, water-based paint is a type of paint that contains water as its solvent. This paint is made of pigments, filler, and blinder. And most importantly all these are dissolved in water. That’s why they are water-soluble. However, they act totally differently when they become dry; they become water-resistant.

Water-based paints dry faster compared to other paint types, they don’t contain too much foul odor, and are easy to clean. That’s why they are a great choice for home painting projects. Plus, these paints contain low VOC levels that make them safer for health as well as for the environment.

Water-based paints are suitable for almost all types of painting jobs. However, you need to make sure that you don’t use the paint where the surface needs to tolerate excessive tear and wear.

What Is Oil Based Primer?

The simple and straightforward answer would be that oil-based primers use oil as the base.

Generally speaking, primers conceal imperfections, stains and help better paint adhesion. As for an oil-based primer, it seals well and forms a harder texture compared to other paint types like water-based paint. So, you can say goodbye to stingy smoke odors and stains from your walls.

Oil-based primers are ideal for various surfaces like metal, woodwork, doors, and windows. Another good thing about these primers is that they seal tannins and stains pretty well.

Can You Use Water Based Paint over Oil Based Primer?

Yes, we’ve already stated earlier that you can use water-based paint over oil-based primer. However, you need to be very careful and follow the right procedure otherwise you may end up with unsatisfactory results.

You see, oil and water don’t go quite well with each other. The same thing applies to water-based and oil-based paints. They don’t bond with each other especially when you are painting water-based paint on a glossy, oil-painted surface. So, your water-based paint may chip or peel off as a result.

So, we would say that applying water-based paint over oil-based primer is possible but you need to make sure you apply the appropriate technique.

When to Use Oil-Based Primer?

We’ve seen all the advantages of water-based primers so far. But don’t underestimate the advantages of oil-based primers. They are widely used on various surfaces like wood, metal, and even on previously painted surfaces. So, you can use them on both interior and exteriors.

Oil-based paints work great for sealing porous surfaces of wood that’s why they are an excellent choice for unfinished interior or exterior woods. Applying an oil-based primer will help stop tannin bleeding on the wooden surface especially if you are using redwood or cedar wood. It may also help in slowing down the paint cracking or peeling.

If your walls contain more stains than the dark spots of the moon, this primer can help you cover all the stains. So, you can easily hide those creative artworks of your toddler (!) or stingy water stains from your walls. And if the walls are stuffed with nicotine smells, this primer can help cover up the odor.

Oil-Based Primer Vs Water-Based Primer

Okay, we have discussed some benefits of both oil-based and water-based primers. Now, it’s time to look at some key differences between them to determine which one to choose for which situation.

Water-based Primer:

  • Clean up: Water-based primers are easy to clean. Being water-based, these primers can be cleaned up using water. No need to use special cleaning solutions, probably you will need to use some soap and water to clean up all the mess.
  • Drying time: Water-based primers dry faster compared to oil-based primers. This allows you to apply recoats faster.
  • VOCs and safety: They contain low VOCs and are safer for health and the environment.
  • Sealing: Not ideal for blocking tannins or knots in the woods like cedar wood or redwood.
  • Ideal for: Furniture, indoor walls, ceilings, etc.

Oil-based Primer:

  • Clean up: Clean up is more difficult compared to a water-based primer. You need to use mineral spirit to clean up the mess.
  • Drying time: They are comparatively slow-drying primers. You need to wait longer to apply a second coat.
  • VOCs and safety: Oil-based primers contain high VOCs. They are not quite safe for health, so they are not a good choice for indoors. And they contain a foul smell. Take precautions while working with oil-based paints and primers. Oil-based paint fumes can be dangerous. So, working with these primers indoors or in a poorly ventilated room is strictly not recommended.
  • Sealing: They conceal stains on the surface very well and they also cover up stinky smells. They help stop tannins on wood surfaces.
  • Ideal for: They are ideal for various surfaces including steel, wood, other metals, and even on previously painted surfaces. They are great for outdoor projects especially if you need a strong seal. They can also be used on both interiors and exterior walls. However, as they contain high VOCs, using them indoors might not be the right decision.

How Long Does Oil-Based Primer Take to Dry?

This may vary from brand to brand. Generally speaking, some oil-based primers may take 24 hours to dry completely. However, you may find some primers to dry even quicker, most of them will take at least 8 hours to dry completely.

No matter which paint brand you choose, the best advice would be to follow the drying time provided by the manufacturer.

How to Use Water Based Paint over Oil Based Primer?

The question that brought you here was: can you use water-based paint over oil-based primer? We said it’s possible, but how? Now we are going to tell you how to use water-based paint over oil-based primer step by step.

Step 1: Sanding

Firstly, water-based paints don’t go well with glossy oil-painted surfaces. They don’t bond pretty well. So, you need to remove the gloss using sandpaper. You need to use fine-grit sandpaper for this job which will be something like 180-grit to 220-grit.

Gently sand the surface, don’t need to go rough on it. Simply de-glossing it will do. After you are satisfied with it, wipe down the dust and residue using a clean tack cloth.

Step 2: Cleaning with TSP

To make the water-based paint adhere better you need to make sure the oil-primed surface is completely clean. And simply sanding and wiping may not be sufficient. There could be grime and dirt remaining on the surface.

To get rid of them, you need to use a TSP solution. Here is the procedure to clean with a TSP solution:

  • First, wear safety glasses and donning gloves.
  • Now, take some warm water like 1 gallon, and pour it into a bucket. After that, add ¼ cup of TSP on the water. Mix them well.
  • Take a sponge and dip it in the TSP solution. Wring out the excess water and gently wipe down the surface. This should remove the remaining grime and paint residue from the sanded surface.
  • Finally, saturate a sponge in clean water and wipe the surface for the second time to make the surface completely clean. Now, allow the surface to dry.

Step 3: Using a Bonding Primer

To prevent chipping or peeling and make the water-based paint last on the oil-based painted surface, you need to make sure the water-based paint adheres well on the surface. Here a bonding primer comes in handy.

It will help the water-based paint to stick to the oil-painted surface. You can choose a water-based or oil-based bonding primer for this. You need to apply one or two coats of that primer and allow it to dry. Following the manufacturer’s instructions is recommended.

Step 4: Applying the Water-based Paint

Now, you are ready to apply the desired water-based paint over the oil-based primer. Use good quality paint and to get better results, make sure you apply a minimum of two coats.

Follow the drying time of the paint brand you chose and allow the previous coat to dry properly before adding further coats.

Final Thoughts

Getting stuck with an unusual painting situation can be normal. And it’s not weird to get stuck with a thought of whether it is possible to use a water-based paint over an oil-based primer or not.

In our article, we clarified things for you so that if you get stuck with painting issues where you need to use water-based paint over an oil-based primer, you don’t need to put down your paintbrushes and search online for solutions again.

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