How Long Can Primer Sit Before Painting?

Before you can paint you must prime the surface. Priming is a technique that is employed by professional painters and requires a wait time before the first coat of paint can be applied. Do you know what the ideal waiting time is? If not, keep scrolling and read everything that you need to know!

how long can Primer Sit Before Painting

Ah, painting your home. Is there any DIY project that’s more classic? We think not. Adding a splash of paint to your walls is the easiest way to bring your personality into your home, brighten things up, and also give you a look that you adore. However, there are more steps involved other than just painting, such as setting your primer.

Most primers dry within 30 minutes to 1 hour. However, you’ll have to wait to paint before applying the primer, which can take as long as 3 hours. Keep in mind that humidity can increase the time it takes for the wall to dry. You will want the primer dry before you apply the paint.

Of course, like with any other project, prepping properly is a must. With painting, that means you have to put a coat of primer on your surface. So, what does that entail? We’ve put this guide together for you to know the correct steps to take and how long you should let your primer sit before beginning your painting adventure.

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How Long Can Primer Sit Before Painting?

This all depends on what type of primer you choose to use.

  • Most standard latex wall paint primers can sit on a wall, unfinished, for a maximum of 30 days before you need another coat to work with them.
  • Oil-based primers can last as long as 14 days before a repaint.
  • However, if you use extended-stay primers, you may be able to get more time.
  • When in doubt, look at the primer’s can to see the maximum amount of time you have before you need to re-prime your wall.
  • Heat and humidity can affect these maximum standing time, as can the presence of debris in the environment.

What Happens If You Wait Too Long To Paint Over Primer?

The simple answer to this is that you will need to re-prime the surface that you’re painting. Otherwise, dust and grime will cover your surface and render it unfriendly towards your paint. In some cases, you might also experience primer decay, which can cause the primer’s ability to grip paint to become uneven. Overall, it’s not a good look!

With that being said, you still want to wait until your primer is dry until you apply the paint, or you might have some paint slippage issues. That sounds gross, doesn’t it? It looks gross too! No one wants paint slippage. So, don’t let your primer sit too long, for example, overnight. As soon as it’s dry to the touch, bust out that paint!

If My Primer Has A Run, Dust, Or A Scratch, Can I Still Paint Over It?

If your primer has a run, dust, or a scratch from its time sitting and drying, you’re going to need to fix it. Here’s what you need to do to fix the most common primer problems:

  • If your primer has runs dripping down the side of the wall, use a coarse sanding block to even them out. This will make your walls ready to rock. Just, you know, dust off the debris from sanding things down.
  • If your primer has dust, clean your walls with a microfiber cloth. No need to rinse it off, at least in most cases. Primer is not entirely waterproof, so if you need to rinse it off or scrub away grit, you will need to re-prime your wall.
  • If your primer got a scratch, you could use a small amount of primer to top it. This will help even out your wall’s texture, giving your paint a better canvas. That being said, most people won’t even notice a small scratch on your walls at all.

How Long Does Primer Take To Dry?

Most latex wall primers dry within 3-4 hours, making them a good choice for a day’s paint job. Before you can paint a wall, you need to prime it and let the primer dry completely. Otherwise, the paint won’t stick evenly, and you may end up with a bad paint job. So, there’s a window of time that you’re given to paint your walls.

That being said, each primer has its own ideal drying time. So, you’re going to have to check the manufacturer’s instructions before you pick up that paintbrush.

If You Re-Prime A Surface, Will The Paint Look Even When It’s Applied?

Let’s say that you decided to prime a wall, but then things got crazy at home before you could get to paint the area. It took 30 days, and now you need to re-prime it. What would happen if you just wiped your walls down and added another coat of primer? Truthfully, it’ll be ready to paint once it dries. You won’t be able to tell it had two coats of primer at all.

If your wall looks of balance for some reason, you can always apply paint thinner, wash your wall, let it dry, and reapply the first coat of primer. Although, if you’re painting on new drywall, get a thinner that’s safe to use on it.

Do All Projects Require Painting Primer?

With the vast majority of projects, using primer always will be a good idea. Most walls are porous or just don’t hold paint that well without the use of primer. However, there are occasional moments where using a primer isn’t always necessary. In order for you to skip primer, the following have to be true:

  • Your surface cannot be overly porous or glossy. Neither porous nor high-gloss surfaces hold paint very well. It would help if you had a primer to get it to that perfect paint-ready texture.
  • The surface cannot have a strikingly different color from what you’re going to be painting. Going from a dark paint to a light one, for example, won’t work well.
  • Your walls are in excellent condition. Walls that are old have stains on them, have scratches, or have a unique texture need a layer of primer to make sure that you will have good results. If you want to skip primer, clean, brand new walls are the best option.
  • Your walls have to be clean as a whistle. Most older walls have one or two stains on them or may have older coats of paint or residue from cleaning products or smoke. If this is true for your own walls, you will need to clean your walls and prime them to get the results you want.

What About Self-Priming Paint?

If you don’t want to work with primer, there’s another option you can use: self-priming paint. This is paint that is slightly thicker than your typical paint and can therefore be applied without the use of a primed base. Though it can work with most surfaces, the results can be spotty on very porous surfaces as well as ultra-high gloss surfaces.

Since it has a reputation for being a “hit or miss” deal, most professional painters prefer to stick to primer and regular paint. It tends to look better, has more predictable results, and also stay on better than self-primer. That being said, the option is still there if you want to get a quick fix underway.

Of course, if you use self-priming paint, you still will need a clean surface. So, don’t think that it absolves you entirely of your need to keep things prepped.

Painting Without Using Primer

Primer benefits your paint job in several ways. A few things that it helps with are:

  • Sealing your drywall
  • Allows a uniform color and sheen
  • Helps the paint to adhere to the surface

By using a primer, you will be able to set the base for the paint. Without primer, your drywall will not be sealed, which means that you may lose some color on your walls because the drywall will absorb the paint. Furthermore, it will have an uneven color distribution, as well as an uneven sheen.

Eventually, if you paint the wall without primer, then your paint is going to chip off, and you’ll need to remove the paint to prime the wall anyway. So, it’s better to start with primer in the beginning rather than have to go back and do that later on.

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Our Final Take

It’s good to know what the window is for your primer’s paint-ready time. Usually, you will start painting within three hours, but if you want to let it sit, things get iffy. The best way to find out what the maximum sitting time is for your primer paint is to check out what the instructions on the primer’s can says.

That said, most latex-based primers can stay up to 30 days before you need to re-prime. Other primers tend to last longer or shorter, depending on the materials they’re made of. If you want to skip priming altogether, you better have a suitable wall or choose self-priming paint. That being said, priming your walls is easy enough. Even the messes can be cleaned up in a pinch.

Overall, priming your walls doesn’t have to be a significant endeavor, nor should it be something that should be ignored. As long as you keep your walls prepped, paint within your primer’s “window time,” and use the right paint, you should be able to get professional-quality results. Until next time, happy painting!

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Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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