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Five Best Primers for Wood Paneling- Product Reviews and Buying Guide

Are you planning to paint your wood paneling? Unlike for a conventional wall, painting paneling requires some extra preparation. Interestingly, I still find people ignoring sanding and overlooking priming. The fact that you are here means that you know the importance of having a good primer for wood paneling and you are prepared to do all that appertains to getting a smooth shiny surface. Paneling, like any other wood item, may carry some pores and grains that will only disappear if you deal with them systematically. Applying a good primer does the magic so paint absorption will be minimal and the final surface is aesthetically pleasing. In the next section, I will outline five best primers for wood paneling and provide a simple buying guide. Read through for a more straightforward buying process.

Best Primers for Wood Paneling

Here is our list of best primers for wood paneling.

1)   Best Primer for Super Rough Paneling – Rust-Oleum Zinsser 304H 1-Quart Bulls Eye Clear Shellac

Shellac primer is the ideal solution for rough surfaces, so I highly propose Rust-Oleum Zinsser 304H 1-Quart Bulls Eye Clear Shellac from the dependable manufacturer Rust-Oleum. With its natural and traditional finish qualities, this primer may just be what you needed for your super rough wood paneling.

Although it is common to let the primer dry for 24 hours, this product dries within 45 minutes, allowing you to cover much ground within a short time. It is easy to apply whether you are applying the first coat or recoating.

If the application process does not impress you, then the contents of the product will. I say this because the primer is one of the most non-toxic options you can get in this category. All natural and alcohol-based, this item is safe to use even for interior paneling.

Regarding the finish, there is a reason the manufacturer calls the sealer traditional finish and sealer. It gives the paneling that admirable classic finish that oozes value. That is why it traverses several projects apart from wood paneling, which includes household and craft projects. You may even use it on some metals.

Placed in a 1 quart container and coming in clear color, the Rust-Oleum Zinsser 304H 1-Quart Bulls Eye Clear Shellac will transform even the roughest wood paneling. Get it for these qualities coupled with a good warranty.

2)   Best Primer for Reclaimed/Weathered Wood Paneling – STIX Waterborne Bonding Primer – 5 GALLON

Wood is a special material that can withstand hundreds of years of use with minimal care. Despite the degradation that may occur, you can reclaim your wood through a few preparations and priming with this reliable primer from INSL-X.

When applied after a good linseed oil coat, this primer provides unbelievable adhesion. While there is no mention of the time this primer takes to dry, it is evident that is easy to apply. It is also versatile, as you can apply it on many types of wood, plus on non-ferrous metals and drywall.

A look at the contents information reveals a product that qualifies for LEED® v4 Credit, Qualifies for CHPS low emitting credit, CDPH v1 Emission Certified. That means that it is safe to use, even for indoor applications. It presents excellent holdout, low odor and cures as low as 35 °F.

Once applied, this primer adheres superbly to even the most challenging of wood paneling surfaces. It is built to provide unmatched adhesion. To get your desired finish, you are free to combine the primer with a wide range of coatings including Epoxy, Lacquer and Acrylic Latex.

Now you can extend the usability of that weathered wood paneling thanks to this awesome product that comes in a 5-gallon container.

3)   Best Primer for Already-Painted Wood Paneling – KILZ Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer, White, 1-gallon

Even for wood paneling that was previously painted, applying a primer repainting is recommended. Because of the unique challenge presented, you need a primer with the appropriate adhesion properties, the ideal one being the KILZ Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer, White, 1-gallon.

I found this thick and creamy formula easy to use, as its consistency is perfect. Even if you are applying it in occupied space, you have no reason to worry because first, it is easy to clean with soapy water, and second, there is no VOC solvent. You can recoat the primer after one hour.

To add to the zero VOCs content, this primer gives minimal odor and dries quickly. Use it wherever the wood paneling is located, even high humidity areas like laundry rooms and bathrooms.

The primer is perfect for painted paneling, as it conceals those small imperfections perfectly.  It gives a smooth and level finish on the wood. It also blocks stains and resists mildew growth on the wood. Such qualities have endeared the brand to do-it-yourselfers and experts for over 40 years.

Get the 1-gallon can of KILZ Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Latex Primer/Sealer and you will be able to cover as much 300-400 square feet of interior and/or exterior surface.

4)   Best Primer for Unpainted Wood Paneling – Kilz Odorless Primer And Sealer

If your paneling is yet to be painted, and you want to use the most user-friendly primer, turn to KILZ Odorless Interior Oil-Base Primer/Sealer/Stainblocker, White, 1-Quart. As an oil-based primer, the lack of odor is already a win if you ask me.

On top of that, this primer dries within 1 hour so you can proceed with the painting process. As long as you have mixed the primer well, it is easy to apply with brush, roller, or even spray. If there is any odor, you can be sure it will disappear as soon as the primer dries.

The odorless feature is the highlight of this oil-based product. however, the fact that the primer is so good in blocking water, smoke, tannin, ink, pencil, marker and grease stains while sealing pet and smoke odors is equally fascinating.

Prepare your unpainted wood paneling properly and apply the primer. Provided the surface is not prone to mildew or mold, I believe this product will be great. It suits a wide range of interior wood paneling for schools, apartments, offices and so forth.

It comes in an attractive 1-Quart can and it can cover 300 square feet per gallon.

5)   Best Primer for Engineered Wood Paneling – Rustins MDFS250 250ml Quick Dry MDF Sealer – Clear

A good example of engineering wood paneling is Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF). The challenge with these types of products is high porosity, but you can make the painting process simpler by using an MDF-specific primer, the ideal one being this clear sealer manufactured by Rustins.

With good preparation of the MDF surface, the clear sealer takes care of those pores so that the paint job can be easy and effective. It dries quickly too- within 1 hour. This means you can cover a substantial part of the project quickly.

What I love the most about this product is that you can varnish or paint it for a perfect finish. To apply it on the wood paneling, use either a spray or normal brush.

It is available in a 250ml container and weighs in at 5 ounces in total. I cannot hesitate to recommend this primer for engineered wood paneling.

Buying Guide for Primer for Wood Paneling

Any unpainted wood paneling requires adequate preparation before it can receive the first coat of paint. Priming is one of the most important preparations, alongside cleaning the surface and scuffing it.

You may think that no priming is a good idea until the painted wood paneling starts to crack, chalk and even peel at a faster rate than a primed surface. It is not necessary to prime a wood paneling that had painted previously unless you are switching from latex to oil-based paint or vice versa. If the current paint is deteriorating, you may also need to prime.

Essentially, priming achieves two things:

  • Blocks stains
  • Enhances paint adhesion

In order to do this, the primer for wood paneling should have a high content of solids and be able to bond strongly. So, which type of primer fulfills these two qualities? I will explain different types of primers below so that we can identify the properties:

a)   Latex Primer

I would recommend this water-based primer on drywall. Flexibility is seen in the speed of drying and the minimal susceptibility to cracking and peeling. I use it for priming my pine and other softwood with amazing results. The benefits of the primer are low levels of VOC chemicals and is easy to clean.

b)   Oil Primer

This type is what I would call industry standard. Since they are versatile, they suit both latex and oil paints. Apart from wood paneling, this primer does well on metal, exterior walls, and interior walls. You could even use it on previously painted surfaces.

Another reason this type is a favorite is the capability to “kill stains”, such that subsequent layers of paint are not blemished. On top of that, this primer does superbly in sealing porous wood surface and letting the paint cover the surface better. For countering redwood and other woods that release tannins, this type is the real deal.

On the flip side, the primer may take some time to dry. It also releases a substantial amount of volatile chemicals that are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

c)    Pigmented Shellac Primer

Perhaps the oldest of the three primers, shellac suits indoor jobs perfectly. First, this primer conceals stains excellently, a reason why you will it being applied in most smoked damaged surfaces. It is ideal for wood, plastic, metal and several other materials. Unfortunately, it has limited versatility as compared to the first two types.

Best Primer for Wood Paneling- Choose Carefully

Here is a simple process of ensuring that you get the best primer for wood paneling:

  1. Check the wood type on the paneling. Paneling made from cedar and other forms of redwood require an oil-based primer. The oil particles in the primer discourage bleeding of the red particles found in the wood. Use it on such paneling and you will avoid problems of discoloration of that nature.
  2. If the wood paneling has any trace of mildew, make sure that the primer contains zinc oxide and mildewcide. Mildewcide eliminates the spores while the oxide prevents the reappearance of the same after you have painted. You will especially need this type of primer as variety of wood paneling is common in humid areas.
  3. I hope you already know the type of paint you want to apply on the paneling. It is necessary because this can determine the best primer for wood paneling. Some products can only match certain types of paints. Simply put, compatibility is necessary.
  4. VOCs such as formaldehyde are normally present in primers, so you want to determine the level of acceptable volatility. To prevent health complications, consider picking primers with the lowest percentages of these compounds, and this is indicated in ratings.
  5. Finally, when it comes to price, I have discovered one thing- the pricier options are usually better. Therefore, do not shy from going for pricier options if your budget allows.

Frequently Asked Questions

A quick check shows that buyers are asking some common questions, such as the following:

  • What is the best primer for wood paneling for a humid area?
  • Can I find a cost-friendly primer for wood paneling?
  • What kind of reviews does this item have on shopping sites?
  • What is the coverage like for this primer?
  • Do different primers have different applications?

Answering such questions before buying will help you get the best product for your use.


The primary role of a primer is to seal the pores before the coat of paint arrives. Paints give the wood paneling the desired look and/or protection.  I have listed five quality primers for wood paneling that suit different circumstances so I bet the search is much simpler now. If I were to single out one brand that is the best of the best, I would say KILZ® primers is my top pick because of the numerous varieties and low VOCs offered. Since not all primers have low VOCs, wear protective masks when applying the coats. For sealing outside wood products, I have written a special guide to get a good waterproof sealants.