Why the best exterior oil-based primer matters when we have a water-based one? Because oil-based primers are highly anti-fouling, and are the most durable of the paints on the market, especially when used on wood products.

If you are looking for a product to cover over heavily exposed surfaces such as doors or corners, we will present you with the top 6 best exterior primers in 2023. Let’s hop in and find some useful information for your household problems!

SaleBestseller No. 1
Rust-Oleum Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer Sealer, 1-Quart, White
Rust-Oleum Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer Sealer, 1-Quart, White
Cover stain, QT, Oil based stain killer primer/sealer; Adds extra shine to your product; Manufactured in United States
SaleBestseller No. 3
Rust-Oleum Zinsser 3608 Cover Stain Oil Base Primer Spray, 13 oz, White
Rust-Oleum Zinsser 3608 Cover Stain Oil Base Primer Spray, 13 oz, White
Get ultimate hiding power indoors and out with Zinsser Cover Stain Primer; Spray primer seals, blocks stains and gives great adhesion
Bestseller No. 4
Zinsser by Rust-Oleum 3609 Oil-Base Spray Primer, White, 16 oz, (Pack of 1)
Zinsser by Rust-Oleum 3609 Oil-Base Spray Primer, White, 16 oz, (Pack of 1)
Temperature: 40 to 90 degrees F dry time recoat: 1 hr; Country of origin (subject to change): United States
Bestseller No. 5
Do it Best Exterior Oil-Based Wood Primer, EXT ALKYD WOOD PRIMER
Do it Best Exterior Oil-Based Wood Primer, EXT ALKYD WOOD PRIMER
Made in United States; Banned in CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, IL, IN, MA, MD, ME, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, UT, VA

Is oil-based primer better for exterior projects?

For the exterior, oil-based primers are the best option on the advice of most experts, especially for those exteriors made from wood. Why are oil-based primers so popular for exterior use?

First, oil-based primers have a better ability to penetrate and adhere to the wood. This ability to penetrate deeply into this wood material is due to the fact that slow-drying oil paint creates a more durable undercoat.

Therefore, choose oil paint if you want to prevent stains on bare wood. With the best exterior oil primer for wood, you can hide the knots in the wood if the wood is bleeding easily.

Another thing to note is the variety of oil-based primers. In addition to wood, you can apply it on metal surfaces – the results are just as good. And whether you use water-based or oil-based paint, your primer will work just fine!

The ideal combo would be an oil-based lipstick coupled with latex paint. And your exterior will never stain or deteriorate.

Review on top 6 best-rated exterior oil-based primer

Zinsser 03504 Interior/Exterior Oil Primer

Rust-Oleum Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer Sealer, 1-Quart, White
Rust-Oleum Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain Interior/Exterior Oil Primer Sealer, 1-Quart, White
  • Cover stain, QT, Oil based stain killer primer/sealer
  • Adds extra shine to your product
  • Manufactured in United States
  • High-hiding formula blocks most stains and helps seal water, smoke and nicotine stains
  • Sticks to interior and exterior surfaces and sands easily
In its oil-based primers, the Zinsser 03504 Cover Stain is considered one of the ideal products to use when you are remodeling and repainting both the interior and the exterior.

With a formula that can dry quickly in just 1 hour, this primer leaves a surface that is easily sanded, making it versatile and suitable for a wide range of surface materials.

If you are looking for a product to cover your exterior imperfections and stains, the Zinsser Cover Stain is a smart choice. Because the high-fold formula hides all stains, it also prevents bleeding from the wood.

Enamel performance is also an advantage of this primer as it gives a shiny look to your exterior. Zinsser 03504 is the best oil-based primer in the price range you can find on the market.

Diamond Brite Industrial Primer

Diamond Brite Paint 31900 1-Gallon Oil Base Industrial Primer paint Grey
Diamond Brite Paint 31900 1-Gallon Oil Base Industrial Primer paint Grey
If you are looking for a product to paint on a large metal surface, Diamond Brite Paint 31900 is your oil-based primer for metal product.

With 5 gallons of product capacity, it can be used on all interior and exterior surfaces, even industrial grade. Especially, the product will work best on metal or steel surfaces because it comes with a high level of rust resistance.

Besides, it is resistant to abrasion as well as chemicals that damage appliances. Therefore, it is extremely suitable for use on surfaces with high daily contact such as pipes, doors, tanks.

This paint also has a variety of uses when you can roller paint, spray, or use a brush to spread it. However, this effect costs 6-8 hours to dry. During that time, remember to properly ventilate and isolate paint from potentially explosive objects.

Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer

Zinsser 272479 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer, 13 oz, White
Zinsser 272479 Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer, 13 oz, White
  • Interior/exterior use on new or previously painted Drywall, concrete, wood, masonry, metal and glossy or difficult surfaces
  • Oil-based formula seals uniformly and will Stick to surface without sanding
  • Dries to the touch in just 30 minutes and covers up to 12 sq ft
  • Has excellent stain blocking resistance and can be used over any oil or Latex topcoat
  • Provides a smooth, White finish and; is designed to block imperfections with only one Coat
Zinsser’s products are designed with a wide range of functions, Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer is an oil-based primer born with that in mind.

This is a versatile primer with high efficiency for both interior and exterior – hardly any product can match it in its price range. You can use this paint for home use, or for industrial and commercial purposes as well.

The biggest advantage of Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Plus Spray Primer is that it can adhere very well with just 1 coat of paint, without pre-sanding. It provides up to 20% better coverage while effectively preventing fouling to ensure the durability of the topcoat.

You can use this paint on many surfaces such as concrete, wood, even previously painted walls or metal surfaces. It dries very quickly and will leave a nice foundation. Here’s an oil-based primer for wallpaper that we love so much!

Rust-Oleum 3554 Zinsser Cover Stain Primer

Rust-Oleum 3554 Zinsser High Hide Cover Stain Primer and Sealer, White 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)
Rust-Oleum 3554 Zinsser High Hide Cover Stain Primer and Sealer, White 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)
  • Exterior/Interior use previously painted drywall, cured plaster, wood, metal, concrete and more
  • High-hiding oil-based primer hides dark colors, penetrates and seals exterior wood and blocks tannin bleed
  • Dries to touch in 35 minutes and covers up to 100 sq ft
  • Excellent stain blocker permanently blocks and seals tough stains from fire, smoke and water damage
  • Fast-drying, flat white finish can be recoated in 2 hours
Looking for a versatile oil-based primer for a limited budget? Rust-Oleum 3554 Zinsser is the product for you.

This is a primer that provides a stable coverage for common wood problems such as wood irregularities/dark colors, wood stains, or problems related to penetration. Furthermore, it can prevent wood bleeding.

Besides use for wood interior/exterior, you can use it to cover surfaces with concrete, metal, and even plaster walls that have been painted. The paint will dry in just 35 minutes so it is very convenient if you want to apply a second coat of topcoat.

Although the capacity is not too large, this product is very convenient to buy ready to store in the house in case of daily use. If you want a product that is affordable, versatile, and able to prevent stains on wood, here is our recommendation!

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KILZ L211101 Adhesion High-Bonding

KILZ Adhesion Primer, Interior/Exterior, 1 Gallon
KILZ Adhesion Primer, Interior/Exterior, 1 Gallon
  • BONDING PRIMER: A high adhesion primer that bonds to a wide range of difficult to adhere to surfaces. It is formulated for situations where a secure bond is critical and use of a traditional water or oil base primer might be questionnable. It increases the possibilities for paintable surfaces.
  • ADVANCED FORMULA: It's advanced styrenated acrylic polymer formula provides a sound anchor for topcoats while reducing or potentially eliminating the need for sanding dense, glossy surfaces. If using as a primer for epoxies, lacquers, products containing xylene or other hot solvents, allow to dry for 24 hours before topcoating and test for compatibility in an inconspicuous area before full coat application.
  • MULTIPLE SURFACES: Use on most interior and exterior surfaces where a secure bond is critical. Bonds to tough-to-paint surfaces including Kynar, PVC, Formica, vinyl, glass, tile, glazed brick, chalky paints, glossy finishes, fiberglass and metals. Topcoat with either water or oil-based paint. For use on interior and exterior surfaces.
  • SUPERIOR COVERAGE: This 1-quart can of KILZ Adhesion high-bonding interior/exterior water-based primer covers approximately 75-100 square feet. Dries to touch within 30 minutes and ready to recoat in an hour.
  • KILZ primers have been trusted by pros for nearly 50 years! Famous for providing high quality primer products that provide solutions to a wide variety of painting problems, KILZ is consistently ranked as one of the most trustworthy brands in the architectural coatings market. Lifetime Limited Warranty (see label for details).
In mid-range products, KILZ is a favorite and extremely prominent brand. KILZ L211101 Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer/Sealer is marketed for those who need a strong and durable oil-based primer.

When you have a surface that is too difficult to paint or a surface that has gone too many paints and retouches, a high adhesion coating like this KILZ product is required. It helps the new coating to adhere to the old paint better and prevents other water-based primers from sticking to the new coating.

Thanks to this outstanding ability, the product is extremely recommended by experts for surfaces that need a protective liner. Typically foreign surfaces such as vinyl, Kynar, PVC, brick, metal, and even glass. It dries very quickly in 30 minutes – great value for the money!

In particular, despite its high adhesion, the paint still allows you to use it with a normal sprayer like when you spray Latex paint. You can also roll or brush it, but be sure to mix well before painting to make the primer more even.

This is literally our favorite choice for the “Best exterior primer for peeling paint” award!

Rust-Oleum 7780502 Stop Rust

Rust-Oleum 7780502 Stops Rust Protective Enamel Paint, 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1), Flat Whtie Clean Metal Primer, 12
1,283 Reviews
Rust-Oleum 7780502 Stops Rust Protective Enamel Paint, 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1), Flat Whtie Clean Metal Primer, 12
  • Weather and corrosion resistant primer bonds tightly to exterior/interior surfaces like wood, metal, concrete, masonry and more to provide excellent adhesion for top coat
  • Oil-based formula provides a durable protective coating with excellent rust prevention
  • Dries to the touch in 2-4 hours and covers up to 90 sq. ft.
  • Primer provides a base for excellent adhesion and withstands demanding, heavy-use environments
  • Creates a flat white finish that can be covered with any topcoat
Spray-based oil-based primers are generally not overrated. However, with this Rust-Oleum 7780502 Stop Rust, the majority of users acknowledge it: it is a product with stable performance and affordable price!

Obviously, spray primers will have an unmatched coverage compared to other types of paint, and it won’t be the right product if you’re looking to cover up your exterior blemishes. However, in terms of quality, this product still meets all requirements: it is considered the best quality oil-based primer spray.

The most outstanding feature is its characteristic rapid drying in just 15 minutes and when it dries again, the paint provides rust resistance and an acceptable adhesion. However, you cannot rub it after painting because it peels off more easily than some other roller paints.

Due to the ability to even and ensure color through paint, Rust-Oleum 7780502 Stop Rust is suitable for wood, brick, concrete, or colored metal surfaces.

Important considerations when choosing primer

Sometimes, choosing an exterior primer is not just pick any products labeled “exterior primer”. You have to make sure it is correct and appropriate for your current situation. Before deciding which is the best exterior oil-based primer for you, here are some things to keep in mind.


Surface exterior oil based primer

The adhesion of the primer depends a lot on the surface you are painting on and how difficult it is. Below are some of the more popular surfaces with the right paints for your reference.

Bare wood: Oil-based primer is the best because it covers well, helps to conceal defects in the wood grain, and fills the rough surface of the wood to make the substrate smoother.

Painted wood: in case, oil-based primer is the best exterior primer for peeling paint. It will make 2 layers of paint on the wood thicker, smooth, and stick better, without chalking or chipping.

Metal: Use anti-rust oil-based primers, don’t use water-based or rubber-based primers.

Surfaces that are easily stained: use primers capable of preventing high stains on surfaces with high tannin content or easily staining, if stains are water-based, use oil-based primers.

Glossy surface: It is recommended to use primers with high adhesion ability and stick to the glossy surface of the glass, plastic, or ceramic tiles.

Dedicated Primer vs Self-priming paints

In modern society, everyone wants convenience. That’s why 2-in-1 products are selling well because they understand the customers’ psychology. But in the case of interior and exterior paint, a convenient product like self-priming paint is not necessarily good.

You should only use a primer and topcoat in certain situations. On the other hand, you should most likely use separate primers and topcoats, especially in cases where adhesion is required such as:

  • Paint on the wooden surface
  • Coatings have a different base from the primer
  • Paint on the surface is peeling or dirty
  • Paint to change from dark to light paint
  • You want to paint the latex paint over the old oil paint

When you want to blend your paint to get the color effect you want, choose a product that says “tintable” on the label. Using primer this way can help the primer match the color you want, instead of the usual white or gray. The final color appearance of the coating is also darker, more even, and has more depth.

Especially in the following cases, you should care about tintability so that your exterior products have a uniform, not-patchy appearance of different colors:

  • You are painting from a dark color to a lighter color.
  • You are painting from a lighter color to a much darker color.
Dry time

Drying time is a very important factor. This is the amount of time the primer will need to dry before applying the second primer layer of topcoat. Normally, oil-based primers take 1 to 3 hours to completely dry before repainting.

During this time, you need to pay attention to ventilation problems in the room you use to paint, to avoid the chemical odor from the paint damaging the eyes – nose – mouth. Besides, pay attention to fire protection and keep away from oil-based primers from combustible materials while waiting to dry.

Stain coverage

Stain coverage Oil Primers

Covering and preventing the formation of stains is a matter of utmost concern when painting both interior and exterior. The most likely material to stain is wood, as it is nearly impossible to clean.

For common stains or stains like water, smoke, or food stains (solvent stains), an oil-based primer is always the first choice.

Oil-based primers have outstanding coverage and waterproofing capabilities. Because of this ability, a single primer coat is enough to conceal defects on the surface of the material and prevent wider stains.

Odor resistance

No one wants their exterior to smell, even less, for a bad scent. In such cases, finding a paint that minimizes the odor of the material as well as avoids the odor of the external environment adhering to the material is essential.

One of our recommendations is a primer or oil-based paint because of its great ability to conceal odors. This ability is due to the consistency of the oil-based primer, and a small part is due to the paint having its own odor.

However, not all paint companies advertise this rare ability of oil-based primers. Only a few specialized or professional firms will tell you this feature!

Rust protection

In addition to wood stain resistance, rust resistance of metal exterior materials is also a headache.

Water-based primers dry quickly, but they won’t protect your exterior from rust or damage, especially if your exterior is out in the sun, rain, and other weather conditions.

We recommend using an oil-based primer, as it has a higher viscosity and coverage, making them more resistant to rust. They also prevent water from entering the product – this helps to inhibit oxidation.

Final words

After so many considerations, what is your best exterior oil-based primer?

If you still wonder, then our top pick for you will be the first one, Zinsser 03504 Interior/Exterior Oil Primer. A product with diverse functions, high coverage efficiency comes with many other values. All are available at a reasonable price for your everyday use.

What are the factors you should consider when buying an oil-based primer? Tell us.