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Progressive Epoxy Polymers Inc., Floor Coatings  EpoxyPolyurethane, Pittsfield, NH







"To Prime or Not to Prime"

A PRIMER Primer Pager

epoxy primer, epoxy sealer, epoxy waterproofing

water based primers and oil based primers, ALUTHANE



How do primers work?

Different kinds of primers

How to where to use a primer

Useful primer links











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Paul Oman, MS, MBA - Progressive Epoxy Polymers, Inc. (floor epoxies, marine epoxies, underwater epoxies, repair epoxies)

Member: NACE (National Assoc. of Corrosion Engineers), SSPC (Soc. of Protective Coatings)

Board member: Friends of the Suncook River - 501(c)(3) non profit ----- Founder: Friday Night Paddlers .

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PRIMERS: The definition of a primer is rather general. It is generally considered to be a coating that improves the adhesion or perhaps more important, the performance, of the topcoat coating. For water or solvent based coatings, such as enamels, 1 or 2 part urethanes, or latex paints, require water or solvent to evaporate away in order for the coating to cure. On porous surfaces, such as wood, wallboard, cement, etc. the water or solvent may soak into the surface and not evaporate when, where, or how it should for the coating to achieve it designed properties. A primer coat is used to 'seal' the surface so that the solvents or water will be able to evaporate away as they were designed to. There are epoxy primers, water based primers, solvent based primers (and perhaps even more primers).

Secondly, primers DO soak into porous surfaces and thus provide a really strong bond between the primer and the substrate, with the primer then providing a clean, fresh non porous surface for the top coating to adhere to. This is called a Tie Coat. This is also important over weather damaged fiberglass or dusty, crumbling concrete.

Tie coats can also provide a a sticky bonding coat used when a very ‘dry' coating is applied to a dry surface. For example, a very dry putty or filler - patching compound being applied to wood, fiberglass, metal, or concrete. Here we have ‘dry on dry' and the ability of a very dry putty to stick to a dry surface is limited. A tie coat could be a wet, sticky, or still tacky coating of ‘regular' epoxy applied to the surface with the putty or filler applied upon the still tacky epoxy tie coat.

Many commercial primers also have anti-corrosion additives in them for use on metallic surfaces.

Primers for and from epoxies are generally only used on porous surfaces and not needed on metallic surfaces.


* Epoxies (with or without solvents added for improved penetration). Epoxies have outstanding bonding to most surfaces and they form a non-porous surface. Epoxy coating are thus often considered self priming (although solvents are sometimes added to solvent free epoxies to improve penetration on porous surfaces, usually as a 'first coat' followed by a second coat of epoxy without the addition of any solvent). Porous surfaces include weathered fiberglass, wood, and concrete. Usually these epoxies are clear (they can be tinted). Colored primers and sealers are better in many cases as they provide a uniform color (which shows areas that still need more work/sanding etc) as well as providing a uniform base color when topcoating. Of course, if you are finishing in 'clear' then you don't want a pigmented primer.

In rare cases (under certain humidity and temperatures, traditional oil based alkyd enamels have problems with drying over epoxies. This is not very common, but happens from time to time. See our page . This does not happen with traditional oil based Spar Varnish and because most epoxies are clear (until they yellow in UV), varnish over clear epoxy is a long lasting, win-win combination. More on Varnish .

* Moisture cured urethanes. Used by contractors in areas that cannot have 'by the book surface preparation, because they have great bonding and lots of solvent to 'soak' into surfaces. Our Aluminum filled moisture cured urethane, Aluthane, is an amazing product. It technically is not just a primer, but an excellent coating all by itself. An off-label use is to add fillers / thickeners to it to make it a 'high build primer' over repair sites. This product has its own page
CLICK HERE . This has become my favorite sealer/undercoat with just about all products. Its silver color gives a nice uniform base color (which turns darker when the 'high points' are sanded).

* Phenalic based primers. Phenalic sort of means plastic. It is a solvent based (oil based primer in consumer lingo) but instead of just some sort of diluted enamel like paint, these one part primers contain phenalic resins and usually anti corrosive additives. They are the universal primers in the commercial world (but probably not as good a primer as the epoxy or our Aluthane moisture cured urethane, but more user friendly and it accepts latex topcoats better). They generally have a lot of solvents and may not be easy to find because of air quality / voc regulations.

* Other. On wood surfaces, I think solvent thinned Spar Varnish, which will penetrate a bit into the wood also makes a good primer sealer (this is just personal observation). Unlike other primer sealers it can be removed. Some folks treat all wood surfaces with varnish prior to painting them. That way, if one wants to later have / restore a wood finish they can sand off the paint. Because of the varnish under the paint, the paint doesn't penetrate into the pores of the wood. This means a lot less sanding.


SOLVENT FREE EPOXY PRIMERS - not really a primer, but other coatings do bond well to solvent free or low solvent epoxy coatings. For marine, boating, and commercial projects such as floors, epoxies are a common coating.

PENETRATING EPOXIES AND EPOXIES WITH SOLVENTS ADDED (GENERALLY THE SAME THING): Again, technically not a primer but rather a waterproofing coating. Despite what is written in the above it is not uncommon to find end users of modern solvent free epoxies to add some solvent (MEK, Acetone, xylene, etc.) into their epoxy coatings, especially on the first coat of a multi coat system. It is assumed that the solvents help the epoxy ‘soak' into the surface better, producing a better mechanical bond. The solvents also do other things: they thin the epoxy; they extend pot life, increase coverage (because the epoxy is thinner); let the epoxy flow off the brush or roller better (nicer). They also then to reduce the epoxies physical properties, especially hardness. It the "wood industries" such as boat building/repair and building restoration solvent thinned epoxies are often labeled "penetrating epoxies" and may contain up to 70% solvent. Such penetrating epoxies can either be purchased or home grown by adding solvent to a thin marine type epoxy.


 (note: Progressive Epoxy Polymers offers two of these, CM 15™ high build, low solvent epoxy mastic and/or topcoat, -- ESP 155™ (cannot be sold in Southern California) low solvent penetrating, cycloaliphatic, clear epoxy waterproofer). Cycloaliphatic resin is a good thing, and big step up from using ordinary, cheaper epoxy. This makes it 'professional grade' vs 'homeowner'.


Why ESP 155 epoxy sealer and primer is the BEST in its class:

1) Uses superior CYCLOALIPHATIC curing agents and epoxy ADDUCT formulation

2) solvent based for better penetration

3) moisture tolerant, very low viscosity

4) strong user support / feedback

5) 24/7 support



Some epoxies can react with alkyd (oil enamels) under certain conditions. (see The preventative / fix is a coat of aluthane. Aluthane is covered in the MCU section below.

epoxy primer, water based primer, oil based primer


patched and repaired surfaces.

gray color is the Aluthane - yellow and white are

what as under the aluthane and shows when the aluthane was sanded down.

ZINC PRIMERS: Zinc primers generally fall into two types, organic or inorganic. Inorganic zinc primers are often something like a layer of zinc plated to the surface while organic zincs are more typically represented by zinc dust in some sort of paint (epoxy, urethane, etc.). Inorganic zinc primers have been used for many years below the waterline on ships. There is still some uncertainty about using organic zinc primers below the waterline, although that is probably based more upon the coating it is combined with rather than anything related to the zinc itself. Inorganic zinc primers are probably more durable and perhaps more effective, but organic zinc primers may be easier to apply.

Zinc primers are corrosion fighters and are used on steel surfaces, often under epoxy. While epoxies prevent corrosion by forming a barrier surface stopping moisture and oxygen from reaching the steel, zinc layers resist corrosion chemically/electronically. Thus, a zinc primer under an epoxy topcoat creates a system that fights corrosion by two different mechanisms. We do not offer a zinc primer.

MIO BASED COATINGS: For over a hundred years paints containing MIO (micaceous iron oxide) have been used to fight corrosion. They are more common in Europe than in the USA. The Eiffel Tower in Paris is often cited as poster child for MIO based coatings. Like inorganic zinc, MIO can be added to several different coating products. It is basically a plate like iron based pigment. These plates stack up on top of each other forming an extremely tough, non porous, protective boundary that improve the barrier affect of the coating. As you might expect, most MIO primers have that ‘dark red/rust' color. We do not offer a MIO primer, but we do offer MIO powder additive (in our
fillers/mix in section).

MCU: Moisture cured urethanes (MCU) are one part urethanes that cure by taking moisture from the air. These solvent based coatings have a tremendous bond and are often used by contractors as a primer on surfaces that have not received ‘ideal' surface preparation. MCU coatings are available with zinc, aluminum, and MIO pigment providing the primer types mentioned above. I have personal experience with an MCU that used aluminum flake pigment that appears to work sort of like a hybrid between the zinc and MIO systems. It is classified as a metallic coating. This aluminum MCU (
Aluthane) is an amazing product (which we sell) that can be used as a primer or topcoat with an attractive ‘galvanized' look and amazing adhesion. It makes old boat trailers look showroom new. Note: latex paints don't go over aluthane nicely (like latex over oil based paints). Solvent based coatings (urethanes, enamels etc.) do cover aluthane nicely.

More about our Aluthane product: from personal experience I can say that it makes a great primer, bonding solidly to surfaces that other coatings will not. I personally like it on wood (really soaks in!) such as porches etc. It can be painted over with latex or enamel without problem (or left alone). What's really nice is that when sanded lightly it gets darker in color, so when used as a primer/sealer, a bit of sanding will show high (dark) spots and low (lighter) spots as you sand smooth the surface. It goes on quickly and easily and no mixing! - I add fillers to the aluthane to 'spot coat' areas where a high build primer that can be sanded is needed to 'fix' traces of nore serious repairs under it.

SOLVENT BASED ( 'OIL BASED PRIMERS' -- but "phenalic" - better than 'homeowner 'oil based) PRIMERS: phenalic based primers - better than the 'consumer oil based' primers, availability unknown.

INTERNAL CONCRETE SEALERS: Concrete slabs located on the surface or below grade can be extremely difficult to permanently coat, especially if they do not have a vapor barrier. Moisture and soluble mineral salts can travel through the porous concrete and wreck havoc with coatings. Existing moisture in the concrete, and perhaps any moisture migrating through the concrete can cause bonding failure or weakening, Worse yet, dissolved mineral salts will reform the crystal structure when the moisture is removed (evaporated etc.) and these growing crystals can exert 1500 pounds or more of pressure as they grow. Few coating systems can resist this kind of prying pressure.

There is a class of concrete sealers that reduce the porosity and permeability of concrete by sealing them internally, rather than by some sort of surface film or coating. These water based coatings literally soak into the concrete and as the water evaporates, forms tiny crystals inside the pore spaces of the concrete. The method is that of ‘clogging' up the concrete with the associated reduction of both porosity and permeability. It is the concrete equivalent of Gor Tex (tm) - a breathable, but water proof surface. We offer such a product called
Bio Vee Seal.

SOLUBLE (INSOLUBLE) SALT REMOVERS: Cutting edge research shows that salt ions form a special, hard to remove attachment to steel surfaces even after they have been sand (abrasive) blasted clean or even water jetted down to bare metal. These ions are hydrophilic and attract moisture which creates a tiny electric cell that forms a corrosion site and leads to premature coating failure. Special wash products are available that remove these invisible ‘soluble' salts. The problem can also be present on concrete, fiberglass and other surfaces. Visit our site at: for more information. WE DO NOT SELL A SALT REMOVER PRODUCT AT THIS TIME.

WATER-BASED EPOXIES: Water based floor epoxy systems for concrete surfaces are becoming more common and are now sold in the ‘Big Box' hardware superstores. Being water based they tend to ‘soak into' the concrete surface to some degree, thus resulting in an outstanding mechanical bond and few coating failures for ‘Do It Yourselfer' coating their garages and basements. While these coatings are ‘stand alone' for light traffic situations, commercial users are beginning to see these ‘thin' water based floor coatings as ideal primers under more traditional, often solvent free, industrial grade floor epoxies. Our med gray water based floor epoxy is called
Water Bond.


Below are listed some application surfaces with comments about each regarding coating them with a solvent free epoxy.

epoxy primer, oil based primer, water based primer

Aluthane Primer

METAL SURFACES: Usually metal surfaces (except maybe aluminum) are simply sandblasted etc. and the coated with epoxy paint, in other words, no primer. But, options include:

1) a Moisture Cured Urethane (MCU) is often used as a primer. We offer an aluminum filled MCU (Aluthane) as both a primer (for lots of surfaces) as well as an attractive topcoat

2) MIO (micaceous iron oxide) - a common (in Europe) paint or epoxy additive. It is the common 'dark red primer' color seen in a lot of anti rust or primer products. We do sell MIO powder.

3) zinc based primers (we don't carry any of these) - provides 'electrical' protection (vs. a mechanical barrier of regular epoxy)

4) salt removers - (we don't carry them) removes unseen, damaging salt ions on the metallic surface

FIBERGLASS SURFACES: Mixed reviews here. New fiberglass does not need priming (according to many sources). However, there are many cases where I personally think it would benefit by improving the bonding. One is on old and/or weathered fiberglass. Time, water, chemicals, and sunlight certainly negatively affect and weaken the fiberglass surface. Priming consolidates that weakened surface. Secondly, I suspect that dust and dirt from sanding gets ground into the hull and doesn't completely get removed with a hose and/or solvent wipe-down. This sanding dust is not what you want your epoxy to bond with. Primers probably soak in and around these dust particles, mitigating their negative impact. I don't think I would use a primer over a painted fiberglass surface or a sanded one that still has a lot of the old paint remaining upon it. The solvents could weaken or react with the old paint (but probably not). However, they will not 'soak' into a painted surface well enough to provide an 'enhanced' bonding surface. Options:

1) solvent thinned epoxy - add solvent to your favorite solvent free epoxy or purchase one already solvent thinned (like our ESP 155) This product is a Progressive Epoxy Polymers, Inc. best selling, favorite product. Visit our FAVORITES - 7 EPOXIES THAT WILL FIX ANYTHING  web page at: View other popular one-of-a-kind products.

2) a Moisture Cured Urethane (MCU) is often used as a primer. We offer an aluminum filled MCU (Aluthane) as both a primer (for lots of surfaces) as well as an attractive topcoat.  This product is a Progressive Epoxy Polymers, Inc. best selling, favorite product. Visit our FAVORITES - 7 EPOXIES THAT WILL FIX ANYTHING  web page at: View other popular one-of-a-kind products.

CEMENT/GUNITE SURFACES: Mostly floors/slabs, swimming pools and commercial structures. Concrete is a porous surface. In worst cases the cement is weak and crumbling (pool chemical damaged gunite is a good example). Coatings will bond to it, but then peel off usually taking the top layer of sand grains with it. Solvent thinned epoxy or similar primers, will 'soak' into the cement, firming up the weaken surface of the cement.

Moisture in and traveling through the concrete can also cause coating failure. Primers are not just used on old, weathered, or 'sandy' cement to improve the bonding, but also to reduce 'outgassing' which is the air inside the cement that is sometimes released (such as when the temperature is rising). The released air can form bubbles and craters in the hardening epoxy. On cement garage floors, some contractors always put down a primer layer (either a water based floor epoxy or a solvent thinned epoxy coat), but many do not. It is possible (I don't really know) that a primer coat will help 'seal up' problem areas that have been degreased (note degreased areas sometimes seem to still have adhesion problems).

Our water based Water Bond is a good primer option (found at Some professional applicators use water based primers, some use solvent based primers. A second option is our solvent thinned ESP 155 epoxy or adding your own solvent to our Low V clear epoxy. Finally, you can add solvent to the first coat of our Industrial floor epoxy (say 10 to 15% solvent). The primer coat should be applied thin. If using the Low V epoxy thin with about 24 oz of solvent (xylene) per 1.5 gallon unit of the Low V epoxy. Low V epoxy is found in the of our catalog.

Our aluminum filled moisture cured urethane (aluthane) also makes a good concrete sealer and can be left to itself to provide a nice 'light gray/silver' floor coating.

Industry trade magazine articles I've read seem to suggest that on concrete a water based epoxy primer might be best because of its possible ability to 'bind' water/mineral solutions and soluble mineral salts found in the concrete. These minerals can cause problems in the future by attracting moisture and causing 'ionic' concentrated 'cells'.


1) solvent or water based epoxies (solvents help the epoxy to 'soak' into the cement, firming up the weak surface). They also help seal the concrete reducing outgassing bubbles in the epoxy topcoat.

2) our Bio Vee Seal is not really a primer, but a product that reduces the 'bad news' moisture migration through the cement that can cause bond failure (and musty smelling basements)

3) aluthane - mentioned above.

WOOD SURFACES: Primers are suggested for wood because wood expands and contracts with moisture, while surface coatings expand and contract with temperature. Keeping the coating and the wood together requires a very good bond and 'penetrating' primers help achieve that. Also, the wood may contain a lot of moisture and/or rot (i.e. old window sills, etc.), Primers will provide a dry, sold surface for the epoxy or non-epoxy topcoat to stick to. Personally I have found that the Aluthane bonded to old RR ties and a porch deck when nothing would. For plywood (to reduce checking and seal the edges) I would use a solvent thinned epoxy (clear) or aluthane (which is light gray).


Using Aluthane (aluminum filled) Moisture Cured Urethane

as a Primer on vinyl and wood

aluthane mcu













Above - Old, dirty self stick vinyl floor tiles in work shop (light color on bottom) covered with

new "woody" self stick vinyl  floor tiles after a primer coat of Aluthane over the old vinyl tiles


aluminum paint













Aluthane aluminum paint / sealer works on plywood panels too!-

above - side panels of mini tear-drop trailer

below - trailer being assembled

trailer painted with aluthane













This product is a Progressive Epoxy Polymers, Inc. best selling, favorite product. Visit our FAVORITES - 7 EPOXIES THAT WILL FIX ANYTHING  web page at: View other popular one-of-a-kind products.

need to learn more about epoxies??

--- visit these third party sites ---

Two Part Epoxy Product Groups:

(EVERYTHING-EPOXY.INFO  ---  Intro to basic epoxy resin types)

also visit the EPOXY GURU


Misc. Notes - Comments

There seems to be two completely different worlds when it comes to primers, the 'consumer' world and the 'industrial' world. In the consumer marketplace primers are either oil based or water based. That's it. The real world of primers in much more complex and if you're really interested in coatings you need to skip the nearly useless world of consumer primers and become knowledgeable 'industrial' primers.

SPECIAL NOTE: solvent free epoxies (0% VOC) are generally considered to be self priming, (no primers needed). However, without solvents, there bond is strictly a surface event so dust, weathering, very dry surfaces (such as repaint putties) etc. can provide a less than perfect surface for them to bond with. A solvent based epoxy primer, with the solvents penetrating the surface a little bit, can provide a better, well bonded, fresh, epoxy surface for a solvent free epoxy to adhere to.

NOTE: --- Professional painters and other experts seem to ALWAYS use a primer on everything they do. More and more, I am tending to see the value in this approach.........

Products classified as 'primers' may have different acceptable levels of solvents in them, compared to 'waterproofing coatings', varnishes, etc. under local and regional air quality regulations. So similar products may have different names or classifications.


Penetrating epoxies -

What can go wrong with epoxy floors -

Treating pinholes (air bubbles) in epoxy coatings -

Treating rot -

Competitor's penetrating epoxy solvent list -

Sealing wood (tests) -

Zinc Primers -

Using copper powder in epoxies -


Inside Our non-marine, commercial, DIY Catalog:


corro coat FC 2100; water gard 300; CM 15; crack coat™; liqua tile 1172 potable water; water prime

Find Corro Coat FC 2100 and Water Gard 300  epoxy in our Best Selling - fix anything Catalog

Section B FLOOR EPOXIES (regular and non-skid products), SEALERS, ACCESSORIES

water bond (water based); industrial floor epoxy; bio vee seal; walnut shell; rough coat grit filled epoxy floor paint; epoxy clear top resi


wet/dry 700; splash zone A-788, epoxy cream; splash zone a-788

Find Wet Dry 700 epoxy in our Best Selling - fix anything Catalog


low V epoxy; basic no blush; ESP 155; Bio-Clear 810; epoxy clear top resin

Find Low V, Basic No Blush, and ES 155 epoxy in our Best Selling - fix anything Catalog


Aluthane moisture cured urethane; Acrylic Poly UV Plus and other 2 part polys ; Capt. Tolley's creeping crack sealer; india spar varnish;

Find Aluthane in our Best Selling - fix anything Catalog


fumed silica; fiber fill; micro balloons/micro-spheres; graphite;  wood flour; EZ thick, rock flour;


water activated pipe wrap; TA 661 solvent-free epoxy brush cleaner; fiberglass tape/cloth



short nap epoxy rollers; epoxy/stone deck resurfacing roller; 1 inch foam brushes; 2 inch bristle brushes; tongue depressors

Questions? / Phone order? / EMAIL / CALL 603-435-7199 EST /  BUY ONLINE

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NOTICE: Legal notices, Terms of Service, warranty information, disclaimers, health warnings, etc. are required reading before using web site, ordering and/or using Products. Any such use and/or ordering, online or by telephone, shall constitute acceptance and knowledge of all such terms. CLICK HERE  to access these terms. Please note: Whenever you purchase from this web site, and with each new purchase, you are granting us full and complete permission to add you to our email newsletter list at our option. RETURNS: call or email for authorization to return. Returns are subject to a 25% restock fee. Customer pays return shipping and must comply with federal DOT shipping requirement/labeling for hazmat epoxies under penalty of fines and legal action.

Progressive Epoxy Polymers, Inc.  Pittsfield, NH 03263  - 603-435-7199 - email



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