Primer Not Sticking To Wood- Possible Ways To Find Your Way Around It!

“I recently bought a raw wooden top from a local dealer. I planned on doing the paint job myself as I wanted to have firsthand experience and see how I did!

Things didn’t really go on my first try.

The paint I’ve applied doesn’t seem to stick. 

What can I do to fix this?”

You see, painting a surface is not as easy as you would expect.

So, we took it upon ourselves to address this issue while keeping the problem of primer not sticking to wood as the centerpiece.

With that said, we believe it’s time to know why the primer is not sticking and what to do if the primer is not sticking

Primer not sticking to wood: What people don’t get?

There are a couple of important things that regular folks don’t pay attention to. Although these are easy things to remember, you don’t always see people applying them accordingly.

Not preparing the surface: cleaning and sanding

Surface preparation is the first thing most people overlook. But, unfortunately, it’s the very first thing that you, as a DIY aficionado, should be doing.

Cleaning and sanding the surface is the first thing you should do in order to let the primer stick to the surface.

If the smaller particles are not cleaned off, then you may need to work extra hard on sanding the surface.

And surface sanding is the prerequisite for perfection. As you move to apply your first coat of paint and notice inaccuracies, then the problem is probably the sanding not getting done properly.

Surface identification: Difference in texture

If sanding the surface is the prerequisite, then surface identification is the first major consideration to take into account.

Surely, if you do the sanding properly on any surface, the primer and paint will probably stick to it just fine.

But different surfaces have different textures.

For instance, a wooden surface would be grainier and rougher than a steel surface. So, it’s evident that you would need sandpaper of a higher grade to treat wood (wood is the hero of this discussion, by the way).

Using cheap primers and paint: The obvious issues

People always try to cut corners when using paint and primers.

You should not do this, especially if you’re completing a customer order.

One of the many problems you will face is an uneven paint job, which is something no one would want. And let’s face it, you would never put your respect on the line by using cheap products.

That doesn’t feel right, does it!

Priming wood for a proper paint job: The professional approach

Here comes the crucial question: what to do when paint won’t stick to wood? No matter what people say, putting on the primer properly is what makes the difference between a noob and a pro. That’s just how it is.

But, as we mentioned earlier, the proper job requires handling the details to perfection. And that’s what we will be trying to teach you now.

Now be mindful of one thing.

We’re not wizards. And nor is it possible to make things happen the right way by just reading something online.

Your efforts are what will make all the difference.

Step zero: Clean the wooden surface

Take a cloth and rub the wooden surface with some good sweeps from end to end. Make sure there are no dust particles or any sort of foreign residue on the wood paneling.

In short, you need to nail this cleaning process to the best of your abilities. You may use warm water to make sure the surface is clean all the way.

Step one: Sand the wooden surface

The sanding provides a holding ground for the primer. It simply helps the primer and paint stick to the surface.

We would recommend that you use 220-grit sandpaper for this task. Although it may seem like overkill, it will offer decent results overall.

But you could probably get away with a 180-grit option as well.

Step two: Add the first coat of primer to the wooden surface

You are now ready to add the first coat of primer. A small tip here is to make sure that every inch of the surface gets an even coating and a wood filler.

It’s probably not hard to justify it. All you need is a good look at the surface.

Step three: Sand it again

You’ll need to sand the surface again with 220-grit sandpaper before applying wall paint.

The reason behind this is the unevenness of the primed surface. The sanding should even things out.

Do make sure that the entire surface gets proper treatment.

Step four: Give it a final clean

After step three, you need to clean and trim the surface with a tack cloth or a brush. The exterior should now have a good grab to it.

Now, you are ready to apply water-based paint to the wood. This is how to get primer to stick to wood.

Wood surface priming: Why is it necessary?

There are two important benefits of wood surface priming.

First of all, priming gives the surface a good hold. It’s also what eliminates minor imperfections on the surface.

The second and probably the most important benefit is the grab that primers offer. Once primed, the surface can hold on to the applied paint better overall.

How to paint furniture without sanding

No one really likes anything about sanding. This is one of the least favorite works of any professional furniture painter. Sanding is time-consuming, messy, and mindless work. 

So, we are here with five ways to paint laminate furniture without sanding. Here they are:

  1. Use a chalk paint

Chalk paint is hands-down the most popular and common way to paint anything without sanding. You can paint almost anything in this way.

The extensive mass appeal of this paint is not only the no-prep promise but the gorgeous matte finish.

As we know it today, the cornerstone of the furniture painting industry is chalky paints.

Since the popularity of the chalky paints of Annie Sloan, there has been a rise in the brands of chalky paints in the market.

  1. Use a mineral paint

Mineral paints don’t require any prep or prime, just like the chalk style paints. These paints will stick to almost anything. 

You can choose mineral paints from brands like Fusion. These paints are durable, stain proof, waterproof, and don’t even require a topcoat.

  1. Use milk paint and bonding agent

A bonding agent works as a primer, and it’s a milky substance. It helps the milk paint to adhere to your project. The grip is impressive, and it is easy enough to operate. 

You should mix mixed milk paint with an equal part bonding agent. You will only need a bonding agent for the first coat.

  1. Use a bonding primer

If you use a good-quality bonding primer, you will not have to do the sanding. The paint will stick to glossy surfaces like metal, tile, and glass.

These primers are popular because of their impressive bonding power.

This bonding primer will do stain blockage, odor, and adhesion. They cost a little more. So to avoid sanding, you should use a good quality bonding wood primer.

  1. Use a liquid sander/Deglosser

It is the least known technique to avoid sanding furniture. When you apply the liquid sander or Deglosser to any surface, a chemical reaction happens. Because of the reaction, the furniture will grip onto the paint you apply. 

Use liquid sander in a well-ventilated area as it creates a bit of smell. You can easily apply this with a brush and wipe to mix it with the surface.


  • Why is the primer not sticking to plastic?

Plastic is not porous, and it is a tricky substance to paint on. Unlike wood, plastic does not have much stickiness.

However, you can successfully paint plastic with the proper preparation. 

  • What is the reason behind the primer not sticking to metal?

Though the metal feels and looks clean, the spray primer might not stick because there is rust, dirt, or oil in the metal. They prevent the paint from sticking to the surface. 

Never use water to clean the dirty metal. You should try acetone. In this way, the metal primer will stick to the metal effectively. 

  • Why is my satin paint not sticking?

On the glossy surface, satin paint or latex paint does not stick. Use a cleaner and rinse the dirt or buildups before applying paint, sand rough spots and wipe them away. 

Carefully remove the paints to paint wood if the old paint was oil-based paint. So remove the painted wood properly.

  • Why is the primer not sticking to the wall?

The most common reason for paints not sticking to the surface is drywalling. To make the spray paint adhere to the wall, clean the wall with a non-oil-based cleaner. You can also wipe with a wet cloth also.

  • Why is the paint not sticking? 

There can be various reasons behind the failure of adhesion to bare wood, exterior wood, or wood panel.

You have to look for any stained wood, varnished wood, dirt, tobacco residue, mold/mildew, cooking fume residue on the surface. Remove these substances before painting wood to have a proper acrylic paint adhesion.

  • Why is my paint beading up?

Beading of oil painting medium or oil paint upon a glossy, hard, dry surface is not unexpected. The beading happens due to the surface tension.

The same principle applies to the drops of water beading on the surface of a shiny vehicle. 

Closing Remarks

Although we only talked about the primer not sticking to wood, the steps to avoid it are pretty much the same for the various surfaces. There may be a few minor changes here and there.

We tried our very best to give you the right information, just the way you may want it.

And that’s all there is to it. See you next time.