Guide for Choosing the Best Bonding Primer for Kitchen Cabinet


Bonding primer is what you use in order to make the finish of your paint really stick on your kitchen cabinets. It's quite challenging to pick such a primer if you're a do-it-yourself homeowner instead of a professional home painter with experience regarding this particular topic. With that in mind, what's the best bonding primer for kitchen cabinet? Keep on reading to find out.

KILZ L211101 Adhesion High

KILZ L211101 Adhesion High - image via amazon

When looking for the best bonding primer for kitchen cabinets, there are more than a couple of things you should definitely remember-first, the different types of primer and second, their most important benefits. 

Types of Primer 

First off, here are the multiple types of primers out there that you can use for your kitchen cabinet painting needs.

1) Stain-Blocking Primer 

Obviously, this primer type blocks stains. The problem with stains is that they tend to bleed through paint, especially the white or light-colored variety of paint used on your kitchen cabinets and furniture. These stain "leaks" can also happen on tabletops and dressers, specifically water stains and water rings from spills or wet glasses of water you've left sit on them for too long.

You can also end up needing this primer when dealing with unfinished or bare wood that you haven't varnished. The primer is good in dealing with noticeable knots on cabinet doors and other similar unvarnished furniture. It's also handy when dealing with children's scrawls on your wall that you wish to paint over from the primer coat onwards.

2) Oil-Based Primer 

Oil-based primers are characterized by their pungent odor compared to their stain-blocking counterparts. You should avoid using these primers indoors with closed windows. The smell will remain for quite a long time. They're also quite challenging to clean up compared to water-based primers.

You'll need mineral spirits or paint thinners in order to remove a mistakenly painted primer coat. However, they make up for these flaws with their durability, ability to block stains, and tannin bleed. They're also quite easy to sand down compared to other primer types. We recommend the Zinsser Cover Stain as the best oil-based primer for furniture painting.

3) Shellac-Based Primer

If you wish to get a transparent and white surface on your kitchen cabinet surfaces, then pigmented shellac primers will provide you with just that. Furthermore, rather than being stinky like oil-based primers, you can use this primer type to cover up various stains and odors. It's been around for ages and leaves a nice finish when you sand it down.

Cleanup is a breeze too. It's not as easy to clean as water-based primers but it does work with mixture of water and denatured alcohol. It's certainly safer and easier to clean up compared to using similarly nauseating paint thinners or mineral spirits. It's an excellent primer for bleeding wood as furniture primer.

4) Alcohol-Based Primers 

Shellac-based primers are also known as alcohol-based primers because it's made by dissolving the extract of the Lac Beetle (the shellac part) with alcohol. There are also synthetic shellac variants out there as well. It's also for this reason that it can be cleaned up with watered-down denatured alcohol. Therefore, let's discuss more about what you can get from shellac here.

One of the benefits of shellac-based primer is that there's natural wax included in shellac such as Zinnser Bullseye Shellac. The main flaw of shellac roots from its waxy nature. Adhesion problems are common-place with shellac primers due to the wax, leading to paint flaking from the topcoat finish over time. You can get clear shellac like Zinnser Seal Coat Shellac because it's been dewaxed.

5) Water-Based Primer 

Water-based acrylic primer doesn't stink like oil-based primer or even pigmented shellac (due to it being partly alcohol-based). It's also quicker to dry and use, like painting with water colors. Alas, in terms of longevity both oil-based and shellac-based primers outdo water-based in every single way.

For example, you can't depend on it for stain blockage. Furthermore, even those that claim to block stains don't do as good of a job of it as their oil-based or shellac-based counterparts. Moreover, many of them aren't suited for sanding, which makes a big difference when it comes to painting your cabinets and keeping the color even and free of lumps.

6) Hybrid Primers 

The main claim to fame of hybrid primers is that when you mix two primer types together it's possible to get the best of both worlds without suffering from their flaws. At least in theory, that's their main reason for being. With that said, are hybrid primers a good alternative to oil-based primers? Some hybrid primers are formulated to not only be an oil-based primer alternative.

In some aspects, they can even be better than latex paint primers. Their benefits include not smelling as bad as oil-based paint, being easy to sand, and their ability to lay down nicely on any surface, especially your kitchen cabinet. However, they do have flaws like not being able to fill the grain as well as oil-based primers could, particularly on oak surfaces. They're also not good with stains and tannin bleed.

Primer Benefits to Keep in Mind 

When making your own a shortlist of quality primers, here are their qualities that you need to keep in mind. Look out for these benefits when shopping for all the right primers for your kitchen cabinet painting requirements.

Odor Blockage: You know you have a quality primer if it's capable of blocking Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and odor. Naturally, oil-based primers don't belong in this benefit category since they tend to stink up your place rather than block any smells. You want a primer that blocks odor instead of adds more smelliness.

Dealing with Stains: A good primer should be able to deal with stains. In a perfect world, all the surfaces we paint would come in stainless. However, water damage, rust, smoke, nicotine, grease, and tannin stains are the reality. Something like INSL-X Prime Lock can readily deal with such nuisances.

Adhesion to Different Surfaces: Check the specs and the Amazon reviews of the primer you're putting on your shortlist. They should contain which surfaces they work best on. In regards to KILZ L211101, it works excellently with woodwork, plaster, glass, ceramic tiles, masonry, painted metal, brick, and so forth.

Dealing with Oak Surfaces: It's especially tricky to deal with oak surfaces, such that many homeowners bite the bullet and use oil-based paint anyway to deal with filling in the grain. There are non-oil-based primers out there that can renovate different old oak vanities though, such as the INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix Acrylic Primer.

Quick Drying: Another issue with oil-based primer aside from smell that makes it tough to deal with despite its amazing results is the fact that it takes so long to dry. Therefore, if you can get a hybrid primer that quickly dries to the touch within 30 minutes and allow recoating within an hour, then that's a quality primer right there.

Oil-Based Primer Level Durability: Another benefit you can get from quality primers is shellac-based or oil-based durability from hybrid-based or latex primers. Overcoming the weaknesses of those two popular primers in terms of odor while retaining their durability is a must. There are a number of synthetic and hybrid primers you can use to get oil-based longevity out of your paint but without the smell.

Best Bonding Primer for Kitchen Cabinet Reviews

Here are the best bonding primers we could find on the market. The reviews will reveal why we picked them and what they have to bring to the table in terms of bonding primer benefits for your kitchen cabinets. These 1-gallon primers can coat from 300 to 400 feet of surface area per gallon, take note.

KILZ L211101 Adhesion High

This is our Editor's Pick. They myriad of reasons why can be seen by its name. It's a high-bonding interior latex primer that doubles as a sealer. Adhesion is its main claim to fame. You can buy a gallon of this primer at a neutral color like white for a relatively affordable price as well.

Among the latex primers we've tried out, it stood out in terms of quality and fulfilling its promises on its specs or copy. It's the real deal. It quickly dries in 30 minutes and it can be applied using sprayers, rollers, and brushes.

Furthermore, it's the sealer and primer you can depend on to make sure that your finish or topcoats stick to surfaces that are tough to paint, like freshly made oak kitchen cabinets that you've sanded thoroughly but is still filled with grain when push comes to shove.

The KILZ L211101 gained its high ratings from almost 1,000 reviewers on Amazon mostly because of its topnotch adherence properties. It's specially formulated to resist ballooning, cracking, and water retention. Is it any wonder that KILZ was named by Harris Poll EquiTrend Rankings as Paint Brand of the Year in 2015?

A wide range of surfaces and materials used on cabinets at your kitchen are covered by the KILZ L211101 gallon of white primer paint. This unique latex primer by KILZ really is killing it when it comes to finding ways to secure itself on the slickest of surfaces. It's like duct tape with the way it sticks to various furniture and fixtures in your home.

It specifically bonds with wood, metals, fiberglass, glossy finishes, chalky paints, glazed brick, glass, vinyl, Formica, PVC, and Kynar. You can use paints that are oil-based or latex to top coat it as well.

INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix Acrylic Waterborne Bonding Primer

This is the Second Best Product on this list. If you can't get your hands on a KILZ L211101, then the INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix Acrylic Primer will more than suffice. It's not as effective a sealer as KILZ L211101, but the INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix makes up for this by being one of the best waterborne or water-based bonding primers on the market that overcomes many of the stigmas of water-based primers. It also still doubles as a decent sealer in its own right. Its VOC is also low compared to latex paints.

More to the point, it's a bonding primer made of an acrylic-urethane mix boasting premium quality. This means you can depend on it serving as a primer for surfaces such as galvanized metals, PVC, fiberglass, plastic, pre-coated siding, vinyl, glossy paint, plastic, glazed block, and outright glass.

There's no question that it's a more than exceptional waterborne paint for your kitchen cabinets and walls in order to have a solid foundation for that eventual finish. Versatility on various challenging surfaces is this paint's strong suit. Anything that's hard to coat this paint definitely coats.

In many ways, it's a defiant primer outdone only by one other paint (KILZ L211101). Moreover, it serves as a great primer for acoustical tile, plaster, wood, drywall, ceiling, doors, wood trim, ceramic tiles, masonry walls or masonry in general, shutters, stucco, cement blocks, concrete, aluminum, and so forth.

Therefore, using this to paint your kitchen cabinets is but a cakewalk with this particularly high-quality water-based paint whose mistakes you can easily clean up with soap and water (the same way thinner is used to remove oil-based paints). Painters love it because it only needs around 35°F to cure and can be recoated within 3-4 hours.


There are many brands to choose from when it comes to bonding primers. The best ones for your kitchen cabinet are those that stick well on the surface and can give you a consistent coat so that the finish won't look caked-on or filled with lumps.

There are many varieties to choose from, such as water-based, oil-based, or latex. Oak cabinets benefit the most from oil-based primers because of their ability to fill in the grain compared to other primer types.

The ones that you should keep an eye on are KILZ L211101 Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer/Sealer and INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix Acrylic Primer. KILZ L211101 is higher-rated because it's latex and it's quite the long-lasting primer. Meanwhile, INSL-X SXA11009A-01 Stix has the same ratings as KILZ (although fewer people were rating it) because it's pretty impressive for a water-based primer and it cleans up easily in case of mistakes with soap and water after being freshly applied.