I'm painting some walls in an old home that needs a fresh coat of primer/paint. The house has been sitting a while so it has some general odors that I'm thinking a simple coat of paint will help cover up. I used Zinsser BIN in the 1st floor where it had some water stains, but the 2nd floor has regular walls that just need a fresh coat.

The walls are plaster but are in good shape overall. I did some skim coating/compound repairs where needed and would like to get a fresh coat on top now.

The place hasn't been lived in for a while so it just has that old smell of a house that's been closed up for a while. Guessing a coat of paint and having the floors sanded and the odor I am talking about will be gone.

Is something like Zinnser Bullseye 1-2-3 or Kilz an ideal primer for general priming to give a good base coat for paint, and possibly help block any lingering odors? There are so many different options out there, so I'm just looking for some possible options that have worked for you all so I can see what's available local and get the job finished up.

  • 1
    "Regular walls" isn't really a useful description. What type of paint is on them? Does the product you mentioned claim compatibility with it? That's where your answer lives.
    – isherwood
    Oct 4, 2022 at 13:49
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    Rent an ozone generator or hire a remediation company to bring one or several and kill those odors as best you can before trying to cover them with paint...
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 4, 2022 at 13:52
  • Water stains might lead to a possibility of mold(odours) inside the walls. Giving the walls a good cleaning is first prep for a good paint job. If not trying to hide stuff, almost any primer matched for your paint should do.
    – crip659
    Oct 4, 2022 at 13:52
  • From the above comments it's clear the answer may be simple but we need more details about your situation: what kind of odour? grime & grease? are you washing the walls? old or new water damage? brick or drywall? any cracks repairs / filling needed? Type of paint intended? I think you'll then get a decent answer.
    – P2000
    Oct 4, 2022 at 13:56
  • These walls were previously painted older plaster walls. I did skim coat/compound patch work and they are now ready for a fresh top coat. I found a few old cans of Cover Stain Zinnser primer so I'm assuming that is what the last coat is on the walls. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a bit "old" smelling since this 2nd floor apartment has sat empty for quite some time. Wood floors, no rugs, just walls and baseboard surfaces that will be next to be painted and refinished.
    – RocketManZ
    Oct 4, 2022 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


Having renovated many homes for investment, I have found the easiest and quickest paint solution over tired paint with no stains is a paint with built in primer. It sounds like a marketing hoax, but in real world use, this type of paint does the job. In most cases in one coat, making it economical in time and material. I have found in many homes with odors, the smells are coming from the floors, especially carpets. Something to consider if you paint and the odors remain. Good Luck

  • Good point. In this case the apartment has just sat empty for a while so it has that stuffy scent to it. I have also had great luck with the higher end built in primer products, and only needing 1 coat. What paint have you had luck with? I have used most of the higher end Benjamin Moore products, (Aura, Regal, Etc) and I tried the the Behr Marquee paint on one project and it did decent. I've also used Sherwin Williams stuff but I don't recall which since it was only one project a while ago. All performed well I would say overall.
    – RocketManZ
    Oct 4, 2022 at 14:05
  • In this case though I figure I may as well use a more specialized primer since I'm planning to do any final compound touch ups after they show through when there is a nice fresh white coat of primer on top. So I'm planning to do a separate top coat of paint in this situation.
    – RocketManZ
    Oct 4, 2022 at 14:05
  • 1
    I have used the Behr many times, but also SW and Ben Moore. I actually have had better results in one coat with the Behr. Currently renovating a home that has the worst smells ever! When first purchased, we could not be in the home without a face cover, and then only about 5 minutes. Much better now after airing out and removing everything not permanently attached. Using the Behr with primer on that one.
    – RMDman
    Oct 4, 2022 at 14:18
  • Good to hear the smell went away, and you've had luck with the Behr product too. Best part is that Home Depot is open late and I'm sometimes there so I don't need to make a special trip for paint. I may give their paint a try again soon.
    – RocketManZ
    Oct 4, 2022 at 15:16

Use a primer/sealer and make sure it is made for previously painted surfaces. Not all primers are the same. Some are made specifically for raw drywall. Your local paint store can recommend a quality primer for the application.

I've been a painter for years and have successfully used Zinnser Bullseye 1-2-3 for this application. I actually just finished a remodel for a local Police Academy and we used Bullseye 1-2-3 and everything turned out great. We have also used Rodda Scotseal in the past with great success. The Scotseal is a heavy bodied paint which covers dark colors well, works on raw drywall patches and previously painted surfaces.

Zinnser also makes an Odor Blocking primer which you might look into.

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