Generally speaking , you can use either water based or oil based paint primers when you are giving a face-lift to your house . Latex or water solvent paint is ideal for painting the interior surfaces of your house. On the slip side, oil solvent paint is excellent on external cold and wet surfaces.
It’s important that the primer is done well because it will determine how well the under coat and finishing will hold onto the surface ,which in turn will affect the overall durability of the paint work. To pull off a great work, experts recommend deploying specific primers on specific surfaces in the build environment. And these can either be Timber, Plaster and masonry, ferrous metals and or non-ferrous metal surfaces.
Wood surfaces required oil based paint that contains titanium oxide .This is because it has the ability to penetrate deeply on wooden surfaces. And for resinous woods and to seal aged bitumen coated surfaces you are strongly advised to use aluminium wood primer paints.
Ferrous metal surfaces requires protection against corrosion and rust .For this reason it is recommended to use oil based primers that incorporate Zinc or lead rich compounds .This will arrest effectively the corrosion and rust caused by action of air on these surfaces such steel railings. Also the low volatile organic compounds(VOC) paint coating can be used against corrosion of structural steelworks as pre-fabrication or post -fabrication primers. Lastly acrylated rubber primmer paints can also be used as a substitute to the above and works by forming a physical barrier over steel .
Non-ferrous metal surfaces especially Aluminium requires Zinc phosphate or Acrylated (read synthetic) rubber. On the other hand Acrylic metal primer is a quick drying water based primer that is recommended for use on Copper, Lead, and Brass surfaces.
The application of primers suitable for ferrous metal surfaces may cause increased corrosion of nonferrous metal surfaces especially aluminium. Hence care and foresight must be exercised in choice of building materials in order to pre-emptively avoid such problems.
Latex or water solvent based primers are excellent with Plaster and masonry surfaces. These surfaces such as new plaster, brickwork or concrete are likely to be alkali .Expert recommend Latex paint for these surfaces because it can withstand the effects of alkali surfaces.
Sources: Materials for Architects and Builders by Arthur Lyons-PhD.