I have re-habbed many homes in my time and have tried a other primers. If you want to cover stains, I strongly recommend Zinsser BIN Primer. It covers water stains and dark paints better than the others. I have not had an opportunity to use Zinsser BIN Primer to cover smells, but I have been told that it works for that too.
A few years back, I decided to save a few dollars and by the store's brand primer. I was covering my daughter's bedroom walls where I had gone a little crazy with hand painted designs. The smell was what you would expect for a primer, but that noxious smell lasted for over a month. We had to move my daughter out of her room to the spare foom for about four months, until the smell dissipated to an acceptable level. Then after all that, those crazy hand painted designs still showed through until I put three coats of eggshell on the walls. So much for saving money! Buy the way, we could smell a hint of that noxious store brand primer for almost a year.
Since then, I have gone back to using Zinnser. Most recently I repainted the wains-coat on my office walls back to white from a dark blue. I used one coat of primer and one coat of paint. It looks great. I used a roller then brush stoked it smooth. I've found that for better coverage, use a roller. Use disposable liners, rollers and brushes for easier cleanup.
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