Discovering peeling paint inside your home or on your exterior can be disheartening. Paint peels for many reasons from using the wrong kind of paint to not preparing the surface properly before painting. Luckily, it can be fixed!
Keep reading to learn more about the causes of peeling paint and how you can prevent it from happening.
What Causes Peeling Paint?
Before walls or other surfaces are painted, they need to be properly cleaned. This takes off any dirt, grease, or stains that may be lingering on the surface. If these are left behind, it can often cause the paint to not properly adhere to the surface. This can cause cracks in the paint later on.
Moisture is another leading cause of peeling paint. This often happens in areas of your home with high humidity levels, such as the bathroom, utility room, or kitchen. Water will get underneath the paint and cause it to crack. Moisture can also cause problems with your home’s exterior paint if you live in a humid, subtropical climate.
Layering Incompatible Paints
When layering paint, it’s important to use paints that have the same base. Using oil-based paint over latex paint, or vice versa will likely cause the new topcoat to dry improperly and eventually peel.
Oftentimes, painting over new wood will result in peeling paint over time as the wood dries out. You may experience this problem with painting a new deck or fencing. Even if the wood is dry to the touch, it can contain moisture that will prevent the paint from bonding if not properly cured or treated.
Poor Quality Paint or Expired Paint
Fun fact – paint does expire! After so long, the paint particles will separate in the can and lose their quality. After the paint reaches its use-by date, it’s a good idea to dispose of it instead of keeping it around the garage for a later project.
New paint can also peel eventually if it’s of low quality. It’s best to ask a professional painter what their opinion is on the best brands and types of paint to use to prevent peeling paint in the future.
Paint won’t adhere correctly in extreme temperatures below 50 degrees or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal temperature to paint in is between 60 and 80 degrees.
UV rays are known to damage paint and cause flaking and peeling. This is a common problem for walls, fences, or surfaces repeatedly exposed to the sun. Often, the sun will cause the surface to get very hot, which can make blisters in the paint. Blisters will eventually begin to peel in most cases.
Age of the Paint
Sometimes, peeling paint happens at no error to the applicator. The most simple cause is the age of the paint job. Eventually, almost all paint needs updating, regardless of what type of paint was used.
How to Fix Peeling Interior Paint
1. Prepare the Space
Put down drop cloths or newspaper to protect the floors or surrounding furniture. Tape off trim and baseboards in the nearby area. For your personal safety, make sure to wear a mask, gloves and safety glasses.
If you have an older home (built before 1978), make sure to test the area for lead before stripping or sanding it to make sure it doesn’t need professional attention.
2. Remove the Peeling Paint
Using a paint scraper, lightly scrape off any loose, peeling paint in the area. Make sure not to put too much pressure on the scraper as you could damage the wall or surface below the paint.
3. Sand Any Loose Edges
Use medium-grit sandpaper, such as 100 or 120, to remove any edges where the peeling paint was scraped off. This will establish a smooth surface to make repairs.
4. Patch the Affected Area
Using a joint compound or patch putty, fill in any holes or cracks. If you have to apply a thick coat of putty, make sure to allow enough time for it to dry completely. It’s recommended to give the compound 24 hours of dry time.
5. Sand the Joint Compound
Once the joint compound has completely dried, use an orbital sander with fine-grit sandpaper, such as 220, or a fine-grit sanding block to smooth down the area completely. You can run your hand over the area to see if it’s smooth. If not sanded to perfection, you’ll be able to see a lump or wave in the wall once you’ve painted.
Clean off the wall with a damp sponge after sanding before moving on to the next step. This will ensure proper paint adhesion.
6. Apply New Primer
Following the manufacturer’s directions, add a coat of primer to the area. This will help even out the color of the surface and prevent paint from peeling in the future.
7. Apply New Paint
Once the primer is dry, you’re ready to apply your new coat of paint! You may need to put two or more coats on the surface, depending on the type of paint used. Just allow proper drying time between coats to get the best paint job. Now it’s time to enjoy your newly painted interior!
How to Fix Peeling Exterior Paint
1. Inspect the Area
Sometimes, peeling exterior paint is a sign of a larger issue. Make sure you don’t need any extensive home repairs before patching your paint. A lot of times, exterior paint peels simply because of repeated exposure to the sun and heat.
2. Check the Weather
Before repairing the surface, it’s important that there isn’t high humidity or extreme temperatures in the forecast. Both excess moisture and high heat will prevent repair putty and paint from adhering and drying properly.
3. Remove the Peeling Paint and Repair the Surface
Use a scraper or wire brush to remove any flaking paint from the exterior. You will want to sand down any rough edges, then you can fill in any holes or cracks with an exterior joint compound or wood filler.
4. Sand the Surface
Once the compound or filler has had enough time to dry completely, sand the surface evenly with the surrounding area using 220 fine-grit sandpaper. Clean any debris or remnants with a damp cloth or sponge before moving on to the next step.
Depending on what surface you are painting, you may need to apply texture to an area if you had to sand down a textured exterior wall. This will help the area blend in seamlessly with the rest of the exterior.
6. Apply New Primer
Choose a primer that works well for your climate. You can get primers that have mold and mildew proof qualities, as well as primers that are rust-proof or UV ray resistant. Using a water-based primer is a good idea for humid areas.
7. Apply New Paint
Apply as many coats of exterior paint as needed. Allow sufficient dry times between each coat before re-coating. Enjoy!
How to Prevent Peeling Paint
- Always clean a surface and remove any old, flaking paint before re-painting.
- Find a way to shade areas of your exterior that have high-sun exposure, such as installing awnings, putting up shade screens, or planting trees.
- Use a dehumidifier in humid rooms and areas to keep humidity levels in check.
- Allow any kind of wood to dry out completely before painting it.
- Be mindful of what base paint you are using. Remember that oil and water (latex) don’t mix.
- Always use a reputable primer to help paint bond to the surface.
Recommended Products for Fixing and Preventing Peeling Paint
1. Peel Bond
XIM Peel Bond is a water-based primer and sealer that dries clear. This is a good product for slightly uneven surfaces because it helps to penetrate any porous surfaces and to even out low spots. The thick application will dry smooth and allow the paint to adhere properly, discouraging cracking and peeling in the future.
2. Peel Stop
Zinsser’s Peel Stop is similar to Peel Bond in that it bonds to the underlying surface to provide a smooth surface for the paint to adhere to. It’s water-based and dries clear. This is a good product if you are re-doing an old surface, as it will glue and bind any cracking on old paint.
Sherwin Williams PrimeRx is another primer you can use on the exterior or interior of your home to help the paint go on smoothly. This water-based primer goes on white and dries clear to seal the surface. Its reviewers are happy with the application of this primer.
Wrapping Up How to Fix Peeling Paint
Peeling paint happens, but there’s no need to fret. From weather conditions and improper preparation to the age of the paint job, it’s a recurrent problem. The good thing is that it’s fixable and preventable in the future with a few simple steps!
To read more about other common painting problems and solutions, visit my Paint Problems page.
I’ve been a professional painter since 2001 and spent the last 12 years specializing in kitchen cabinet refinishing. I started the DIY Painting Tips blog in 2015 to start sharing everything I’ve learned over the years and help all the people who’d rather tackle their painting projects themselves. In 2019 I started the DIY Painting Tips Youtube channel where I publish in depth videos all about kitchen cabinet painting, painting gear reviews, and interior/exterior tutorials.