How to Fix Peeling Paint

Unsightly areas on walls and trim where the paint is beginning to peel are a headache-inducing sight for homeowners. Tackle them with these seven steps to help guide you on what to do if your paint is peeling.

The telltale signs of peeling paint are hard to miss: spidery cracks, holes in the paint surface, even large strips or sections of paint that come off on their own. The reasons for peeling paint are varied—dirty walls that have been painted, excess moisture, improper prep, latex paint on top of oil paint—but you can fix the problem.

Read up on what the EPA has to say about lead paint before you proceed with your project. Homes built prior to 1978 may have lead-based paint. You can find testing kits at hardware stores, but to be sure, hire a certified company to collect chips and send them to a lab for testing.

How to Fix Peeling Paint

  1. Prep your work space and protect yourself. Whether or not the peeling paint is lead-based, you should still wear a safety mask, glasses, and gloves to protect yourself. Regardless of the size of area to fix or the type of paint used, place a large piece of plastic or a tarp near the area in order to catch any stray pieces of paint. Also, tape off nearby trim areas, such as baseboard, and remove any furniture, rugs, or other finishings from the space.
  2. Remove the problem paint areas. If your paint is peeling, you'll need to remove the paint in the affected area. Use a wire brush or paint scraper to scrape off all loose paint.
  3. Make any necessary repairs. Once the peeling paint is removed, you might be left with cracks or holes; these should be fixed before you repaint. Apply a patching compound with a putty knife; smooth and let dry according to the manufacturer's directions.
  4. Establish a smooth surface. Whether or not you've had to patch the peeling paint area, you'll want to sand the space in order to ensure a wall surface free of any grooves or lines. Use a very fine-grit sandpaper.
  5. Clean the area. Using either a tack cloth or a lightly damp (not wet) sponge, wipe off the area to be painted; wipe again with a clean, dry rag and let dry thoroughly.
  6. Prime the walls. If moisture was the cause of peeling paint, it's particularly important to protect your newly painted area from the same problem. Cover the area with primer, allowing the surface to dry according to the manufacturer's directions.
  7. Finally, paint! Your wall is now ready to be painted. Apply a first coat evenly over the prepared area. Dry according to the manufacturer's directions; apply a second coat if necessary and let dry. Remove the tape and drop cloth and enjoy!

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