How to Fix Peeling Paint and Prevent Walls from Chipping Again

Paint peeling off walls can be an eyesore for homeowners. Tackle the issue easily with this step-by-step guide.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 12 hours
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $30

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 can vary widely. Painting over dirty walls, excess moisture, improper prep, and using latex paint on top of oil paint can all affect the paint's adhesion and cause it to eventually begin flaking off. To solve the problem, you'll need to remove the peeling areas and start over with fresh coats of primer and paint. Use our step-by-step guide to learn how to fix peeling paint.

Before you get started, it's important to determine whether the peeling paint contains lead. If your home was built prior to 1978, it could have lead-based paint, which can pose serious health risks, especially for children. 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. If you think your home has lead-based paint, do not try to fix the peeling paint yourself. Instead, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends hiring a professional from their approved list of providers who can follow lead-safe work practices.

several shapes of mirrors on wall
Dana Gallagher

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Personal protective equipment
  • Plastic drop cloth or tarp
  • Wire brush or paint scraper
  • Putty knife
  • Paint roller or brush

Materials

  • Painter’s tape
  • Patching compound
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint

Instructions

How to Fix Peeling Paint

Peeling paint needs to be removed before you can paint over the surface. Follow these instructions to repair peeled paint.

  1. prepped painted wall

    BHG / Sanja Kostic

    Prep Your Workspace

    Even if you don't have lead-based paint, you should protect yourself by wearing a safety mask, glasses, and gloves. Regardless of the size of the area, or the type of paint used, place a large piece of plastic or a tarp in the area where you're working to catch any stray pieces of paint. Tape off nearby trim areas, such as baseboards, and remove any furniture, rugs, or other finishing from the space. Place drop cloths around the room to keep paint off other surfaces.

  2. scraping away peeling paint on painted wall

    BHG / Sanja Kostic

    Remove Peeling Paint Areas

    If your paint is peeling, you'll need to remove it from the affected area. Use a wire brush or paint scraper ($13, The Home Depot) to scrape off all loose paint. Don't use too much pressure while scraping, or you might damage the surface underneath.

  3. making repairs on wall

    BHG / Sanja Kostic

    Make Any Necessary Repairs

    Once the peeling paint is removed, you might be left with cracks or holes in the wall. Any damage should be fixed before you repaint. Apply a patching compound ($10, The Home Depot) with a putty knife, as needed. Smooth the surface and let dry according to the manufacturer's directions.

  4. sanding painted wall

    BHG / Sanja Kostic

    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 very fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the area down. Run your hand over the surface to ensure it's completely even with the surrounding wall.

  5. cleaning painted wall

    BHG / Sanja Kostic

    Clean the Area

    The area should be completely clean to allow the new paint to adhere properly. Using either a tack cloth or a lightly damp (not wet) sponge, wipe off the area to be painted. Wipe the surface again with a clean, dry rag and let it dry thoroughly.

  6. priming painted wall

    BHG / Sanja Kostic

    Prime the Walls

    If moisture was the cause of peeling paint, it's particularly important to protect your newly painted area from having the same problem. Primer can help seal the surface, protect against moisture, and allow the paint to properly adhere. Cover the area with primer, allowing the surface to dry according to the manufacturer's directions.

  7. Paint Walls

    Your wall is now ready to be painted. Apply the 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 your new smoothed-out surface!

Ready to paint? Get inspired by The Better Buy, our new podcast. On this episode, Carmeon Hamilton shares how to "Elevate the Everyday" in any space, from a rental to a home remodel, and why a DIYer's first project should be to learn how to paint a room.

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