A fresh coat of paint can revitalize almost any space, but that picture perfect coat doesn’t always last as long as it should. A good paint job ought to hold up for many years before cracks, flakes and peeling appear. However, a number of factors can cause your paint job to fail early. By catching this problem as it appears, you can often touch up the issue before you need to repaint the entire surface. If your paint has started to go flakey on you, here’s how to take it from peeling to appealing.
Why paint jobs fail
There are a number of reasons why a paint job might deteriorate early. Failure to properly clean, prep and prime the surface is one common culprit. Not allowing sufficient drying time between coats can also cause significant cracking known as “alligatoring”. Poor-quality paints that are less adhesive and flexible than higher-quality varieties also won’t hold up as well. Environmental factors, such as bathroom moisture, can also decrease a paint job’s lifespan.
Tools and supplies
- Drop cloth
- Work goggles
- Dust mask
- Putty knife, wire brush or paint scraper
- Putty knife, quick-setting patching compound, fine grit sandpaper and shop vac with sanding attachment (if patching cracks or holes in wall)
- Bristle brush, sponge brush and/or paint roller
- Oil-based stain-blocking primer (recommended for high-humidity spaces)
Before you start, check for any water leaks that may have contributed to the peeling paint and could undermine any repair work you do. Resolve those issues first if you discover any. Next, use a drop cloth to protect your floor, and keep a garbage receptacle handy for waste. Be sure to wear work goggles and a dusk mask to protect yourself from the tiny paint flakes you’ll be dislodging. Using a putty knife, wire brush or paint scraper, carefully remove all the chipped or peeling paint from the walls and ceiling.
If any cracks or holes are present in your surfaces, use a putty knife and a quick-setting patching compound to fill them with a thin, even layer. Allow the compound to dry thoroughly and repeat if necessary before allowing it to dry overnight. Then, sand the area smooth until it blends in with the rest of the wall. A very fine grit sandpaper or a shop vacuum with a sander attachment make for easier clean up. Use your fingers to feel for any ridges or uneven spots that may have been missed. Lastly, clean the area with a damp sponge, wipe it down with a dry cloth and let it dry fully so there’s no lingering moisture before you prime and paint.
Excellent paints with built-in primer are available, meaning you may be able to skip the priming step. However, if you believe moisture may be compromising your paint, your best bet may be to start with an oil-based primer with stain-blocking properties for better protection against humidity. This primer will also defend against mildew and water marks. If you do prime, allow the primer to dry before the next step.
Hopefully, you still have some paint from the original paint job that you can use again for the touch up. If not, purchase a matching can in the necessary quantity. A sample size can may be all you need. With a bristle or sponge brush or a roller for large areas, paint inside the patched areas and feather outward. Less is more when it comes to paint, especially with retouch work, so don’t glob it on too heavily. Once finished, allow the paint to dry, and wait 24 hours before exposing it to moisture such as shower steam.
Even a touchup paint job can be messy work, but you should find that it’s worth the effort to restore the beauty and durability of your home’s surfaces.