Peeling Paint

Dear NH,
We have lived in this very old house in the country for nearly 10 years. We have repainted many times, and my walls are peeling badly. The paint is peeling in all rooms and I am wondering if it would be easier to just replace the walls? I want it to look good

I receive this type of letter frequently. It is the very rare occasion that the walls need to actually be torn out and replaced... normally the consequence of fire or water damage, not poor painting techniques. There are some circumstances where more than repair and painting is required. There are, for example, special wallpapers designed to cover old "spider" cracks in plaster walls. Very thin wallboard sheets are available to cover otherwise sound walls or ceilings that have too much damage to reasonably repair.

However, most paint peeling can be repaired with much less expense by simply scraping off any loose paint and then levelling the holes/depressions with wallboard compound. Multiple coats of wallboard compound will be necessary to get a smooth surface. This trick will also work with old wallpaper. Cut off any loose pieces and level the area with compound.

You can use wide wallboard knives to apply the compound... up to 12"... which make the job go more quickly and give a smoother appearance. Each coat should be a little wider than the repair or a little wider than the last coat. This forms a slight rise over the repair that tapers into the wall, making the repair almost invisible except in the most unforgiving side-lighting.

Sand between coats to remove any high spots in the dried compound. Wipe with a damp sponge or vacuum off the dust before applying the next coat. Each coat will give you a smoother finish. The final coat should require minimal sanding to bend the repair into the wall.

When in doubt about what paint to use over another, the most surefire way to achieve success is to use an oil-based stain killing primer sealer such as KILZ. These primers stick to virtually anything including glossy surfaces and glass allowing a painless transition between oil and latex paints.

copyright 2000 G.G. Alonzy

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