When indoor paint peels and flakes — Chicago Tribune

When indoor paint peels and flakes - Chicago Tribune

When indoor paint peels and flakes

We all know the miseries of outside paint peeling, flaking and coming off in sheets. We also know the reason for those failures.

But that is not the problem today. It is failure of paint indoors, where it should not fail under any circumstances. But it does. Why? Let us count the ways, and the reasons.

Ceilings peel like crazy. A major reason, particularly if the paint peels immediately after new paint is applied, is that the ceiling was painted with calcimine, and nothing but calcimine will stick to old calcimine. Actually, the calcimine is now called Kal-Kote, or some similar name, but it does the job.

And, if the homeowner knows there is calcimine on the ceiling, then Kal-Kote will do the job.

But if the calcimine were painted over, and then peeled, the only cure is to remove everything, which is not easy, down to the plaster or plasterboard.

Paint is best removed with chemical paint remover or sanding, both of which make a colossal mess, and is miserable work. If that does not appeal to you, then have it done, or put up a new ceiling. That is the most expensive option, but it’s a sure cure.

Some homeowners have had good luck in taking down calcimine with an old-fashioned method: painting the ceiling with wallpaper paste of the wheat kind. The next morning they found the calcimine on the floor. What happened? The paste shrank as it dried and being a paste, pulled the calcimine right off.

Use thin coats

Another reason ceiling paint fails: The paint was applied too thickly. Remember, paint is weight, and the more coats and heavier coats you apply, the more likely it will pull itself off.

The cure in some cases is to use thin coats. With ceilings, a primer is usually not needed, but it would not hurt if you used a latex enamel undercoater. Another cure is to use ceiling paint, which is lighter in weight than standard wall paint.

The final reason ceiling paint peels is that the substrate, the surface, was wet, moldy, or simply not prepared properly.

Paint cannot be applied to a wet or damp surface. All mold if present must be removed, not by washing, but by using bleach and water.

And, if you use bleach, you must rinse it off before painting; nothing is compatible with bleach.

Any surface must be sanded to roughen the finish to give it some «bite» for paint to adhere to. Manufacturers of enamel undercoaters, a superior kind of primer, say that their primers will stick to shiny surfaces. But the better part of valor is to sand anyway.

Sometimes paint will fail because the plaster or plasterboard has begun to deteriorate, from moisture. If plaster gets wet and dries a few times, it begins to powder, and powdering plaster will not hold paint.

Sometimes you can shellac a ceiling and seal in the powdering. If it works, fine. If it does not, then a new ceiling might be the only cure.

When indoor paint peels and flakes - Chicago Tribune

All these ceiling problems, except the calcimine, apply also to walls, although walls are not the problem ceilings seem to be.

In bathrooms, excessive moisture is almost always the cause of bubbling and peeling and flaking paint. In bathrooms, the cure may be easier. Get rid of the moisture, by ventilating the bathroom.

Keep windows open, or put in an exhaust fan, and to avoid more moisture problems, vent that fan to the outdoors. Properly used, a fan can dry out a bathroom and keep it dry.

Now we come to woodwork, which is usually not a problem. Any problem is cracking paint, alligatoring, or flaking.

This is due to faulty application and preparation. So the cure is to sand the surface thoroughly, wash with a strong detergent and water to dull the finish even more, and apply a primer before finishing.

That primer, or enamel undercoater as it is sometimes called, is critical to success. Cracking and alligatoring of paint is due to a lack of a primer, plus paint that is applied too thickly. The cure is obvious: Prime and put on thin coats. Flaking is cured the same way.

There are no magic bullets. There are no shortcuts. And if any of these problems occurs with a swirled finish, usually with ceilings, or a popcorn ceiling, forget it.

A swirl can be made in the plaster coat or in paint. Hope that it is in the plaster, because it is likely to stand up better under scraping and sanding procedures than if in thick texture paint.

Cures are attempted, but I have never seen one work very well.

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