Why Is My Paint Peeling?

Peeling paint is not only unsightly, but it could be a sign of an issue beneath the surface.

According to industry experts, peeling, cracking, or blistering paint is caused by a loss of adhesion between the paint and the surface of the wall.

There are a myriad of factors that could be causing this loss of adhesion.

Peeling paint

These include:

  • Water
  • High humidity and excessive condensation
  • Poor surface preparation
  • Extreme dryness
  • Many different coats applied on the same surface
  • dirty surface was not cleaned before painting
  • High temperatures and intense sunlight
  • Using a paint incompatible with the surface
  • Too many layers of paint
  • Using the wrong paint or primer
  • Expired paint
  • Low-quality paint brands
  • Corrosive substances
  • Poor application methods
  • An old coat of paint

Why is the paint peeling off my outside walls?

Your home’s exterior is exposed daily to the elements: sweltering sun, heavy rain, blistering cold… Modern paint formulas have been optimized to withstand daily wear and tear, so peeling could be a sign of something more sinister.

These are the most common issues associated with peeling paint:

Peeling due to poor adhesion – the paint peels and separates from an earlier paint layer (intercoat peeling) or from the substrate.

Sometimes, portions of earlier paint layers are visible under the peeling.

Possible Causes:

Alligatoring – a cracked pattern that looks like reptile skin.

Possible Causes:

  • The first coat of primer or paint was not left to fully dry before you applied the second coat
  • The second coat was applied over an incompatible paint, for example, glossy paint or a hard oil enamel was applied over a latex-based paint.
  • Oil-based paint has aged naturally and lost its elasticity. Temperature changes have caused cracks.

Blistering paint – small- to medium-sized bubbles form under the paint film

Possible Causes:

  • The paint was applied in direct sunlight and the surface was heated by the sun, resulting in solvent vapor being trapped as the paint dried too quickly.
  • The paint was applied to damp wood, causing the paint film to expand due to trapped moisture.
  • Dew, rain, or very high humidity was able to penetrate the latex paint after it dried – a common issue with poor quality latex paint or inadequate surface prep.
  • House moisture escaped through the walls due to poor ventilation.

Efflorescence – associated with painted masonry construction, crusty white salt deposits bubble through the paint film from an underlying masonry structure.

Possible Causes:

  • Poor surface prep meaning prior efflorescence was not entirely removed and washed before painting.
  • Heavy moisture migrated from inside the home through the exterior masonry walls.
  • Cracks in the masonry wall or poor tuckpointing allowed water to get through.
  • Inadequately waterproofed basement walls allowed groundwater to penetrate.
  • The masonry was painted before the concrete or mortar had cured and dried out fully.

How do you keep paint from peeling?

Protect the painted surfaces from water

There are sealants available that prevent water and other substances from coming into contact with a newly painted surface.

However, if you have water getting in from a damaged roof, flashing, gutter, or soffit, it needs to be repaired straight away.

Control humidity and condensation around the surfaces

Keep your windows open in humid weather, and install an air conditioning system if you live in a dry or humid location.

Prepare the surfaces properly before painting

Fill in any cracks or holes, and use a primer to provide a smooth, even surface to paint. Apply paint only on clean surfaces.

Protect the coated surfaces from heat and sunlight

If you want to paint a surface that regularly gets heated by the sun, you need to do so when it’s a normal temperature. You may also need a sun-shading structure to protect the walls in high heat.

Use the right paint and primer

Use the appropriate primers and paints for the surface you’re painting. Using the wrong type, or using one of poor quality, can lead to peeling issues.

Keep corrosive substances away from the coated surfaces.

Ensure these do not come into contact with your painted surfaces. You should also not store them nearby.

Employ the Right Painting Methods

You’ll usually need to apply one layer of primer followed by two or three layers of paint. Always allow one layer to dry before applying another, and avoid applying the paint in thick layers.

Allow the final layer of paint to dry fully, and protect it from heat, water, and direct sunlight.

Is peeling paint a sign of damp?

Peeling paint isn’t always caused by damp, but it can be a cause.

Damp issues cause moisture levels within your walls to increase, and this can cause wallpaper or paint to peel away from the wall. This is usually most noticeable around the skirting board or in the lower sections of the wall.

Peeling wallpaper or paint can also signal a condensation or penetrating damp issue within the property, so it’s important to accurately diagnose the issue to ensure the problem is actioned and doesn’t return.

Final Say

Peeling paint is usually a sign that something is wrong beneath the surface of the paint. This could be due to damp or water damage, poor adhesion, high humidity or condensation, and even the wrong kind of paint being used or insufficient prepping of the walls.

Dealing with peeling paint may be a quick fix or it may be a longer project, but you must get to the root of the issue to ensure that you’re not simply repainting a wall only for it to eventually peel again.

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