When dealing with a peeling paint top coat the under coat tends to have a shiny sheen (likely oil or alkyd based) while the top coat is in most cases a latex based product.

Even so, peeled paint isn't a latex over an oil based paint problem. Instead, in most cases lifting paint usually means the surface below the top coat is exceptionally smooth and glass like. For your paint to stick properly it needs a pre-primer or rougher surface to grab onto.

Step by step instructions for repairing a paint peeling surface follow.


Scraping or otherwise removal of the old flaking, peeling paint is usually advised (when possible) for the three reasons that I mention below.

  1. Peeling paint may continue peeling away even after applying another paint coating over top.
  2. As you roll paint onto the surface pieces of paint can stick to your roller cover.
  3. Bumps will occur in your new paint due to the peeling paint lifting up through a newly painted surface.

You may find that some pealing surfaces are almost impossible to work with when it comes to either priming or removing the peeled paint. In the end if your paint is really bad you might be better off calling in a dry-waller.

Fixing it yourself is an option of course if your on the handy side and can do a sprayed on splatter, another type of texturing process or re-boarding and mudding the entire surface or room.

Whatever repair you do choose test your technique (on the intended surface) to insure it will give you the look that your going for.


Working with a small inconspicuous area gives you an indication of how much effort the entire project is going to be and what your final job will look like. Testing with a quart of primer should be enough and doing a section that's peeling excessively is best.

  1. Start by using an electric palm sander (with 100 grit paper). You want to try and remove all of the lifting paint that you can. Peeling paint that doesn't seem to sand away can be scraped off with a wide drywall taping knife then sanded again.
  2. Any flaking paint that doesn't come off likely has no intention of doing so. You don't want to expend to much effort trying to remove the peeling paint. Stop if it doesn't look like your sanding is going to work and try an alternate procedure.
  3. After removing the peeling paint, prime, let dry, sand and skim coat, then sand the dried surface again. Follow up with brushing (cutting or edging) and rolling on the best primer you can buy. To prime use Zinsser or another type of top of the line product (stinks bad works good).
  4. Be sure to mud the surface as needed then lightly sand between each coat of primer. Doing so will let the preceding coat stick better and it should remove some of the curly edges from the peeling paint that may be sticking up.
  5. When your surface is smooth and level roll on two coats of high grade eggshell finish (a latex paint made specifically for kitchens is recommended) in a lighter color. By applying an eggshell sheen you will cut down on imperfections that the surface might have and the lighter paint color will do the same.
  6. If, after, you put on the two coats of Zinsser and the surface is not to your liking either you or a dry-waller can do a skim coat, splatter or knock down finish etc.

If your surface needs a skim coat be sure to use a plaster or drywall compound that won't lift the paint when laying mud on prior to priming. Furthermore, before applying a skim coat, primer or paint the surface needs to be clean, dry and free of oil grease or other debris.


Contrary to popular belief most top quality latex paints can be applied over a surface that has been painted with an oil or alkyd based product. Paint type tends not to be the problem when it comes to your paint lifting. Sheen on the other hand is.

If walls or ceilings are shinny the paint being rolled on can have a difficult time griping to the shininess. Sanding the surface will help your top coat stick of course but I find a primer that's recommended to go over a shinny coating seems to work best. carries the best primer for the job along with other painting and decorating tools and materials.

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