What Causes Peeling Paint?

What Causes Peeling Paint?

There are many reasons why paint can start peeling off of interior walls or exterior surfaces, even if it was applied relatively recently. Here are some of the most common reasons why paint peels off of surfaces, along with information about how to fix peeling paint.

Lack of surface preparation

If paint doesn’t adhere properly to the surface underneath, it starts peeling off. This can occur because the wall wasn’t cleaned and primed correctly. Prior to painting, things like mildew, oils, dust, and dirt need to be thoroughly removed. If you’re painting over an old paint with a glossy finish, you’ll need to use an abrasive cleanser to both clean it and dull it to improve adhesion. The surface should also be treated with paint primer, which forms a binding layer that’s more suited for long-term adhesion to the paint than the surface beneath it.


Paint doesn’t dry correctly if it’s applied to a damp surface, and it may peel soon after it’s applied.

Paint that isn’t well suited for the surface

If you’re painting over existing paint, you should choose the same type. Oil, water-based, and latex paints don’t mix well together. While you can paint over latex with oil-based paint, doesn’t adhere to well to oil-based paints and will inevitably peel.

Paint that’s gone bad

Paint will also peel if it’s already gone bad. When latex paint is stored in open containers in a garage, it can become unusable. It starts developing a stronger odor, and leaves a rough finish on surfaces that peels easily. Sealed alkyd or oil-based paints can last up to 15 years, if kept away from temperature extremes. Unopened water-based acrylic and latex paints last about ten years. Eventually, the solid components settle to the bottom of the can and harden, and can no longer be mixed back into the liquid.

Inferior paint

Cheap paints may fail and peel sooner than higher end paints, although this is debatable.

New wood

New wood contains natural oils that can cause paint to peel off, even if the wood appears dry when you paint it. Cedar is especially susceptible to this. Wood that isn’t properly cured can also have too much moisture.

How to Fix Peeling Paint

If you have interior paint peeling off of your walls, you can fix the problem. It’s advisable to do so, because peeling paint makes your home more susceptible to mold and mildew. Here’s how to fix peeling paint.

Remove the Chipped Paint

First, you’ll need to remove the areas where the paint is chipping. You can use a putty knife or a paint scraper to do this, moving it carefully along the loose edges. To avoid inhaling tiny flecks of paint, it’s a good idea to wear a face mask.

Use a Patching Compound

After you remove the areas of chipped paint, the surface of the wall won’t be completely even. To smooth it out, you can apply a patching compound with a putty knife. This will need to dry overnight.

Sand & Prime.

Now you can sand the patched areas to remove ridges. Then, use an oil-based primer. This will help prevent the walls from peeling again.


When the primer is dry, you can repaint the walls in any color you choose.

How to Fix Peeling Paint the Easy Way

At Collegiate Painters, we help Boulder homeowners with the problem of how to fix peeling paint. We can remove old, flaking paint layers and repaint interior or exterior surfaces, with good techniques that prevent the peeling from happening again.

Collegiate Painters