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How to repair peeling paint on plaster

Updated June 26, 2017

While new paint can enhance the look of most any room, old peeling paint creates an eyesore. Many older homes have plaster finishes on the wall. Once the paint begins to peel, moisture can reach the underlying plaster. This often leads to cracks and sags along the surface of walls and ceilings. In order to repair your peeling paint, you must remove all traces of damage.

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  1. Check the location of your peeling paint for sources of moisture. The most common cause of cracked and bubbled paint is the presence of water leaks or excess humidity. Remedy the moisture problem prior to refinishing your walls. Repair any plumbing or roof leaks and install fans or dehumidifiers in humid locations, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Once you get the air moving, you are ready to begin repairing your peeling paint.

  2. Scrape off your chipped paint with a wire brush. Use gentle pressure to avoid damaging the plaster underneath the damaged paint. Flake off as much of the loose paint as possible with the coarse bristles. Remove the remaining loose paint with a piece of fine-grade sandpaper. Buff the edges of the bare patches to create a smooth, level transition between your paint and plaster.

  3. Clean the surface with a mild solution of soapy water. Mix a little dish detergent in a pail of hot water. Use a sponge to scrub the area of paint around your bare plaster. Let the soapy solution set on your wall for 5 to 10 minutes before removing with clean water. Let your wall dry thoroughly.

  4. Check the condition of your plaster. Unless the plaster is in perfect shape, you will need to patch it with joint compound. Apply the joint compound with a putty knife, spreading it thin to create a plane that equals the level of the surrounding surface. Allow adequate time for your compound to dry, according to the package instructions. Sand the surface lightly to remove any bumps or irregularities. Wipe the surface with a piece of tack cloth to remove any dust or particles.

  5. Apply a primer coat to the patched portion of your surface. Use your paintbrush to feather the edges over the surrounding paint. Avoid an obvious line of demarcation by matching your new paint to the existing, undamaged paint. Apply two coats of fresh paint over the primer coat, allowing the paint to dry between coats.

  6. Warning

    Don't attempt to remove paint that contains lead. If you think your paint may have lead, call the EPA hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD for instructions on how to avoid lead poisoning.

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Things You'll Need

  • Wire brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Dish detergent
  • Pail
  • Water
  • Sponge
  • Joint compound
  • Putty knife
  • Tack cloth
  • Primer
  • Paint roller
  • Paint brush
  • Paint

About the Author

Piper Li, a professional freelance writer, began writing in 1989. Her articles appear online at Biz Mojo, Walden University and various other websites. She is the co-editor for "Kansas Women: Focus on Health." With a bachelor's degree in journalism from Mesa State, Li enjoys writing about health, horticulture and business management.

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