To repair peeling paint on drywall, first use a putty knife to scrape loose paint off the walls. Then, sand the walls and/or ceiling in the room with the peeling issue. Patch any holes or rough areas with joint compound and sand again. Next, prime the walls with a primer that is designed to bond with drywall. Finally, apply two coats of your final paint.
What Causes Paint to Peel Off Drywall?
Most often, peeling paint on drywall is caused by improper preparation. The most common cause is drywall that has not been primed before painting. Other causes are excessive moisture (in kitchens and bathrooms), low-quality paint, or paint that was not allowed to fully dry between coats.
- Painting unprimed drywall leads to peeling paint.
- High moisture environments, such as kitchens and bathrooms, can cause paint to peel.
- Low-grade paint lacks adhesion and elasticity, leading to peeling.
- If a follow-up coat of paint was applied before the first coat was allowed to dry, the pain will likely peel off of drywall.
Regardless of the cause, peeling paint is often a problem that affects an entire room. Although peeling may begin with one wall, it’s common for the problem to appear on other walls that were painted in the same manner. For this reason, it’s better to repaint an entire room to solve peeling, rather than try to patch a single section.
6 Steps to Fix Peeling Paint on Drywall
You can return a room with peeling paint to a pristine finish. Flaking, bubbling, and peeling paint is a nightmare that ruins the look of your room, but the solution involves simple tools and materials. Here’s how to repair peeling paint on drywall.
Scrape Away Peeling Sections
Remove the peeling, cracked, or bubbled sections of paint with a putty knife or paint scraper. Inspect the wall as you do so. If only the paint is peeling, then it’s safe to move on with the following steps. If the drywall itself is bubbling or breaking down, this indicates a water leak. If this is the case, contact an expert to check your home for more serious damage.
- Use this putty knife to scrape away peeling paint.
- Inspect the area to make sure only the paint is damaged and that the drywall itself is not compromised.
- Work carefully so that you do not gouge your walls.
A good putty knife will remove loose paint without much pressure. Work lightly and make sure you only scrape away the loose paint. It’s better to leave a few ragged edges than to gouge or scrape the drywall beneath. We’ll take care of any remaining damaged paint in the next step.
Sand the Peeling Surface
Use a pole sander or orbital sander to sand the peeling paint with 100 or 120 grit sandpaper. Don’t stop at the peeling area. If a section of your ceiling paint is peeling, it’s best to sand and prep the whole ceiling for priming and repainting. If one wall in a room is peeling, it’s a good idea to sand all the walls. This is because a poor paint job will typically peel in many areas. If you just patch the problem area you have today, another area of that bad paint job will begin to peel tomorrow.
- Sand the entire room where paint has begun to peel—this is better in the long-term than patching one area.
- Patching paint in a single area often leads to a visible patch job. Repainting the entire room yields a high-quality finish you can trust.
- Use 100 or 120 grit sandpaper to sand the paint in the peeling room.
- A pole sander or this orbital sander will make quick work of sanding.
- Sand enough to dull the paint. You don’t need to remove all the paint.
When sanding painted drywall, sand enough that any loose or peeling paint is removed entirely, but do not damage the drywall paper beneath. It’s best to use the proper sandpaper grit for drywall. In areas where the paint has not started peeling, sand enough to dull the surface of the paint and make it slightly rough. This will help your new primer and paint to adhere to the surface.
Patch Holes with Joint Compound
After sanding, inspect the walls for holes, gouges in the drywall, cracks, or damaged areas. Use joint compound to patch these holes. If there is a large hole or defect, this may take multiple coats of joint compound. Wait 24 hours between coats of joint compound for best results.
- Inspect your sanded surfaces for damage.
- Patch damaged areas with joint compound.
- If damaged areas are too large to be covered with one coat of joint compound, apply multiple coats.
- Wait 24 hours between coats of joint compound.
If you are applying multiple coats of joint compound, it’s a good idea to sand the previous coat with 150 grit sandpaper before applying a second coat. this removes defects and makes for a smooth surface that is easy to sand.
Sand Joint Compound
After your final coat of joint compound has been applied, sand all the patched areas. Start with 120 grit sandpaper to remove pronounced defects and ridges in joint compound. Then, move on to 150 grit sandpaper to smooth the surface and edges of the patched areas. Finally, go over the joint compound with 220 grit sandpaper for a pristine finish.
- Begin with 120 grit sandpaper for larger defects.
- Use 150 grit sandpaper to smooth out the details and edges of joint compound patches.
- Go over your joint compound with 220 grit sandpaper for a final finish.
By following this process, you will end up with a joint compound that blends seamlessly with your drywall. After it’s been primed and painted, the patched areas will be nearly impossible to spot.
Prime the Walls
Before drywall can be painted with a color paint, it must be primed. Primer is specially engineered paint that both covers up any uneven color on the wall and provides the ideal surface for your final paint to adhere to. Skipping this step is the number one cause of peeling paint.
- Use a primer to create a uniformly colored surface.
- This primer will provide the optimal surface for your final paint to adhere to.
- Primer is not optional—skipping primer will lead to peeling paint.
If you are happy with the coverage of your primer, one coat is sufficient. If color variation of the wall can easily be seen through the primer, add a second coat.
Paint with the Color of Your Choice
Paint over your primer with at least 2 coats of your final paint. Because paint takes a full 24 hours to cure, wait at least 1 day after priming before you apply your colored paint. Additionally, allow 24 hours to elapse between coats of your final paint.
- Use at least 2 coats of paint to prevent peeling.
- Make sure the primer has fully dried before applying colored paint.
- Wait for the paint to fully cure (24 hours) between coats.
Once your final coat of paint has fully dried, you’re ready to use your room as normal. By scraping and sanding a room with peeling paint and repainting, you ensure a uniform surface that won’t peel in the future. You can rest assured knowing the job is done right.
How Do You Paint a Wall When the Paint is Peeling Off?
To paint a wall with peeling paint, it’s essential to:
- Scrape off any loose peeling paint with a putty knife.
- Sand the peeling wall and any other walls in the room.
- Patch any wall damage with joint compound.
- Sand the joint compound patches for a smooth finish.
- Paint with a primer.
- Finish with two coats of colored paint.
Peeling paint is often caused by improper painting practices at the outset. Lack of primer, painting over fresh paint, or using low-quality paint are the usual causes of paint that peels off drywall. By following the steps above and allowing primer and paint to dry for 24 hours between coats, you will end up with a durable painted finish.