Peeling Paint: Why does PAINT PEEL?


Peeling paint can occur on the interior or exterior of the structure, and is a very common issue with homeowners.

What are the primary reasons that paint will peel off a surface?
1.) Moisture; the existence of moisture on the substrate prior to painting will cause the moisture to want to evaporate or dry from the substrate and will eventually push the painted film up off the surface. Moisture when drying or evaporating must go somewhere as water vapor, if there is no other path than the painted surface, the moisture will cause the paint to peel or lift from the surface.

2.) Improper preparation of the subsurface; If the subsurface needed to be primed and sealed and was not, the paint will probably peel or lift from the surface. Primers are manufactured to prevent the final painted surface from lifting. It is always recommended that the surface to be painted be explained to the technician at the paint store. These professionals will identify the type of primer to be used that will result in the best possible finish.

3.) The surface is too smooth or slick to actually allow the paint applied to stick or adhere to the surface. For example glass is difficult to paint due to its density and slickness. Paint will be easily removed from a glass surface by simply scraping the surface. Special etching is normally required to allow the paint to properly adhere to the surface.

4.) Oil or grease on the subsurface; Although this is common sense, if there is any oil or grease on the surface to be painted the paint will peel or bubble. All grease and oil must be removed for proper adhesion of the paint to the surface.

5.) Excessive heat or cold; If the surface being painted is below 45 degrees farenheit or higher than 90 degrees, there could be a compromise of the painted application. Again common sense should be used when painting. If you are too cold to paint, don’t and on the other side, if you are too uncomfortable to paint because of the heat, don’t. In most cases the paint will not properly adhere to the subsurface.

6.) Inadequate mixing of the paint product; All paint products need to be stirred or mixed. The only exception is highly glossy materials that rely on their clarity and lack of any particles in suspension to achieve this highly glossy and clear finish. Most other paint materials must be stirred and mixed in accordance with the products instructions.

7.) Improper application; If the product is placed on the surface in too thick a coat, the tendency to peel is increased. Again the paint product specification should be followed in terms of coat application and thickness.

The subsurface must be clean and free of moisture, grease or other foreign material. The idea is that the subsurface must be able to accept the adherence of the paint, by absorbing some of the paint and causing a bridge or particles between the subsurface and the coat of paint. This bridge, or adhesion will allow the paint to remain in place and be a permanent application. Any product, dirt, water, grease or other substance that stops this bridging will prevent the paint application from properly adhering.

Please review the article on Peeling Paint and suggested solutions for typical applications and techniques to correct a peeling paint issue within the home or even on the exterior.