Excerpt from my regular column in the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Question: Our bathroom walls and ceiling were painted in a color we hated by the previous owners of our house, and my husband and I carefully repainted them last year. Well the new paint looked great up until recently but now there are several areas where the new paint is starting to peel. The bathroom has a good fan so moisture isn’t a problem and the walls and ceiling were in good shape before we painted. What went wrong?
Answer: Peeling paint is commonly found in bathrooms and kitchens where semi gloss or gloss paint was originally used to allow for easy cleaning. When painting over an existing painted surface that has any amount of sheen or gloss, it is very important to first pass over the old surface with a fine grit sand paper prior to applying the new paint. This is done to provide what painters refer to as “tooth” on the old surface which means it gives the old paint a slightly rough surface for the new paint to grab onto. The old paint does not need to be sanded as much as just lightly passed over with the sand paper grit to create very small scratches and abrasions to break up the smooth surfaces of the paint. If new paint is applied over old paint that has a smooth and shiny surface, it is more difficult for the new paint to adhere and in the absence of moisture or wall damage, this is often why paint will peel, especially in a bathroom or kitchen. If the original paint is oil based then it may require that a coat of primer is applied prior to the color top coat of new paint which will probably be latex or acrylic bases. A knowledgeable person at the local paint store can help with the selection of the right paint.
People often make the mistake of considering painting to be a trade that anyone can do without training but like most every skill in life, there just is no substitute for experience. Always try to take the time to do a little research before starting on even the simplest home repair projects, the job will go smoother and you will be happier with the long term results.
Owner, YourHandyman & Construction
CA License #935259