A Guide on Peeling Paint – Common Causes and Solutions

peeling paint

by Marvin - April 24, 2023

Paint peeling off your walls and ceilings is distracting – and not in a good way. They detract from your room’s appearance by making it look shabby and in need of repair. But besides being an  aesthetic issue, peeling paint can signal more significant problems like water damage or poor ventilation.

In this paint peeling guide, we’ll go over the following:

  • What peeling or flaking paint is
  • The common causes of peeling paint
  • How to solve the problem whilst ensuring it doesn’t happen again
  • Paint peeling FAQ

What is Peeling Paint?

Peeling occurs when paint has separated itself from the surface. This can be in the form of large flakes or small cracks and usually occurs due to moisture damage or poor adhesion. Once the adhesion has been lost, the paint will gradually detach from your walls into larger and larger pieces.

You’ll typically see this issue in older homes and on surfaces such as drywalls, brick walls, plaster ceilings, wooden decks, window frames and siding. You might also see peeling paint if you live in an area with high humidity.

Although many ignore bubbling or flaking paint altogether, paint actually helps protect the surfaces from the elements. This is especially true for your exterior surfaces like siding, trim and decks constantly exposed to the sun, wind and rain. Thus, when paint is removed, it can leave the surface more susceptible to rot, mould and wood decay.

Common Causes of Peeling Paint

If you’ve noticed flaking, cracking or chipping paint, various contending factors could be the cause. Here are some of the most common causes of paint peeling:

1. Poor Surface Preparation

Before painting can begin, you must properly prepare the surface. This means cleaning it of any dirt and grease and filling in all cracks, holes and other imperfections. Once you have a smooth surface, you’ll need to add primer to create adhesion.

If any of these steps are missed, it’s likely that the paint will not adhere to the surface as intended and will eventually peel off or crack. When your paint has nothing to grip onto, it will finally inevitably flake.

2. Moisture Damage

If you’ve seen your fair share of paint flaking, you’ve probably noticed it occurs in moisture-prone areas like your bathroom, laundry room or kitchen. This is because when there’s excessive moisture in the air, it can cause the paint to loosen and peel.

With porous materials, water can penetrate the surface and cause the paint to blister and peel. As such, it’s important to remove all the peeling paint and any paint that the moisture has damaged asap.

3. Poor-quality Paint

When it comes to painting products, you get what you pay for. Poor-quality paint is generally thinner, requiring more coats to get even coverage. They also don’t tend to adhere as well to surfaces, increasing the likelihood of chipping, peeling or cracking.

4. Your Surface is Greasy, Glossy or Oily

If you’re repainting over a wall that’s already been painted, it could have a glossy or oily surface. This could be from a previous paint job or from cooking grease and smoke. These surfaces require extensive cleaning, priming, and potentially sanding to ensure proper paint adhesion.

5. Wrong Primer or Paint

There are three main primer types – oil-based, latex and shellac. Additionally, certain paints go along with certain primers. Using the wrong combination can result in poor adhesion and eventually peeling. Latex paint, for example, cannot be used over an oil-based painted surface unless it’s been fully cured.

Plastic, wood, metal and concrete surfaces all require different primers. Aluminium is notoriously difficult to paint since it’s smooth and non-porous. If you’re painting over aluminium, you’ll need a self-etching primer to create a grippy surface for the paint to adhere to.

Additionally, some synthetic polymer materials cannot be painted with acrylic paint unless sanded down. Plastic is non-porous and smooth, while acrylic paint achieves a similar finish once it’s dry. The two don’t tend to grip well together, and the paint will eventually peel.

6. Extreme Temperature Changes

Australia is known for its harsh weather conditions, and sudden temperature changes can wreak havoc on your professional paint job. Over time, your paint will contract and expand with higher temperatures, causing it to loosen and eventually peel. Oppositely, colder temperatures and interior condensation can also cause chipping paint. But if ever you need to get your your walls or cabinets repainted, you may book our professional house painters here at Newline Painting. We provide interior and exterior paintingfence painting, and many others.

7. Poor-quality Paint Brushes and Application

Painting correctly requires the proper application and the right paint brushes. When applied unevenly, paint can cause sagging, dripping and an overall poor finish. An uneven coverage can result in areas that don’t have enough paint, which will be more susceptible to chipping and peeling.

This is why investing in high-quality paint brushes and rollers with the right naps is essential. For example, a smooth surface will require a shorter nap, whilst a rougher one will need a longer one.

8. Too Many Paint Coats

This issue generally occurs on interior walls that have too many paint layers. Excessive paint coats on a wall will eventually sag and crack.

9. A Dry Environment

Although we’ve mentioned excessive moisture and high temperatures, it’s also important to maintain a certain level of humidity. If the air is too dry, it causes the paint to become brittle and eventually chip or crack.

Think of paint like your skin – it needs a little moisture to stay healthy!

Peeling Paint Solutions and How to Prevent it

Now that we’ve gone over some of the main reasons why paint peels, it’s time to talk about long-term solutions. While removing peeling or cracked paint temporarily solves the problem, it doesn’t prevent it from happening again in the future.

Below, we’ve listed some of the best ways to keep your paint job looking fresh for years to come:

1. Get Rid of Peeling Paint

First, you must remove all the peeling and cracked paint. This needs to be done before surface cleaning, sanding, priming and painting can officially begin. The steps below will show how to go about fixing peeling paint the right way:

  • Clean any marks or grease from your wall with soapy hot water and a cloth
  • Use a wire brush or putty knife to carefully remove any loose or flaking paint
  • Follow up any remaining flakes with a paint scraper
  • Use very fine grit sandpaper to create a smooth texture and wipe down any residue

2. Identify Problem Areas

As mentioned, rooms that experience a lot of moisture or direct sunlight are more prone to peeling paint. If a leaking pipe causes excessive moisture, you’ll need to get that fixed before proceeding with any painting. Other problem areas to look out for are:

  • Areas with high humidity or a lot of condensation
  • Wooden surfaces that have been exposed to the outdoors
  • Stained walls full of smoke or grease

By taking a proactive approach and repairing these problem areas, you can prevent future issues with your paint job.

3. Recognise Older Surfaces Which May Need Stripping

Older surfaces with several paint jobs are more likely to suffer from peeling. In this case, you may need to strip the surface before proceeding with any new paint. This process is simple, but it does require some time and effort.

4. Proper preparation

As mentioned, the key to successful paint adhesion is proper preparation. Most surfaces must be cleaned, sanded and primed before any new paint is applied. You must also repair all holes and cracks with your preferred patching compound.

5. Identify When a Wall or Ceiling Has too Much Paint

Walls which have lasted for decades have generally been repainted multiple times. Although a fresh coat of paint can breathe new life into any room, it’s essential to know when enough is enough. Too many coats will eventually give in to gravity and start sagging and cracking.

6. Invest in high-quality paint

High-quality paints are generally thicker, meaning you’ll need fewer coats to achieve even coverage. They also contain binders that improve durability, are easier to clean and prevent peeling. In the long run, your walls will look better and last longer with high-quality paint.

7. Ensure you don’t use expired paint

While some paints can last well over ten years, it’s best to sit on the safe side and check the expiration date. Once paint expires, it starts to break down and will no longer adhere to surfaces as well.


What does paint peeling look like?

Paint peeling usually looks like flaky or raised patches on walls or ceilings. In more extreme cases, the paint might start to sag or deeply crack.

Mud cracking occurs when a paint coat is heavily applied over a porous surface. While it’s reasonably common for excited homeowners to go overboard with their first coat, this can lead to big problems down the line. Paint starts to bubble or blister due to it contracting and expanding at different rates.

Should I remove peeling paint before repainting?

Absolutely! Failing to do so will result in an uneven and cracked paint job. You must remove all flaking, loose paint before applying a new layer. Even if you have no intention of repainting, scrape off as much peeling paint as possible to protect your surfaces from further damage.

What causes ceiling paint to peel?

One common reason is condensation which can happen when warm, humid air hits a cool surface. This can be caused by leaking pipes, poor ventilation or even proximity to a water source.

Like walls, you’ll need to remove all cracked paint through cleaning, sanding and repair work. You might also want to look in the room above your ceiling to ensure there’s no water damage.

Why can’t I ignore peeling paint?

Simply because it will continue to spread and cause further damage to your walls or ceiling. Not only is this a cosmetic issue, but if you have lead paint, it can pose a severe health risk. If you suspect you have lead paint, call in a professional to test the paint and remove it safely.

Let Newline Painting’s Professional Painters Take Care of Your Next Paint Project

If you’re not confident tackling a painting project on your own and peeling paint has detracted from your interior, give us a call. Our professional painters will properly prep your surface before applying a fresh coat, including removing any cracked paint.

Australian areas we service include SydneyMelbourneBrisbanePerthNewcastleGold Coast, Canberra and Adelaide. Contact us at 1300 138 499 or book online today to get started! Meanwhile, here’s a price guide for house painting which you may find helpful.

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