The most likely reason for paint peeling is that is has long passed its expected lifetime of use. Even the top quality paints will eventually break down and need re-doing. On the other hand, there are several other reasons paint might be peeling, especially if the work was recently done. And although it’s good to have a multi-year painting project guarantee, most premature problems – such as peeling – happen within months of the painting project having been completed, so you’ll know pretty soon after the job is done. If it shows no sign of trouble by the time a year has passed, it will likely last its full lifetime. That can be seven, ten or even fifteen years. After that, even if you don’t notice problems, it’s a good idea to redo the paint because it might not be protecting your house the way it did earlier. Let’s look at the causes of peeling paint prematurely.
Modern paints are sophisticated compared to what was on the market a generation or so ago. When paint is applied – in fact, the moment you open the can of paint – a series of chemical reactions begins. Yes, part of the process is a simple drying of the paint where elements within it begin to evaporate in the very obvious drying stage, but a more important stage is the ‘curing’ of the paint. This performs a number of functions including bonding to the surface, hardening of the new paint, and creating a durable, long lasting surface. Many paints today are water-based. They contain a certain amount of water which, of course, evaporates completely once the paint is dry, but if there is water in the wall or on the surface you are painting, this process is disturbed. A damp wall won’t just have clean water that alters the dilution and effectiveness of the paint, but it will have any number of other elements that now find their way into the wet paint you are applying. It might be calcium for bonding agents from the drywall, or dust from the paper covering of that drywall. Dampness throws the curing stage off balance, and may seriously interfere with how long the paint will then last.
If the wall was damp because there happened to be a rain shower, or it’s got a film of water on it because of the early morning dew, that’s one thing. But if the damp is coming from some other sources – perhaps a leaking shower unit – you may have a bigger challenge to address before the paint is applied. Such problems must be solved, and the wall bone dry, before any paint is applied.
Kitchens and bathrooms create unique situations. In a high-use kitchen, for example, walls may rarely get a chance to completely dry out. Not only that, but if – let’s use olive oil as an example – food additives are splashed onto the same wall over and over, and if that wall is not 100% waterproof (as well as able to withstand foodstuffs) – it’s only a matter of time before the oils find their way inside the drywall material. A tiny bit of olive oil won’t bring your house down, but if enough of it seeps into the wall, whole sections might need to be replaced first, before any painting is done. What’s more, it can interfere with the paint work on the other side of the wall.
In a rental house I lived in decades ago, cooking oil was spilled a few times over several years on a kitchen counter top in the apartment adjacent to us. It backed up onto an external wall, and the tiny crack gap between the wall and the kitchen counter top allowed anything that spilled to seep deep into the wall structure. By the time the problem was noticed, a large section of external wall had to be completely replaced.
Many people choose, for this reason, to use a tile back splash to their kitchen food prep area. Nothing gets through solid tile. Then, you have to make sure the join between those tiles and you counter top are completely waterproof, flexible and durable. This is to prevent kitchen spills interfering with a future painting project on the other side of the wall.
Some people are afraid of spiders, but I find them to be friends of the home, of sorts. I’ve never been bitten by a spider in this Seattle area, and I generally leave them alone. For me, they keep things like fruit flies and other flying insects under control, and they seem to disappear when their work is done. But some insects like to burrow into your wall, so you have to know when it’s time to get the pest control guy to pay a visit. On the flora side of things, mold can take over a bathroom, and if you get hit with what is called black mold, you might need some serious cleaning work to be done.
Apartment rental managers often just paint right over mold of any type, but if you are interested in maintaining the quality of your home, you will need to wash thoroughly any wall that has mold, particularly if it is black mold. Black mold will increase the likelihood of peeling paint within the lifetime of the paint.
Painting a bathroom requires – usually – a thoroughly cleaning and drying before a can of paint is opened. It’s worth it. You can usually wash bathroom walls with regular washing up liquid and hot water, making sure to wash down all of the detergent, whatever type you use. When the washing it complete, let it dry completely. That might mean leaving the fans on and the windows open for a few days so that air can get to it. It will take a few days to dry, at which time you can you another bathroom if you have one. Showers, in particular, steam up a bathroom and they keep everything damp.
There are literally thousands of paint types on the market. Thick, heavy duty marine paints all the way to gentle, indoor latex paints. Work with your painting contractor and/or your paint provider to choose the best one for the job. Prepare the surfaces well, and that combination will give you an excellent result, with little chance of peeling paint, inside or outside you home.
See you next week.