Monday, May 18, 2015

Getting to the Bottom of Peeling Paint

Few things are as troubling to a homeowner as a case of peeling paint. As ribbons, or even sheets, of paint pull away from a wood exterior, so too goes the protective layer that keeps Mother Nature at bay, and with it, the attractive appearance of the home.

Needless to say, peeling paint is not to be ignored. It’s a sign that something is terribly wrong. But what? And what to do about it?

There are at least half a dozen reasons that paint can peel. Some of these can be traced back to the day the paint was applied, while others can occur over time. Possible causes of peeling paint include:

  • Failure to properly prepare the surface before painting – for example, applying paint on top of a dirty or mildewed surface, which can interfere with the ability of the paint to properly adhere to the home exterior.
  • Use of a lower quality exterior paint that has less-than-ideal adhesion and flexibility characteristics.
  • Applying latex paint in weather conditions that hinder the formation of good paint film – painting on extremely hot or very cold days, for example, on in windy weather.
  • Applying an oil-based paint to damp or wet surfaces.
  • Rain, humidity, and other forms of moisture penetrating the walls through uncaulked joints, deteriorated caulk, a leaking roof, or others areas, causing wood to swell and paint to lose its adhesion.
  • Excess humidity or other forms of moisture within the home escaping through the exterior walls. (More likely if oil-based paint was used; latex paints are more forgiving in this respect, allowing water to escape without affecting the paint film.)

The best way to solve the mystery of peeling paint is to eliminate as many possible causes as you can.

If you believe that exterior moisture is the culprit, take steps to cut off the source: repair your roof if necessary; caulk open joints and gaps in the exterior of your home; make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean; and cut away any vegetation that is too close to your home.

If, based upon where the peeling has occurred, you suspect that the cause is moist air originating inside your home, consider installing vents or exhaust fans, especially in kitchen, bathroom, and laundry areas. Also consider using dehumidifiers.

Then address the paint job. First, remove all the loose and peeling paint with a scraper or wire brush. Next, sand any rough edges on the paint so that they are as smooth as possible.

Prime areas where the paint is completely gone to the point that bare wood shows. Finish your project by repainting with a top quality 100% acrylic latex exterior paint. This type of paint has excellent adhesion and is extremely flexible. In addition, it will allow water vapor to escape without harming the coating.

So, if you encounter peeling paint on your home, don’t pull out your hair. Instead, put on your detective’s hat, try to get to the bottom of the problem, and take corrective measures. That’s the proper way to deal with peeling paint and get your home looking great again!