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Project Guide

How to Patch Peeling Paint

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Prep the Area
Paint, roller and wall repair kit sitting on a bin.

Old paint can chip, flake or peel, leaving behind cracks and small holes. This can’t just be painted over without causing future problems. 

You’ll need a paint scraper, wire brush, sandpaper and a primer. Depending on the size of the repair, use drop cloths or a tarp to protect floors. Prepare the area for follow-up painting by removing or covering furniture. Use painter’s tape around trim or baseboards. Wear goggles and a mask while scraping.

Tip: Before you start your repair, rule out or fix any leaks or other water problems. 

Remove Peeling Paint
Someone using a scraper to remove peeling paint.

If you try to paint over peeling paint, you will not have a smooth, professional finish. You have to remove it. 

Start by using a wire brush to remove the largest pieces of loose paint. Follow through with a putty knife or paint scraper. Hold your scraper at an angle. Use it to lift and remove the peeling paint. Be careful not to damage the surface of the wall. 

Safety Note: Lead-based paints are hazardous to your health. It can be found in homes built before 1978. Lead-based paint should be removed by a professional.

Patch the Wall
Someone applying spackling compound to wall.

After all the loose and chipping paint is removed, you’ll have a wall with an uneven texture. Some areas will have paint that’s firmly attached to the wall. Other parts of the wall with no paint will be low or shallow spots. It’s important to create an even, smooth surface to paint on. Repair low or shallow spots with quick-setting spackling or a patching compound. 

Use a putty knife to spread a layer of spackling on the damaged areas. Continue to apply thin layers until the shallow spots are flush with the painted ones. Fill any deep holes in and make them flush with the surface as well. Let the wall dry for 24 hours.

Sand Patched Areas
Someone sanding a wall repair.

Once all the patched spaces on the wall are completely dry, it’s time to smooth the wall. You can use a stiff sanding sponge, a sanding block or you can wrap a sheet of sandpaper around a flat piece of wood. 150-grit sandpaper is a good choice. 

Be careful to hold the sander flat against the wall. Don’t sand all the way through your compound. Stop periodically and rub your fingers over sanded areas to gauge when they are smooth and level. 

After you’ve sanded and leveled out all the patched areas, lightly sand the entire wall. Pay particular attention to ridges, dips or uneven places.

Tip: If the walls have a textured surface, you may need to texture the patched areas to match. 

Clean and Apply Primer
Someone priming a wall repair.

After sanding, use a cloth or damp sponge to wipe the area free of any sanding grit. Depending on the size of the repairs, you may want to vacuum up any debris. Next, cover the repaired areas with a quality primer. A primer will help the paint adhere to the wall and seal the surface from moisture. Priming before painting is an especially good idea if moisture was the reason for the peeling paint.

Tip: Make sure not to apply primer before cleaned area is completely dry. Moisture can cause the new paint to peel.

Someone painting a wall with a roller.

Wait until the primer is completely dry before repainting. If you made a relatively small repair, you’ll only need to cover a small area with new paint. 

Start inside the patched areas and move out. Blend the new paint into the old paint by feathering the edges as you go. 

Tip: If there were several spaces where the paint peeled, it’s best to repaint the entire wall for a professional look. 

Peeling paint is caused by inadequate drying time between coats, poor-quality paint or painting over dirty or wet surfaces. The solution is to remove the peeling paint, repair the wall and use an excellent primer. When you’re ready to tackle your next painting project, get the quality paint and painting tools you need. The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.