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Painting Plaster Walls in 5 Easy Steps

Old Plaster Walls Ready for Painting
Painting plaster walls is not at all difficult.  If your house is old, it will have plaster, sometimes called 'horsehair plaster' on the walls. The old workers used the tail hair from horses to mix in with the plaster to give it strength.
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Plaster Walls are worth saving and painting

Painting Plaster Walls
Painting Plaster Walls is not at all difficult.

Plaster walls are harder than the modern drywall, but it is great to save them, and that will probably cost you less in the end.  Often plaster walls have a lot of lime so mold cannot grow in them.  Great news.

Right here at the top, you will be happy to see my top primers and paint. (For old plaster, I don’t recommend any paint-and-primer-in-one).

For stained walls (water stains, etc) you need a stain-blocking primer. Here you see Zinsser’s Cover Stain. Tops.

For plaster in good shape, prime any bare plaster (or drywall), with basic drywall primer. Comes in a one-gallon also, but buy 5 for the price of 4.

For paint, there are so many, but here is my best advice: don’t skimp. The best paints don’t fade, go on easier and last longer than a well-advertised big box store brand. I normally use Ben Moore Regal (well worth the money).

I’m always asked about a low-budget wall paint option: Rust-Oleum’s Zinsser is very good for the money, but nothing like the Ben above.

There’s more below.


Also, just as a point of interest, the reason people put wallpaper over the plaster walls was not just for decorating.  The wallpaper also gave strength and stability to the walls! But don’t paint over wallpaper.

Plaster walls are usually cracked but are worth saving. If the plaster wall is still firm and has just separated from the backing “lath” which was usually cedar strips, you just need to re-attach with drywall screws.  This will cause some cracking which you just patch up with spackle (sand all when dry). The products you need are all below.

Painting plaster walls in 5 steps

  • Use a putty knife to remove any loose plaster. If you see a brown discoloration, that is probably water stain from years of moisture and maybe leaks in the roof, etc.  You’ll have to prime that with a stain-blocking primer such as Kilz Premium or a good product called 1-2-3. For mold, it’s this primer, (comes in quart or gallon), but please read our post about mold-resistant paint.
  • One trick is to fill tiny cracks with a paint-able caulk.  It’s faster, and it gives a little whereas other spackle and mud compounds will not.  You have to assume those cracks will keep moving.
  • Patch the hole with a pre-mixed drywall compound and give it a day or so to dry, and add a second or even 3rd coat if the dried patch keeps shrinking.  Deep patches will shrink no way around that.
  • Large repairs will need tape and you can find how to do that in this post on preparing walls for paint.
  • Sand with rough, then transition to, finer sandpaper and prime with drywall primer linked above (apply only one coat).

You should be ready to paint at that point.

Paint your walls with 2 coats of paint (in most cases):

Sometimes, if your primer is white and your wall/ceiling/trim/whatever is going to have white paint over that, you may be ok with one top-coat, but you have to cover every square inch with no skipping.

Make sure you have all the painting tools that you need.

If you are working with a lot of sanding, read our respirator mask guidelines.


How to paint plaster wall – summary

Painting plaster walls is just like painting any other drywall. The primer that you use is the key. You need to us the best primer for plaster walls to seal the wall because paints won’t take to it evenly without a good primer.

On that point, watch the toxins you are putting into the air that you and yours are breathing.

Key point: most water stains from plaster walls will bleed through every coat of latex painting work. After your primer, you paint plaster walls just like any other interior paint job, which you will read about all over my site.  Write a comment below with any question about how to paint plaster walls!

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55 thoughts on “Painting Plaster Walls in 5 Easy Steps”

  1. We are moving into a home that was built in 1960 by a man who was a Colonial Williamsburg enthusiast. All of the walls are raw plaster with the trim being the only thing painted. The walls now are all dingy. I believe they are lime plaster. I assume following the instructions on your site will work for us when we go to paint the walls but there is one wall in the dining room that has a mural painted directly onto the wall. I would like to save the image but the wall itself is dingy like all of the others. Is there any technique I can use to either bring back the wall to a brighter white or seal the whole wall with some tinted sealer that will give the plaster an antiqued color but still allow the image to be retained?

    • Hi. Without seeing the wall, I’d say ‘no’ from within the world of painters, but I am sure that there are sealants that are used in professional sign-making etc… That can seal it for you. You don’t want it to yellow over the years, and that is going to be hard to find. All those old houses with dark wood trim were not always that way: the varnish darkened. For many years, it was much lighter. But chemistry has come a long way.
      Send a photo if you like and I’ll ask my painter buddies around the world for a recommendation. It is not what we do ordinarily. An art store would be a good first stop. They chat too.
      I also know a woman who restores old Tibetan art. That is very expensive…museum-level work, but if you find out what they use to clean the paints, you could do it yourself perhaps.
      Good luck and thanks again.
      Brad
      ps, yes, the primers we recommend will seal in the other plaster walls’ dingy spots. Buy a small can and test on the worst spots, then get more. Try to stay as low-toxin as you can and open windows etc to stay healthy.

  2. Hey Brad,

    Here is a full shot of the plaster wall with simple mural on it and two close ups of the birds in the mural. How would I brighten, or clean the white background of the mural wall while saving the artwork on it? Can I do a wash over it all to give it all an aged look and then seal it? I am at a loss as to how to attack this. The other walls have nothing painted on them so I was going to follow your instructions for painting plaster walls but this one must be handled differently.

    Thanks,
    A

    • Plaster with mural
      -

      Hi again.

      What is the mural attached to? A painted wall? Or plaster?

      If it is a painted wall I would suggest carefully cleaning around the images and painting carefully around the images. Even if it is a plaster wall I would suggest the site. But as for the images, I would take a damp soft cloth and carefully clean it.

      Remember that if the wall is already painted, it does not necessarily need a primer. The primer never hurts, and it depends on the color that you want to apply but is not necessary to seal anything if the wall is not porus. Primer and sealer is only for a porous wall as you know.
      Brad

    • Got it.
      So my advice would be to paint around the images with a small artist’s brush, then a larger brush as you have room, then roller for 3 coats: 1 primer, 2 color.
      To clean the images, probably a damp sponge/rag. Test a small spot to see if water dissolves the paint: I bet it will not.

      Good luck.
      B

  3. Hi Brad,

    We’ve bought a fairly new home with plaster walls and as we begin to paint the very white walls, we’d like to know what brand/s you recommend for drywall plaster.

    Thinking of using RustOLeum.

    Thanks! Elaine and Steve

    • Hi and thanks for writing.
      I am not sure if the walls are ‘very white’ because they have new plaster (unpainted) or white paint.
      If paint, just have at your favorite (check out the Benjamin Moore Historical Series—all warm and soft)

      If plaster, then use the primer I mentioned in the article above, then paint as you like.

      Key point is that some primers also seal stains: if you don’t have stains, just use the simple primer (not primer-sealer).
      Yes, the Rustoleum is a good one and there are many others as well. Stay well-ventilated, like the Rolling Stones! Get it?! Ha ha.

  4. I have a hallway that I’ve scraped the paint and repaired the cracks in the plaster. Now I’m almost ready to paint. My question, I know I need to wash the walls after all the sanding but did I also wash over the repaired areas..making them moist again?

    • Well, don’t really ‘wash’. Is it greasy? If it is just dusty, no need for water..in fact you’ll damage drywall and patches with water. Just use broom at first, then maybe vacuum, then use dry rag or wide dry paintbrush type tool, then mop floor (so you don’t kick dust up into wet primer/paint).
      So do all this after the last of the sanding is done. How to make sure it’s done? Use a good light up close to see the sanding/patching job.
      Hope I helped!
      Brad

  5. Hi, I have taken all the painted wallpaper and glue off this old plaster wall. Cleanned real well with TSP. The old walls are very smooth with few waves. My question is do I need to sand all these walls and ceiling or can I just use a good oil based primer over these walls without sanding everything down. Will the primer adhere to these slick walls? Thanks in advance

    • Hi Charlie. You sound like you are all set to prime. Why oil based? Not necessary from what I can tell. Do you have water stains? Just use basic drywall primer and if stained areas, use BIN or some quality sealer. Stains will bleed through the primer and all paints forever, so you have to seal.
      If in any doubt, do some drywall primer in one square meter, let dry, put some paint and see if you like it. The hard work is done !
      Have fun.

  6. Hello,

    I will be painting my bedroom wall, which is drywall or plaster, my house was built in 1920 and I think my bedroom has the original walls. What would be the best sheen to use? Should I use a primer, the walls are white.

    • Hi Jason. Unless the walls are pristine, which I doubt at 100 years old, you would want to lay a primer on: this seals any stains and ensures your final paint will not have stains (latex paint will not do this for you). So, have a look at some low-toxic primers with some sealing qualities. They are not too expensive and you can apply quickly.

      Sheen is totally up to you: flat is nice unless you have little ones with messy hands on walls. If so, eggshell still looks nice and you can clean it well. Some flats today, esp Ben Moore, can also be cleaned but may show some wipe marks.

      Good luck. Let us know the result. Photos before and after are always helpful to others.

      Brad

  7. Hello:
    I have plaster walls throughout the house, circa 1860, and have noticed a dark patina above and around the walls of cast iron radiators, hot water, not steam. The dark patina shows the outlines of the underlining lath. The house is only mildly insulated. Could the dark skeletal image of the lath on the walls be caused by mold or the combination of cold plaster and rising hot air?
    I notice the further along the wall from the radiator the less dark is the image. Also, the ceiling directly above the radiator does not shows signs of darkness.

    I suppose I could wait until warmer weather, clean the walls, and see what happens but would like to attack the problem now.

    • Hi Mike. Depending on your location and atmosphere (near water?), and age of last paint job I would think it could be mold, but that is obvious: black spots, colonies of cells. If you can send a pic, that would help me, but for now, I’m guessing the on/off heat cycle near the radiators has allowed common dust to settle into the wall leaving a permanent mark. This does happen over time. If this is the case, we hope it is, just paint a test section with your top coat and see if the mark bleeds thru. Certainly, not a bad idea to hit it with a bleach solution first, but please open all windows for some time and/or wear a chemical respirator. Bleach is a deadly poison. I have a post recommending the best respirator for the money. When you are done, if you can reply here, and I can post the pics of before and after. This will help others in the future. Good luck!

  8. Brad:
    Thanks for getting back to me so quickly: I think if you copy the link above and paste you should see a good picture of the problem.

    The ceiling has about a 60 degree slant at the top – which is where you will see shadows of the lath extending from the corner for another 8 feet. The shadows also do extend downward toward the radiator and slightly across the adjacent wall, also somewhat across the ceiling above the radiator. The walls and ceiling are old plaster painted with latex. The walls had been previously papered ( approximately 50 years +-) with vinyl paper.

    Mike

  9. Hi, I’ve just removed paint & wallpaper from my ~1920 browncoat plaster walls here in Oregon. There was no plaster finish coat, I think the original paint was possibly calcimine? Anyway I’ve gotten off as much as I can, and in the process unleashed some godawful stench — decades of cigarettes, and some staining around cracks near the door. I’ve spot primed damaged areas with BIN before I patch & tape. Should I BIN everything to seal? Before or after skim coat?

    Thanks much, Alan

    • Yes Alan, you got it spot on. A full coat of the best stainblocker out there: BIN which is alcohol based and very nasty (read about the alchol based version which we use on all wood ‘knots” here, and here is a 5-gallon pale of water-based product), or the latex version in KILZ, also very good and easy to clean. Lay it on in a heavy coat.
      You would block those stains and smells with those for sure. Warning on the alchol-based primer: deadly if you breathe it too much! so open windows and see my post on respirators: I pointed to the one for you, and these are good when bleaching the bathroom too etc. I wear this mask for anything I think the EPA lies about: so much toxic stuff in a paint store (we were told for years we were safe, which was a lie).
      Now, you could prime after a skim coat and this would do the priming for both the new skim and the old smelly layer. Normally, I would do this, but since you have the smell, prime twice: once for the existing mess, then your skim coat or drywall. Then do your 2 coats of color. Done.
      Easy? No, not this time, but you need to make sure of blocking that smell. Note that that smell will now try to get out in other ways if it can: up and back and out the sides. So, after you are all done, maybe put the same sealer on the backs of those walls: by this I mean the adjacent rooms when you get to them. Good to have that 5 gallon pale I’d guess. Use your nose in the meantime to see if any smells get out. Wait a couple of months for all the new paint to off-gas. Even go above and below the wall with your nose, if you can.

  10. Hello,
    I have an older home with plaster walls. I took the wallpaper off and we repaired parts of the wall. Now we are ready to paint. I started with 1-2-3 primer and I have orangish stains coming through still. Do I need to do 2 coats of primer? Or do I need to use an oil based primer? I don’t really want to use an oil based primer because I have a small child in the home.

    • Hi and thanks for writing. I think you are ready to paint. Sometimes the primer will show the stain, but if you test with your top coat, you may find that the primer has done its job. 123 is a very good stain blocker and you were right to choose it. So do some testing. If the stain comes through one coat it will come through 10 or 100. You will have to use more stain blocking power. I’d jump to the nuclear option in that case: BIN which is alcohol based. See my “primer” posts for the link. Search for bin. The alcohol will evaporate fast. Smart to keep the child out of the house and open windows for an hour, but this stuff off-gasses quickly. Let me know if any problems and good luck!

  11. Hi Brad,
    I have a 1899 Queen Anne in Colorado (very dry) with plaster walls throughout. All the rooms upstairs have cracks, some larger than others, and a few layers of wallpaper to boot. I have managed to get about half the wallpaper off down to the plaster in each of the rooms. The remaining wallpaper is painted and a real bear to remove. Last weekend I had a drywall man, who also said he did plaster work, look at the walls. He said that I didn’t have to finish removing the wallpaper. He said if I painted each of the rooms with Valspar PVA drywall primer, he could skim coat the walls down to a smooth/mostly smooth finish (it would take two layers). He said the trick is the PVA primer. I read the specifics for the Valspar PVA and it seems possible that it could cover both wallpaper/painted wallpaper and plaster. It certainly mentions that the product “can be used over bare or previously painted drywall, plaster, wood and masonry plaster.” What are your thoughts to this process as presented by this drywall/plaster man?

    • Hi
      There is no easy way to get off wallpaper. Whoever thought that up? But I’ve seen some 100+ years old, and still nice.
      Skim coating could be the answer: very expensive, but very nice if your guy is good. Go look at some of his previous work if you can before you buy. I would think Kilz Original would be better for priming, but if you trust him, … Also, ask local paint store owners, managers and you can ask to talk to the district rep. Benjamin Moore and S.Williams generally hire very good people. Good luck and let us know!

      –B

  12. Hi Brad,

    So my husband and I bought this house built in 1946. It’s our first home that we are able to do what we want with. Well the upstairs is a cape cod style and there’s ugly old brown paneling on the walls. Most of it is falling down already but I tore some down and there’s a few lines of some dark brown glue ( or whatever they used) under each panel so far. I don’t see any cracks though. How should I go about taking the glue off and ready for primer?

    Also, my husband painted our living room ceiling white but you can see every bit of texture through it. it’s horrible. All the plaster ceilings throughout the entire house has lines going every which way so is there a way to make it not show through a primer? My husband wants to just spackle the ceiling but I’m not sure…

    Please refer me to some products to use for primer on the walls too please. I’m not worried about the smells or fumes…
    p.s. I hate plaster

    -JK

    • Hi. I understand that the textured wall is 3-D, right? He’s probably right about a new coat of mud, but applied as what we call ‘skim coat’. That means going over the whole thing with a wide knife and smearing on drywall compound, then sanding. This may need 2 coats to make smooth. It’s a huge job and one I would not do for myself even tho I’ve been doing things like this for decades. Ceilings are the hardest and to get it smooth takes an experienced hand: a real pro, not some 20-something hungry to take any job.
      Primers and paints don’t fill cracks or even out texture…they just coat the surface. I’ve never tried some of the paints that promise both… I’d not trust it. So I’d say do the skim coating, then primer (simple drywall primer) and one coat of Ben Moores Ceiling White. If primer is white, that paint will be fine as one last coat.

      On the paneling, the glue will have to be scraped. On our main painting tools post, I point out a ‘5-in-1’ tool: very sharp and will shave off the glue. Another hard job.
      This will keep you out of the pool halls for the summer!!
      Good luck,
      Brad

  13. I have a house built in 1956. It is cinder block construction and plastered inside walls. I am not sure of the insulation material used. On the outside east wall the paint on the inside dining room wall peels. It peels within months of painting. And it also goes back to the same color layer which I have had tested and it is not lead based. And that layer is the original paint used. There is no other layer beneath. However I don’t know if it is oil based. It only peels on that wall. What should I do to stop it from peeling in that wall? I have thought that it might be moisture in the cinder block causing this. If it is, what can it do.

    • Hi. Well, I hate to bear bad news, but you are right about the moisture, I’m afriad. Paint will not adhere to moist surfaces and the water vapor will keep coming through until that wall is dry which may be never.

      Can you find how it is getting wet? Soaking up from the ground? Dripping from roof? Hard one.

      I’d say call an old time building contractor and get a free estimate on how to handle this.

      If you can bear covered walls, perhaps lay cedar over it… like a cedar closet look. Paneling would be the least expensive if you don’t hate that.

      Good luck… Let me know!
      Brad

  14. Hi, Brad. I appreciate your insight and great information. My question deals with my bathroom ceiling.

    My house was built in 1955 and has plaster walls and ceilings. The previous owner used a textured paint on the bathroom ceiling, but did not have good ventilation so there was some mold. I’ve used a mold killing spray product to kill the mold and have fixed the ventilation problem, but don’t know how to best paint over the stains that remain. Any thoughts on how to best prime and paint for a permanent fix?

  15. Hi, about 10 years ago we removed the majority of the painted over wallpaper on the plaster walls in our dining room. Anything that was really adhered to the wall stayed on the wall. We skim coated the entire room, then later primed and painted. I’ve been repainting the woodwork and my painters tape didn’t want to stay on the walls. When I took the tape off, some wall paint came off with it. The paint has always felt tacky in this room, and after pulling some of the paint off with painters tape, I’m realizing that I can peel big chunks of paint off the wall. What should I do now? I don’t know whether to scrape off just the paint, or scrape off everything down to the plaster. The wall under the paint feels completely dry. Thanks!

    • Hi. Yes, it feels dry, but it still may be too moist to paint. Do you know what paint it is (do you still have some?) I guess you can go 2 ways. One is to go the labor intensive way and yes, as you suggest, scrape it all off. I hope it’s just one room. Often a paint district rep will come to look at it for no fee: it’s what they do. I hope you know the paint you used: they’ll want to be sure it’s their problem. Anyway, the other way is to re-prime and paint. Perhaps this seals in any moisture still there, and you’ll have the same problem, but maybe not, and this would be much easier. Use Prime-Lock, the oil-based strain blocking primer…it’s is simply the best, by Ben Moore. Then use any paint you like. Do a test in a section. Let the primer dry fully, paint twice then let it cure (keep it warm for a few days) then test the adhesion. Let me know? Good luck. -brad

      • I’ll try the test area first. I will try it where I’ve already scraped off the paint, and also where I have not. And yes, I still have the paint, and it’s only one room! Can it still have moisture 10 years later? Thanks for the fast response!

  16. Hey Brad! My husband and I recently purchased a home built around 1760, we are finding as we take down wallpaper in some rooms that there are beautiful plaster walls underneath. Your notes and recommendations for prepping and priming the plaster walls are so helpful!! We believe we have horsehair plaster walls, that appear to be in pretty good condition in most rooms, just a bit uneven in color. I was wondering if you could recommend a paint roller style or brand to apply our paint colors to keep a somewhat smooth finish? Considering going with eggshell finish but don’t want the subtle texture that rollers sometimes leave. Any help would be awesome, thank you!!

    • Hi. What a nice find. Two things come to mind right away: spray (I know, big involvement) and Benjamin Moore’s Advance which comes in matte, satin and semi-gloss. When rolled, it does not hold the texture/dimple pattern, but slowly evens out and ‘enamalizes’ which means it becomes totally level, or flat, but not in the sheen sense of the word flat.
      Spraying other latex paints would get you there too, but still, there will be some feel to the wall. My advice, try gallon of satin (most like eggshell in this line of paint) and roll on some samples. See if I’m right… I have never used Advance on walls, but I’m very confident in this answer. Let me know back here? Thanks and good luck! PS, with that link above, you just email the seller in the right-hand column with your color number and name. The price is amazingly decent for online paint.

  17. Hi Brad
    We bought a home built in 1954, plaster walls throughout. The bathrooms are peeling, ceiling to floor in just 4 short weeks of the move in. One bathroom has a ventilation fan, the other does not.
    We wondered if it would be better to rip out all the plaster and replace with Sheetrock or try to scrape and repaint?

    • Do you mean fresh paint is peeling? You need to get a few pros to give estimates: get older guys and talk to them first to see what their experience with this is. Yes, it may be best to rip it out if it’s all wet. You cannot paint wet walls, that’s an axiom. You can always scrape a section, repaint and watch it. In fact, do that as a test to show the pros. Good luck. Let me know? Thanks

  18. Hi! Thanks for the great website! My husband and I tried to put up peel and stick tile as a backsplash behind our sink, but it looked terrible, so we took it off. Problem was, we ripped up some of he paint off the wall in the process, exposing raw plaster here and there. So now we are planning on painting the backsplash area and the whole wall, but learned, from this page, that we need to put up primer first, over the raw plaster. My question is: Should we paint the entire wall with primer, or just the section that includes the raw plaster? Thank you!

    • Hi. This won’t be hard. If the paper came off the sheetrock, you need to patch with joint compound aka “mud”. WHen sanded, you need to prime that and any ‘raw plaster’ showing only. Remember if the plater showing is not smooth, you will see ever imperfection in your painted surface: just a different color.
      If the old wall still has paint in good shape, you don’t need a primer on that unless you want: it can be helpful to have the whole thing white before you put on your top-coats. Good luck.

  19. Hi, I have two concerns with my 1951 home. First is the bathroom. The prior owner remodeled and painted over what appears to be either a hi gloss paint or oil. The problem is when I shower the walls and ceiling paint bubbles. After a opening the door it disapates and most of it resolves but not all of it. I can press on the bubbles and they flatten or move. What is your best suggestion to resolve it, in addition to adding a fan? My second issue is a textured (c swirl) plaster wall with cracks. I want to paint but first I need to fix it and determine if it was from a possible renovation or if it is a structural issue. I will want to restore the texture too. My suspicion, since the baseboard appears to be pieced together that it was renovated. I wanted to include pics but couldn’t determine how to forward them. Thanks for your insight.

    • Hi. Yes, this is not uncommon. The bubbles often come when the wall is moist, but then settle back. In other rooms, away from the bathroom, the paint itself is the moisture that goes into the wall. Then as the wall dries, no more bubbles ever.

      Your situation is not going to go away….from where I sit of course, I’m guessing.
      Yes an exhaust fan or window are required by code, but it’s not like you are going to open your window in winter.
      I would not start with a new fan installation.
      I’d scrape off.. sorry, this is going to hurt said the bedside manner specialist… scrape it all down to the sheetrock.
      Prime it with an oil-based primer then use bathroom paint.
      You can always do a test area to see: pick a bubble area, scrape, prime paint and shower with much steam to be sure it works before doing it all.

      Next issue cracks. Email the pics in reply to what I sent you.
      Cracks if small: just use your finger and push in drywall mud…easy. Prime, paint.

      More when I see photos. Close up of cracks with a coin for scale if you can.

  20. The walls are likely plaster as most of the house is. The bath has been renovated so I’m not sure. I seems like the ceiling may have been replaced with sheet rock but again not sure… Both bubble

  21. Hi there! I was wondering if you suggest acrylic versus latex paint for plaster walls? I know they make combination paints as well that are both acrylic and latex. We’re about to tackle our new (to us!) circa 1935 plaster walls and was just curious if one was better than the other or if we should go with a combination. Thanks so much for any help you can offer!

    • Latex and acrylic are almost the same word. Latex is usually used to mean water-based…water is the ‘solvent’. SOmtimes oil is the solvent and that’s generally known as ‘alkyd’ paint. These are not exact meanings, but just to clarify your question, I mention it. The acrylic is what is carried by the water, and what is on the wall when the water evaporates. I think you may mean primer and paint in one?
      In any case, you have great old walls. You need to know what paint is on them now (the topmost coat). Do the test in this post with acetone or alcohol. If oil, you must prime with a good bonding Primer like STIX and you must lightly sand first …all for bonding. If not oil, just put a good basic primer and your favorite paint.

  22. Hi Brad – great website. I have a house built in 1990, we bought in 2005. Master bath ceiling has peeled ever since we bought. Had handyman in to repaint with high end primer, but peeling persists. Could there be an incompatibility with primer coats? If latex primer was used first followed by an oil based primer, would that cause the peeling. My solution is to sand entire ceiling to drywall and then use a high end oil based primer. Am I on the right track?

    • I doubt it’s primers not bonding to each other. My guess without seeing it is … well, bad news. Sitting down? Wet wall board.
      Cut a small chunk out and have a look. If powdery dry, then go with your idea of sanding right down to the rock and start over. Lot’s of work. Maybe easiest to rip out sheet rock and re-rock. If you do, get the green board just for baths. Yes good oil primer…and ventilate for 1/2 hr after a shower.
      Good luck!

  23. Fireplace wall in 1920’s home had wallpaper then paneling. Removed and was replastered 20 years ago.

    Recently noticed patches of paint color changes. Not water stains, not damp to touch, just variance.

    I used oil stain blocker on entire wall, waited a few days, then repainted.

    Thought problem was solved but a week later it’s back – same places.

    Did have chimney flashing problem last year and did have water on wall. Flashing redone and weather has been very dry all summer

    Thoughts?

  24. When I painted my 1949 textured plaster walls, (40 years ago!), the top thin textured layer of plaster started peeling off in places as the paint dried. I was covering a light color with a light color so I did not use a primer. I glued the pieces back up and carefully did a paint touch-up. So, I have been hesitant to ever “touch” these walls again, but they need to be painted! The walls are in good condition with no stains, cracks, or peeling and the glue has held! Thanks for any advise you can offer.

  25. Hello Brad:

    I have a house built in the 1950’s with plaster walls. Two years ago I had it professionally painted. A year later the ceilings outside both bathrooms started peeling paint. I had the painter return to repair. He said they cleaned and sealed prior to painting. Now the ceilings in those areas are peeling again. Is there a solution? I did not have this problem the first 30 years of living here!

    • My best guess is that the moisture escaping from a shower is too much for that paint. First, sand the peeling area and reprimer just that area…then repaint the all the ceiling with a bathroom paint…or just paint a big section so you don’t see the old vs new.
      Try Zinssser. Then, use the fan if you have not been doing so.
      Either the primer and/or paint they used is very susceptible to moisture. I bet it was not Ben Moore or S. Williams. Am i right? They would not have done this: I’ve never seen it. If I’m wrong please let me know.

      Spending more upfront saves money in the long run!

      • Hello Brad: Thank you very much for getting back to me. It appears the paint they used was SW Pro Mar Ceiling Paint but I do not know what primer they used. I like your suggestion of using bathroom paint. Thanks again.

  26. Brad, I’ve scoured the internet for answers for our paint problem to no avail, until I found your blog. It sounds like you’re definitely an expert in this area, so I hope you can help. I have a 1930’s house with plaster walls. Walls had a crazed appearance in the bathroom on one wall. I attributed it to moisture from showering. Sanded the wall, applied DryDex Lightweight Joint Compound. After it dried, I sanded and applied Bin Zinser primer, then two coats Benjamin Moore premium interior semi gloss paint and primer. Wall looked great at first, and we made a point to open the adjacent window during showers, but within three weeks cracks have appeared again. I wonder if it didn’t dry enough between preparations? All the work was done in a 4 day period. Help! 🙂

    • Hi. The photo you sent is below…to help others in the future.

      Four days is fine, it’s not rushed.
      Somehow the moisture is getting under your paint. The products you used are all fine.
      Here is my best guess, not having seen it obviously… Instead of sanding in the first place, you should have dug down a bit to see the health of the wallboard. I suspect it is soggy. But don’t fret yet. Hey, I’m a poet.
      Do a small demo job: take a drill with a wide bit…maybe 1 inch and cut into it. If the old wall is not white, it’s probably growing something you don’t want in the wall and you will need to rip it out and get some new wallboard. Not that big of a deal…you can do it from what you wrote.
      The fact that it took 3 weeks or so to crack tells me the moisture took time to get through. If it had bubbled right away or did anything wrong right away, slam dunk it’s wet. But do the test and let me know. Another pic will help.
      If you are brave, cut a square out and dissect it in the painter’s lab. What fun! Lucky you.
      Get back to me.
      Problem wall paint cracking

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