Paint Peeling Off Plaster!

Paint Peeling Off Plaster!

Here is one scenario – you paint a new colour onto a wall that has previously been painted and while the paint is still wet you notice it bubbling up! Then, when you rub the bubble it bursts and leaves the original plastered wall showing! Now you have an uneven surface.

Another scenario – you roller a coat of white on the ceiling in the bathroom and the old paint comes off on the roller! EEK!!

The worst case I have seen of this was in a stairwell in a renovated house and the paint on the walls of the stairwell was coming off in sheets like wallpaper.

Why does this happen?

It happens when newly plastered/skimmed walls or ceilings aren’t given enough time to completely dry before painting. The temptation is to start painting as soon as the plasterer has left the building but plaster takes longer to completely dry than you might think.

If the plastering has been done in the winter months it will need several weeks to thoroughly dry –  please don’t be tempted to wack the heating on full blast to try to speed up the drying process because the sudden rise in temperature can cause different problems.

Another reason it occurs is when the initial coat of paint on the new plaster is bog standard silk applied undiluted directly to the plaster.

Or the bathroom ceiling has been freshly painted on the new plaster which has never had a chance to dry because the bathroom is in constant use and then someone has a shower before the paint is dry. Disastrous.


On old plaster doing this – give it a light sanding and apply a thinned coat of matt paint – thinned with water to make it sloppy. Allow to dry thoroughly and then paint as usual.

On new plaster – the plaster should be given plenty of time to dry. Don’t rush this process.

Once dry, the first coat of paint on the new plaster should be matt (preferably white) and it should be thinned with water so that it is sloppy. Paint all the plaster with this mixture. It is your undercoat. It will sink into the surface of the plaster and give you a sound base for painting.

Allow to dry. Won’t take that long because it will soak into the new plaster.

Paint on another coat and leave to dry – Overnight.

Now, you have prepared the plaster for painting and will avoid bubbling and peeling in the future.

Paint in the colour of your choice.



34 Responses »

  1. another possible senario. my home is 60 years old, never a problem in years until we re roofed and the tarp blew off in a rain storm. showering in the house was a nightmare. 7 years later the paint chipped and when peeled it came off in sheets easily. however down to the bare original wet plaster.
    it has not been remedied yet. i wondered if i could wash with white vinegar first then follow with your suggestion of watered down paint. or do you know for a fact that it will all have to be sanded?

    thank you, vonn

    • Hello Vonn,

      What a nightmare!

      The sanding is to get rid of any surface polish (polish meaning the shine that unprimed plaster can take on, which makes it non-absorbent), and to give the paint a key to adhere to. A light sanding is all that is required with a sanding block, just to lightly rough up the surface. You don’t need to whip out the electric sander.

      To find out how much prep your walls need, you could test out a small area to see what a wash of watered down matt does. If it seems to sink into the plaster and dries quickly, that’s good, that’s what you want. However, if it sits on top and takes a couple of hours to dry like a regular coat of emulsion then the paint wash it isn’t doing its job of priming the surface.

      Let me know how you get on.

      Best wishes,

  2. We had our bathroom ceiling re plastered about a month ago. It was left till completely dry before I painted it with bathroom ceiling paint 2 coats. However within 2 weeks it started to flake over the shower – I did not know about the base coat layer. Is there anything I can do to fix it?


    • Hello Debbie,
      You could sand the problem area to reveal the bare plaster > then apply a wash of watered down bog standard matt emulsion to the plaster. Allow to dry overnight (do not use the shower during this time). Water down the bathroom paint you have purchased and paint a wash over the dry base coat.

      This should resolve your flaking issue.


  3. We are in a 5yo house and are decorating one of the bedrooms. The ceiling of the room just has the thin matt paint cover that was used to seal the new plaster, but over the last year this has flaked off around the velux window. We have just tried to paint over this with a satin emulsion but it’s not taking. There are no signs of damp and the paint has taken OK everywhere else. Is there anything we can do to help fix this?

    Many thanks Claire

    • Hello Claire,

      Plaster around a window will take longer to dry than elsewhere in the room so it sounds like the plaster wasn’t thoroughly dry when the base coat was painted onto it and so the paint has been simply sitting on top of the plaster rather than adhering to it.
      To remedy the problem sand the surface using a sanding block, back to the bare plaster.
      Mix matt white paint with water to make a sloppy mixture and paint your problem area with this mixture. Allow to dry overnight. Paint a second coat. Again allow to dry overnight.
      This should resolve your issue.

      Best wishes,

  4. Hi we had our kitchen plastered last year, sealed with coat of watered down emulsion then pinted as normal… Had to do this twice because the colour was awful. It’s a kitchen so does get steamy and now paint is flaking all over. Not ure exactly what to do but it’s looking a right mess and don’t want to have to keep repainting every year.

    • Hello Andy,
      Rotten! Once painted, the kitchen getting steamy won’t cause this problem. The root of the issue is the plaster beneath and what was happening when it was drying.
      The solution is to sand the effected areas with an electric sander, until you can see the plaster beneath – it’s dusty work, you’ll need a mask and windows open. Once you can see your plaster, basecoat it with a sloppy mix of white emulsion. Allow it to dry overnight. Repeat.
      While you are carrying out the basecoat, the kitchen should not be allowed to steam up – it should be a dry area.
      As a precaution, the paint colour you choose to paint on top of the basecoat should be a matt finish type.

      Alternatively, scrape off the loose paint, paint wallpaper size onto the walls and once dry, apply lining paper.

      All depends how much time you can spend addressing the problem.

      Best of luck!

  5. Hi

    I too didn’t realise until it was too late that a mist coat should be applied first before painting at full strength. I note the advice on repairing flaking paint but how long will the paint continue to flake for? Can I be fairly sure that after 2 weeks no more paint will flake?

    Thanks for any advice!


    • Hello George,

      Was your full strength paint silk or matt?

      A wall/surface with this problem will continue to be have issues with paint. So, the current layer of paint may stop flaking but then when you apply a fresh coat, new problems arise – paint coming off on the roller, bubbling. The wall can end up looking a lumpy mess.

      The first coat of paint is sitting on top of the plaster – that’s why there will continue to be a problem.

      Therefore the best advice would be to address the problem now before it becomes a lumpy mess. Sanding the wall, then applying the sloppy mix of matt paint.

      It’s a pain, yes, but the alternatives are applying lining paper to the walls or having them skimmed.

      Best wishes,

  6. Hi, I have just had my stairwell re-plastered. I allowed it to cure for only a couple of days, which seemed to be sufficient time (the colour had changed to a light pink – but perhaps this wasnt enough time?). I have since mist coated it (50/50 mix of water to matt emulsion), which seemed to adhere quite well, but there were a few patches where it didn’t seem to adhere quite as well (that now i come to think of it, these areas seem to have been either slightly damp, or over-polished (shiny surface)). I carried on regardless (rushing to get the job done) and painted it with two coats of dulux matt emulsion (over two days). However, after the second coat went on I noticed a few bubbles appearing… I have scratched at them and the paint has come away leaving bare plaster on show (slap bang in the middle of the wall!). Having read a few blogs about this sort of thing, it looks like the best course of action is to scrape as much paint away as wants to come off and lightly sand the plaster, then mist it and repaint… However, this is likely to leave a low point in the middle of the wall, which I would like to avoid or remedy somehow. Is there a way to do this easily?? Help!

    • Hi Sam,

      How long ago was the plaster applied? If under two months ago, don’t do anything until a couple of months has passed.

      When the plaster is thoroughly dry you are correct in your assertion that you need to scrape of loose paint and then sand the area.

      This will not leave you with a dip in the wall because it is a light sanding and you should sand over a wide area rather than concentrating on a small area.

      If you sand in this way, sweeping across a wider area, you will avoid a dip.

      There isn’t an easier way sadly, but if you are methodical and take your time, you will acheive a good result.

      Good luck!


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  8. Hi,
    Getting ready to paint kitchen – plaster walls with no right angles to ceiling. The ceiling has several places where the original paint has come off. I purchaser some sanding blocks, adhesive primer and two gallons of satin paint. The contractor has decided that putting a skim of plaster on top of the old paint will void the need to sand it. He said that once this plaster has dried he will prime the ceiling and walls and then paint over the primer with two coats of paint. I think the original paint should be sanded to take the shine off not plastered to avoid sanding.

    Please tell me what I should do.
    Thank you

    • Hello Kitt,

      Depends upon the severity of your problem area – exactly how lumpy and bumpy is it?

      A plasterer will always prefer to skim to make a surface perfect again.

      If skimming – the plasterer will probably lightly sand the surface to provide a key for his skim coat.

      I would still want loose paint to be sanded off primer to skimming – otherwise the skim coat will be sitting on top of an unstable surface.

      Kind regards,

  9. Hi,

    We moved into our house which is about 30 years old around 3 years ago and have gradually been repainting each room.
    After a time period of anything from 1 day to a couple of months the paint begins to crack, lift and peel off in small random areas. In two of the rooms I took a spatula to the cracks and the paint peeled off with no effort in large sheets back to the bare plaster. We then did a mist coat and a second coat and these walls now seem to be fine.
    However the problem has now started in our hall stairs and landing and the thought of scrapping back the whole area to the bare plaster makes me want to cry! We have tried lightly sanding and repainting but the cracks reappear or new ones appear! I strongly suspect the previous owners didnt go a mist coat on the bare plaster and this is why it is now not adhesing. Is there any other way to address this issue rather than scrap the entire lot off?! Please help!

    • Hello Jo,

      I’m really sorry but there is no quick solution to this issue – it really is a case of scraping the paint off and applying a sloppy base coat.

      Best regards,

  10. I’ve just had the hallway reskimmed and the plasterer I hired left the plaster to dry two days before doing the base watered down coat and two more coats. My worry (after reading the above posts) is that some areas of the plaster were not fully dry when he painted them. How long would it take for us to know if there was a problem? The area he has painted is too high for us to reach, hence why we paid him to do it. Obviously if he’s messed it up then i need to make a complaint but wondered when/how i’d know that there’s an issue.

    • Hi Adie,

      If he used watered down Dulux Supermatt as the base – or a similar base product by another manufacturer – and the area was well ventilated throughout, you will probably not encounter any problems.

      Most of these issues with peeling paint occur because no base has been applied to the surface prior to a paint coat being applied.

      Best regards,

  11. Great find.. Having a mare with the bubbling and peeling weird as its only one wall..we have stripped it back shame im in a rush would of called you in,yes im in your home town,Fingers crossed it works on your advice, Lolly

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  13. Hi,
    I have just moved into a new house, the walls are clearly newly plastered and have been painted white. There was no evidence of any problem until I tried painting on top of the white paint and have just found the new paint peels off.

    It is deeply frustrating as I have just spent the week redecorating!

    Is it worth putting a dilute coat on top of the white paint or will it all need to be removed? And also how much should the paint be diluted.

    Many thanks for your help.

    Best wishes

    • Hi Liz,
      What awful luck!

      The reason the paint is peeling off is because it hasn’t gripped the plaster so adding layers on top of a peeling layer won’t solve the issue. It’ll just be a thicker layer to peel off.

      Scraping and sanding the walls, then applying a thinned wash of white matt is the best route to neutralise the problem – even though it is a pain!

      As far as dilution proportions go, you are aiming for a consistency of single cream.

      Good luck!


  14. Serious issues that just shouldn’t happen to a nice bloke 🙁 the last room of my house to decorate is the bedroom, so we went at it with our usual gusto!
    Taking the border off of painted walls has lifted a stripe of paint around the room, obviously a thick coat of paint that hadn’t bonded correctly.
    I’m mist coating the bare plaster under neath and re painting, however it has left a stripe around the room where there is a ragged edge which is visible even after a couple of coats… Is there anything I can do?
    Apart from re skimming

    Cheers john

    • Hi John,

      Bad luck!

      The quickest and best way to get rid of the ridge edge is to use an electric sander. It’ll make a mess but it’s the only way to improve the appearance of the wall – unless you had the whole thing skimmed but I assume you would want to avoid that.

      Best to you,

  15. I fear I may have found this useful info too late!

    We’ve recently had the living room walls re-skimmed. Having left them to dry out for about 10 days we applied watered down matt emulsion(about 50:50 mix – not as thin as single cream). The plasterer hadn’t mentioned any need for a second base coat so we were about to begin decorating. Has the ‘damage’ been done already or can we redeem the situation if we just stop now? There is no heating in the room at the moment and we need to move into the house within the next month. Would using a dehumidifier help?
    Many thanks

    • Hello Carrie,
      If you can, I would give the plaster another week before adding anything else to the surface. We’re supposed to be having dry sunny weather (?) which will help take the moisture out of the room.
      As you took the precaution of watering down your base coat you may have avoided the horror stories – depends upon whether there were dark areas of plaster which was visibly not totally dry?
      Anyway, giving it several more drying days will help it along.

      Best regards,

  16. Hi

    I am really worried about my house. I live in a building that is around 200 years old and has been a house since around 1900. I have lived here for 23 years and have never had a problem with damp on the inside/central walls (and only on the outside when the gutter broke and the rain saturated the out wall.

    I let the house out for a year 2 years ago and when i moved back in 12 months ago the first thing i noticed was paint flaking off the bottom of the walls in the doorway between the kitchen and sitting room.

    When i put my dishwasher back in the plumber noticed that the waste pipe was cracked and that the wall behind was very damp. He replaced it and i questioned whether that would have made the inside wall damp enough to make paint flake. He said if it was done when they moved in then maybe as all the waste water could have been going under the floorboards for a year.

    I have now noticed that the wall to the right of the doorway has what looks like a damp line with pink mold (sticky pink substance) about 2 inches up from the skirting board and the far corner around the plug sockets the paint has bubbled up off the wall and is also flaking. Inside the kitchen to the right of the doorway is a radiator and the wall behind the radiator is against seems fine – the other side is where the pink mold is. What seems even worse than the pink mold is inside the doorway to the right – where the fridge is and then the about 2 ft up the wall the paint has completely left the wall in parts and is on the floor and looks like white dust.

    The only other thing that was done differently is that ive always painted the walls, for 22 years with exactly the same emulsion and when i left a friend went over the walls with white paint he had and the tennants say they also painted over marks with paint they had when they left. Could it be the different paint having some sort of chemical reaction or do i have a damp problem? Is there anything I can do?

    Thank you! .

    • Afternoon Saxi,

      Rotten problem! It is caused by one of three things:

      1.Flooding. Has the house been flooded at some point, so sitting water has been above the damp course? For the dishwasher waste pipe to have caused such long term damp problems, it would have to have been leaking above the damp course and the water to have been sitting for some time.

      If not then…

      2.Damp course failure. It sounds from your description, that you have areas here and there where there is mould and rising damp. As your home is old, the damp course could have become damaged in some way over time, just through natural decay.

      A damp proofing specialist will be able to identify the source of the problem – not all solutions will involve a lot of disruption.

      3.Cavity Wall Insulation. A lot of homes have been having cavity wall insulation installed, which is great for insulation but terrible for ventilation. Not all installers ensure that ventilation bricks aren’t blocked and some older houses simply don’t appreciated being ‘sealed up’ and this leads to damp patches on previously dry interior walls.

      As far as the type of paint is concerned – if the underlying problem is a damp issue, it doesn’t matter which type of paint was used on the walls, all paint would flake off or bubble.

      I hope I have been helpful and you find a solution to your damp woes.

      Best wishes,

      • Thank you for the speedy and full reply Jack – its greatly appreciated!

        No flooding but we do live right next to a mill race – its about 10 ft from the back door and runs under a bridge which spans the width of the house/garden. However strange as it may seem I don’t think the damp is coming from there because the building has been here for 200 years and not been affected before. Although i guess that could be the source of the damp if problem turns out to damp course failure.

        The water from the waste pipe may have been sitting above the damp course – we have a wooden floor which we put in after we had dug out the concrete floor, that was here when we moved in, and is seated on wooden joists ( not sure if that’s the right word) so may well be situated above the old damp course – its hard to know because there are two steps up from the kitchen into the sitting room – although strangley the problem is just as much in the sitting room – just on different walls as it is in the kitchen which is lower down. I do hope that is the problem.

        Its definitely not the Cavity Wall Insualtion problem because all the wall are about 2ft thick and solid stone (probably not actually solid stone as I do believe they used to use anything they could lay their hands on so some of it is probably brick and rubble.)

        Since I wrote my tale of woe I have scraped off the flakey paint. It goes about 2 feet above the skirting boards then above that its solid and healthy looking. I have sanded down the plaster and washed it all down. The wall feels dry all but about and inch above the skirting board whereas I’m pretty sure a year ago it felt cold and damp up to where the flakey paint stops so maybe it is drying out. I really do hope that’s the problem. I will leave it for a couple of days to dry out a bit more and then I’m going to try repainting using tips above. Have cleaned the pink mold off the sitting room wall using advice given elsewhere.

        Im thinking i probably need a specialist to come in and assess whether the damp course has failed.

        Thank you again!!!

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  19. My husband has just finished painting a bedroom but when he removed the masking tape from the ceiling it took off a layer of paint in places. It looks like it had not had a mist coat applied to the plaster before the first layer is paint went on.

    What is the best way of dealing with this? Thanks

    • Hello,

      The way to tackle this is to sand any rough paint edges where the paint has flaked and then apply a wash of watered down matt white. Allow to dry then apply your top coat of paint. Masking tape ought not be used as it will probably take off the paint on your newly painted wall.

      Best regards,

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