How To Fix Peeling Paint

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If you plan on repainting the interior or exterior of your home, then you first need to take care of any peeling paint.

Many articles on the internet show you how to simply paint OVER peeling paint, but let me tell you this is a bad idea. This can leave rough edges when you want smooth ones and cause paint to peel even faster the next time.

Have you ever wondered why paint peels?

The answer to that is simple and coincidentally is why in almost all of our tutorial blog posts, we talk about the importance of prep work.

Paint usually peels for three reasons

  • There was excess dirt on the painting surface when the project began
  • There was excess moisture on the painting surface
  • The painter attempted to paint over oil-based paint with latex paint

All of these reasons lead back to proper prep work!

Equipment List

  • Drop Clothes
  • Drywall Knifes/Flat Knife
  • Paint Scrapers
  • Drywall Tape
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Sanding Sponge

Prep The Area (And Yourself)

A question we frequently get asked is, “can you paint over peeling paint.”

We recommend that you don’t and instead follow the steps we layout in this post. Painting over peeling paint is one of the biggest mistakes we see DIYers and even “professional” painters make.

This is almost guaranteed to cause the same problems you’re dealing with now like cracking paint and holes in the future.

Instead, you’re going to utilize sandpaper, a wire brush, and a paint scraper to remove ALL of the previous layers of paint. This is the only way you can get a smooth finish the second go-round.

But first, like we said you need to prep the painting area and yourself. Go ahead and place some painter’s tape around non-painting areas, remove anything you don’t want to get paint on, and put drop cloths on the floor to collect the paint chips.

In regards to yourself, you’ll need adequate PPE to limit your exposure to lead by wearing safety goggles, a repository painting mask, gloves & safety goggles, and gloves.

Remove Peeling Paint

You’ll start by using the wire brush to remove the large pieces of peeling paint. Then, carefully follow up with a 5 in 1 paint scraper to get the smaller pieces. You can start with the 5-in-1 scraper but it’ll just take you longer. You’ll want to continue to scrape and sand until you get to a part of the paint that won’t come off. 

Before applying the wood filler, a pro would use an electric sander attached to a vacuum to sand down the finer fibers and remove EVERY last bit of peeled paint.

If you don’t, the bond can pop and paint can peel in as little as a year.

Oh, and remember…

A family that sands together stays together!

Apply Wood Filler

Now that you’ve removed the peeling paint, you’ll have uneven textures on the wall that you’ll need to patch up.

This is where wood filler and your putty knife come in.

You’ll want to apply just enough wood filler for it to cover the damaged area and maybe half an inch higher.

Make sure to go a little bit past the damaged surface with the filler. This will make sure you don’t under-fill any areas. In the next step, you’re going to sand the surfaces to their smooth anyways.

Sand Patched Areas

The wood filler typically takes about an hour to dry, but we like to wait around 90 minutes. We sand with fine-grit paper attached to an osculating sander, but if you don’t have that a sanding sponge works just fine.

Sand just until the wood-filled surface is even with the undamaged painting surface and no more to avoid going down to the wood (and having to repeat the lasts step all over again).

When you’re finished, run your bare hand over the surface to check for smoothness.

Clean and Apply Primer

When the filled area is primed to your satisfaction, you can apply primer to the entire painting surface. Priming the entire surface allows for the filled area to absorb paint at the same rate that the rest of the surface does.

Will Primer Stop Peeling Paint?


Primer is like a great cure-all for a painting surface that may not have been prepped completely and other issues that may arise along the way. 

Peeling paint is a much bigger issue on exterior surfaces compared to interior ones. You can take two steps to make sure your exterior paint doesn’t peel. The first is to completely power wash AND dry the surface before you begin priming to make sure all dirt and grime are off the surface. The second is to use a peel stop primer like Zinsser Peel Stop Triple Thick.

Primer already allows for a smoother finish, but a peel-stopping primer will give added protection by locking down peel-prone surfaces due to its extra thickness.


You can either paint just one section of the wall or you can paint the entire surface again if there was a lot of peeling paint.

Contrary to what most people would assume, painting is the simplest step after doing all of the correct prep work and taking care to fill adequately. We enjoy every process of a painting project, but boy we’d be lying if we didn’t say painting feels like a reward for our hard work.

As always, apply the first coat, let it dry, then apply the following coats, if necessary, according to the paint manufacturer’s instructions.