Can You Prime Over Peeling Paint? (Explained!)

If you don’t apply paint properly, it will start to peel off. When that happens, can you prime over peeling paint?

You can prime over peeling paint, but you shouldn’t. The primer will stick to it, but both the paint and the new primer will peel off after a while. 

That’s because the same thing that caused the paint to peel will also cause the primer to peel. So, it’s better if you remove the entire finish, find & fix the cause, and then re-apply it.

Will Primer Fix it?

A coat of primer will fix a peeling paint temporarily, but not permanently. Eventually, both finishes will peel off. 

The primer is also a type of paint because it has almost the same features. The main difference is that primers are designed to be a base coat, while paints are designed as a finishing coat. So, the same issues that made the paint peel off will make the primer too.

A primer can stop a finish from peeling only if it’s applied first. For example, stain-blocking primers will prevent water from penetrating the coating and causing it to get washed off. 

Is Scraping Chipped Paint Necessary?

You must scrape all the chipped paint using a scraper. If some parts are tough to scrape off, you can use a paint-removing paste to remove them.

You don’t have to remove the entire coating; you only have to remove the affected spots. So, if the entire coating isn’t affected, you don’t have to remove it.

However, if multiple spots on the coating are coming off, you must remove the entire coating. That’s because it indicates bad surface preparation or application. If that’s the case, the whole finish will come off too.

If you don’t scrape the peeling paint, the primer won’t stick well over it and will start to come off too. Even if it doesn’t come off, the finish will look uneven, and sticky, and won’t have a consistent color.

Paints can come off if there’s moisture, water leak, grease, or dirt on the surface. That’s why you must clean and fix the surface before painting it. 

How To Prime Over Peeling Paint?

You can prime over chipped paint, but you must remove the affected spots first. Here are the tools you to for this task:

  • A Scraper
  • A Solvent (Like Rubbing Alcohol or Mineral Spirit)
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Wood Filler or Concrete Paste
  • A brush
  • Paint Stripper (Optional)

1. Scrape The Affected Paint

Scrape The Peeling Paint Off The Surface

First, scrape the paint that has been chipped using a scraper. Put the top of the scraper under the paint, and lift it.

You don’t have to remove the entire coating just remove the loose parts.

2. Use a Solvent or Paint Stripper

Use a Solvent or Paint Stripper

If some parts of the flaking paint won’t come off, use a paint remover solvent. The solvent will weaken the bond between the paint particles, and liquefy the coating, making it easier to wipe it off.

Use rubbing alcohol for water-based paints, and mineral spirits for oil-based paints.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Douse a rag with rubbing alcohol or mineral spirits. 
  2. Use the dampened rag to wipe the coating.
  3. Wait a few minutes (10). 
  4. The coating will start to change its color and turn liquid. 
  5. Use a clean rag to wipe it off.
  6. You can also use a scraper to scrape the remaining paint. 

Instead of rubbing alcohol or mineral spirits, you can use a paint-stripping compound. Using a putty knife, apply 2 coats of paint-stripping compound over the finish. The stripping compound will absorb the coating and remove it. After a few minutes, scrape the stripping compound with a scraper, and the finish will come off too.  

3. Fill The Cracks and Holes in The Surface

Fill The Cracks and Holes in The Surface

After removing the finish, you may notice cracks, dents, or holes in the surface. You must fill these holes to prevent the next coating from peeling too.

To fill holes in a surface, use wood filler for wooden surfaces and concrete filler for concrete surfaces. The wood filler can be used for plastered surfaces too, and concrete sealer can be used for bricks and stone surfaces. 

To apply wood or concrete filler, use a putty knife. Fill the holes with the filler and leave it to dry. Wood filler takes 30-60 minutes to dry, and concrete filler takes 4-6 hours to fill. 

4. Sand The Affected Spot

Sand The Affected Spot

Once the wood filler is dry, you must sand the surface. Sanding removes the extra wood or concrete filler and creates a smooth surface for the paint to stick. To sand, use 150-grit sandpaper or a power sander. 

After you sand the entire surface, inspect the surface carefully to see why the last finish chipped off. If you notice damp or water spots, the surface has a water leak problem, and you must call a plumber to fix it. If you don’t fix the issue, the new coating will get washed off too.

If you don’t see anything wrong on the surface, it means the previous coating was poorly applied. 

5. Apply Two Coats Of Primer

Apply Two Coats Of Primer

When the surface is dry and sanded, apply two coats of primer. The primer you will use will depend on the type of paint you intend to use on the primer.

You must use a water-based primer if you are applying water-based paint on the surface. If you apply oil-based paint, you must use an oil-based primer. You must use oil-based primer for polyurethane, polycrylic, and varnish too.

To apply primer, use a paintbrush. Sand between each coat of primer. Wait until the first coat of primer dries before applying the next one. 

6. Sand Lightly

Sand Lightly

Once the second coat of primer dries, sand it using 320 fine-grit sandpaper.

7. Apply The Required Paint

Apply The Required Paint

When the primer is dry and sanded, apply 2-3 coats of paint on the surface. After the finish dries, you can seal it with polyurethane or spar varnish to help it last longer.

Don’t Paint Over Peeling Paint

You shouldn’t paint over peeling paint without removing the entire finish first. The new finish will also turn streaky, uneven, and tacky if you do. Painting over a chipped finish won’t fix the issue. 

When a finish starts to chip off a surface, it’s a sign that the surface is in a bad condition, or you didn’t apply it correctly. If the paint peels off a few weeks or months after application, something is stopping it from sticking to the surface.

The finish will also chip off if you re-coat it too soon. You must wait until one coating fully dries (its solvent evaporates) before you applying the next one. If you re-coat too soon, you will trap the solvent between the two coatings and the finish won’t dry or stick. 

So if you paint over the peeling paint to seal it, the new coating will also peel off because you haven’t addressed the underlying problem. Find out what is causing it to peel, fix the problem, then repaint the affected spot. 

Related Read: Is Primer Supposed To Look Streaky?

Final Words

Overall, you shouldn’t prime or paint over flaking paint. If the paint is peeling, it’s because it wasn’t applied properly or the surface is defective. Whatever the problem is, it must be addressed to prevent successive coats from peeling off.

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