How to Fix Peeling Paint on Drywall? (6 Steps)

| Updated on
Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

A finish will peel off the drywall if you don’t prep the surface correctly. So, how to fix peeling paint on drywall?

To fix peeling paint on drywall, remove the paint with a scraper (or a removing compound). Next, repair and prep the surface, and apply a primer. Once the primer is dry, apply two coats of fresh paint.

If the finish wasn’t applied recently, you must find the cause of the problem and fix it before applying a new finish. If you don’t, the new finish coating will also peel off for the same reasons.

Why Does Paint Peel Off Drywall?

Paint will peel off drywall if you didn’t properly prep the surface before applying it. For instance, if you didn’t apply a coating of primer, the paint won’t stick properly and will peel off.

That’s because drywall is a synthetic material gotten from paper and gypsum plaster. The synthetic drywall material prevents the paint from sticking well to it without a primer.

Here are some other reasons this happens:

1. Exposure To Moisture

If unsealed drywall is exposed to moisture, its finish will peel off. That’s because drywall is a porous material, and water can penetrate its surface and wash off the finish.

2. Bad Application

Using the wrong applicator method, not allowing enough dry time between coats, and applying the paint on a dusty surface can all result in a peeling finish. To prevent this, follow the right steps and the manufacturer’s instructions when applying paint.

3. Sealed Drywall

If the drywall has an existing finish, a new paint coating won’t stick over it. That’s because a sealer has a glossy and moisture-resistant layer that repels liquid. As such, sealed drywall can’t accept paint.

To know if the drywall is sealed, use a scraper to scuff the finish. If the scraper has a glossy buildup, the drywall is sealed.

4. You Combined Different Types Of Paints

If you mix different types of paint, the mixture will peel off. That’s because paints have different formulas and won’t mix well with each other. For example, if the surface has oil-based paint and you apply a water-based paint over it, the finish will peel off.

Can You Paint Directly Over Peeling Paint?

You shouldn’t paint directly over peeling paint because the new coating will peel off too. That’s because the same factors that caused the old coating to peel off will also cause the new coating to peel off.

For instance, if the old finish peels off because of moisture exposure, the new finish will also peel off because of the moisture. Or, if it’s happening because of improper drywall preparation, the new finish will also peel off for the same reason.

So, you must remove the existing finish, find and fix the cause, and then re-apply it.

How To Fix Peeling Paint On Drywall?

Here are the tools you need for this task:

  • A plastic putty knife
  • Large nylon bags
  • Medium and fine-grit sandpaper
  • Brush or sprayer
  • Polyurethane/Varnish
  • Joint compound
  • Rags
  • Tape
  • Paint stripper (Optional)

1. Remove The Peeling Finish

First, remove the peeling finish from the surface using a plastic scraper. Don’t use a metal  scraper, as it can damage the drywall surface.

To scrape it:

  1. Use a plastic scraper.
  2. Place the scraper under the paint and lift it.
  3. Scrape as much as you can.
  4. Put the scraped paint in a plastic bag, so the workspace doesn’t get messy.
  5. For leftover or stubborn paint, use a stripping compound.
  6. Apply the paint stripper over the finish and wait 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes, use a scraper to remove the paint and the stripping compound.

The stripping compound penetrates the coating and dissolves it. Once the compound dries, you can remove it together with the paint it has penetrated.

2. Repair The Drywall

Inspect the surface and see if it needs to be repaired. If it does, apply joint compound over holes, cracks, or splits. The joint compound will fill the holes and even out the surface. After you apply the filling compound, allow it to dry before sanding.

3. Sand The Drywall

You must sand the surface before applying the primer and paint. Sanding will remove the imperfections, and smooth out the surface.

To sand drywall before painting:

  1. Start with 120-grit sandpaper to remove bumps.
  2. End with 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface.
  3. Remove the dust.

You must sand it manually because a power sander can be too harsh for the paper material of the drywall.

4. Prime The Drywall

Once the drywall is sanded, apply one coat of drywall primer. Priming will serve as a base coat of the paint to stick to. This will increase the adhesion between the paint and drywall.

To prime drywall:

  1. Use primer designed for a drywall surface (preferably waterproof).
  2. Apply the primer will a brush or roller.
  3. Leave the primer to dry fully.
  4. If the primer coating isn’t even, sand it.

5. Apply The Paint

When the primer dries, apply drywall paint.

To do so:

  1. Use water-based paint for indoor drywall and oil-based for outdoor drywall.
  2. Apply 2-3 coats of paint using a brush or roller.
  3. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one.

6. Seal The Finish

Once the final coating dries, seal it with a waterproof sealant. The sealant will protect the finish and material from moisture, water, scratches, and damage.

For indoor surfaces, sealing is optional, but for outdoor surfaces, it is mandatory. That’s because outdoor surfaces are exposed to weather elements that can wash off the finish and damage the surface.

The best sealants for drywall are polyurethane and lacquer. For outdoor drywall, use an exterior-grade sealant (for example, exterior polyurethane). You need two coats of sealant.

How To Prevent Paint From Peeling off Drywall?

To prevent paint from peeling off drywall, do the following. 

  1. Use the right drywall primer and paint.
  2. Leave enough dry time between each coat.
  3. Seal the finish with a waterproof sealer.
  4. Use the right applicator methods and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Sand and clean the surface before painting.
  6. Don’t mix and use paints with different bases (or solvents).
  7. Only paint when the room temperature is between 50-85 degrees (F). If the temperature is too hot, the coating can dry too quickly and blister off.

Final Words

In summary, peeling drywall paint is caused by the lack of a primer coat. Other possible causes include exposure to moisture, improper prep work, and recoating too soon.

To fix the peeling paint, remove the loose finish and find and fix the cause. Then prep the drywall and reapply the finish. To prevent it from peeling again, use a good sealer and clean the finish regularly to remove dirt.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

Leave a Comment