Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

December, 2008

Latex Paint Peeling Inside my Home

Q. I recently purchased an older home, built in the 1950's. In half of the house, the walls, and kitchen cabinets are painted with a coat or two of latex paint. To my great disappointment, this paint scrapes off easily with only slight pressure with my fingernail. Do I need to scrape all this paint off, if so, then what do I paint it with, oil or latex? Can I avoid scraping all the peeling paint off, but painting with a shellac sealant or something similar? If I have to scrape all the recent latex paint off, is there an easy way to do it... ie: water, detergent, scrub brush, heat gun?

Fortunately this is not happening in the two bedrooms, the paint does not easily scrape off with my fingernail.

Finally, how can I be sure that the paint under this latex is not toxic/lead-based paint?

I'd appreciate your help for this frustrating problem, thank you in advance.

A. If the latex is soft and peels of the walls, you need to remove all of it before starting again with fresh paint. There is no sealer that can make the old, soft and peeling latex stick to the walls.

I suggest you visit your local paint store, such as Kelly Moore, Sherwin-Williams, etc. and look around for the various tools they sell for scraping or sanding off the old paint. You might need a combination of a scraper to first remove the loose paint and follow that will sand paper. Your idea of using a scrubbing brush might also be useful. If you find areas in which the old paint does not come off with any easy, you can probably leave it in place and not remove it.

If you are concerned that your old paint contains lead, you will need to scrape off some of the paint and send it to a chemical laboratory for analysis. Only a very small sample, less than a gram, is required.


Ron Joseph

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