Peeling paint is a common problem with both interior and exterior painting projects. There are many reasons why paint would peel, but in this article we'll outline the most common culprits that we see, and what you can do to fix them.

Common culprits

1. Inadequate prep

Problems often occur when a surface wasn't adequately cleaned before painting. On walls, small dust and dirt particles can accumulate over time. If that dust or dirt gets painted over, the paint adheres to those small particles instead of the wall. This can eventually cause peeling.

In areas that often get touched, such as doors and railings, hand oils can build up over time. Painting over surface contaminates such as this without cleaning first can lead to a peeling paint job.

Another common problem area is on floors. Since floors are a high exposure surface, extra care must be taken to make sure they are clean before painting. If a floor is too dirty, the paint will not adhere as tightly as it should and it will begin to peel as it gets walked on.
Always make sure any surface is clean before painting. On interior walls, a mild soap and warm water solution works great for removing surface dust and dirt. For areas with heavier staining, grime, or grease, TSP (Tri Sodium Phosphate) is a heavy strength cleaner that works well.

2. Moisture

Moisture is the most common reason an exterior paint job would peel, but it can happen inside as well.
Painting outside soon after wet weather, in high humidity, or early on a dewy morning can cause a surfaces to be too damp to paint.
Inside, peeling most often occurs in bathrooms and on ceilings. Usually this is due to inadequate ventilation which causes excessive moisture buildup, later leading to peeling paint.

Another common problem area due to moisture is concrete floors - both inside and outside. Concrete is a porous surface. If there is excessive moisture trapped below, it will come through eventually. This would cause a painted concrete surface to peel.


The good news is, most of the problems listed above can be fixed. If peeling occurs due to painting over a too dirty surface, the peeling paint should be sanded off, then the entire area should be cleaned, and then painted again.

If the problem is due to moisture, on interiors you can improve ventilation with added exhaust fans or vents. On exteriors, paint on a warm sunny day, and avoid painting early on a dewy morning, or late in the day when dew or moisture is likely to form. Additionally, wait a good 48 hours after rain to ensure the surface is dry.

On floors, you can test for moisture by cutting a plastic bag into 4 to 5 6"x6" squares. Tape these along the edges and in the center of your floor and allow them to sit for 24 hours. If you come back and you notice water droplets trapped in the plastic, there is moisture coming through the concrete, and the moisture should be addressed before painting the floor.

There are a multitude of reasons as to why paint would peel, but these are the most common. If you have a peeling problem, don't hesitate to contact us. We'd love to help!