How to Fix Peeling Paint on Your Walls or Ceiling

Updated on April 5, 2019
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Januaris is a professional painter and author of painting guides. He has been painting houses and other structures for more than 13 years.

When affected by the paint-peeling problem, most people hire painters to fix the problem for them. But what many people don't know is that they can actually fix the problem on their own. As a professional painter, I can say that homeowners can repair flaking paint on their own if they have the tools needed and, of course, enough time.

A Surface with Peeling Paint
A Surface with Peeling Paint | Source

In this article, I'm going to discuss how to repair peeling paint on walls or ceilings. If you are planning to fix flaking paint in your home, read on to see how to remove the old paint, prepare the surfaces, and repaint them.

Tools and Materials Needed to Fix Peeling Paint

  • Putty knife
  • Paint scrapper
  • Wire brush
  • Sandpapers
  • Tack cloth
  • Damp cloth
  • Patching compound
  • Drop cloth, tarp, plastic piece, or rag
  • Roller pan
  • Shop vacuum
  • Dust collection bag
  • Paint brush or roller
  • Masking tape
  • Flashlight tool
  • Paint tray
  • Ladder
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Protective gear

Note: You may not need most of these tools and materials to fix the problem in your home.

Removing the Old Coat and Preparing the Surface

1. Safety is an important consideration when removing the old coat, so you need first to get protective gear. You need things such as dust masks and safety goggles to protect yourself from dust and sharp particles. Other safety gear that you may need include apron, gloves, helmet, and boots.

2. In order to fix the problem on the high walls or ceiling, you need to find a ladder. You should ensure that the ladder is strong enough to avoid cases of tripping and falling off. The ladder should have a supportive base and firm rungs.

3. If you are fixing interior walls, you need to empty the room. You need to remove things such as furniture, carpets, rugs, and wall decor just to protect them from dust particles and wet paint. To protect other things like windows, doors, and baseboards, you can use masking tape.

4. Getting fresh air is highly recommended when removing old paint in a room, so you need to keep the windows and doors opened to facilitate proper ventilation. Allowing air inside the room is also a great way to drive out dust particles.

5. In order to collect the paint fragments properly, you need to place a drop cloth or rag on the floor. You can also use a roller pan fixed on your hand to catch the falling particles. In addition, you can use a shop vacuum attached to a dust collection bag to trap the dust.

6. After setting the particle collection mechanism, you can start to remove the old coat. You can use a paint scrapper or wire brush to remove the paint layers. If the surface has some tough layers, you can use a putty knife to remove them.

7. The next thing is to start preparing your surface for a new coat. If your surface has some loose ridges (raised areas), you can use sandpapers to remove them and even out the surface. It is recommended to use a 80-grit sandpaper at this stage.

8. If your surface has some depressions (holes and cracks), you need to use a patching compound to fill them up. To apply the patching material, you need first to clean the surface with a tack cloth and allow it to dry up. You can then apply the compound with a putty knife. If you are repairing peeling paint on a ceiling, you need to use the compound to fix any incomplete joints and seam tapes on it. As a professional painter, I recommend using a flashlight tool to locate parts that need patching on the ceiling.

For the 14 years that I have been painting, I have came across many patching compounds, and the most surprising thing is that most of these products were of poor quality. They couldn't prepare surfaces accordingly and the peeling problem would occur immediately after painting. But I have come across a few high quality compounds that make my work easier.

One compound that I found quite useful is the Dap Presto Patch which is suitable for filling, leveling, and patching cracks and holes on concrete surfaces. It sets in 5 minutes and is ready for painting in 30 minutes. Once it dries up, it can be filed, drilled, or even nailed. I would advise you to use this high performance patching compound in your next painting if you are serious with avoiding problems like blistering, chipping, and peeling.

A Surface with Ridges and Depressions
A Surface with Ridges and Depressions | Source

9. Finally, you need to smooth and even out the patched areas. It is recommended to use a 220-grit sandpaper for this task. This type of a sandpaper has less tough grits and is only designed to polish surfaces.

Many sandpapers have been manufactured, but most of them are not reliable - they don't smooth surfaces accordingly and wear out quickly. If you are looking for a durable and effective sandpaper, I would recommend that you go for the 3M SandBlaster Sandpaper Sheets. I have been using these products for more than 13 years, and I can say that they stay sharp for longer and resist clogging.

The sandpaper comes in 60-Grit, 80-Grit 100-Grit, 120-Grit, 150-Grit, 180-Grit, and 220-Grit styles which means that you can always choose a style that suits your stage of sanding. Each type is designed to cut faster, reducing the work and leaving your surface even. The sheets are great for paint stripping and all provide smooth finishes and don't discolor your surface. They can be used by hand, sanding block, or power tool sander.

Repainting the Wall or Ceiling

1. The first thing is to wipe the patched surface with a damp cloth to remove any loose particles. You should then let the surface dry up before painting. You can also use a dry rag to speed up the drying process.

2. After ensuring that the surface is completely dry, you need to prime it. It is recommended to use the most suitable primer and brush when applying this preparatory coat. If your surface is highly affected by moisture, mold, or mildew, you need to use a latex or oil-based primer.

3. If you are repainting a ceiling, you need to add a layer of undercoat on top of the primer. In case you didn't know, an undercoat is a special paint used to improve the adherence of the final coat. It is usually thinner than normal paint and it can be prepared by diluting any paint with a suitable solvent. To apply the undercoat more effectively, you need to use a roller.

4. Before applying the final coat, you should let the primer or undercoat dry up. The final coat will stick firmly and it will be less likely to suffer again from peeling if you allow the preparatory coat to dry fully.

5. After ensuring that the primer or undercoat is completely dry, you can go on to apply the final coat. You should use a suitable brush and the right paint. If your wall or ceiling is vulnerable to water damage, you need to apply two or three layers of a latex or oil-based paint. As for the brush, you should use one with soft bristles. If your surface is large, you can consider using a roller.

Final Painted Surface
Final Painted Surface | Source

6. If your surface is highly likely to be splashed with water before the paint dries up, you need to protect it with a suitable sealant. This material blocks water, protecting the wet paint from moisture and allowing it to dry up faster.

7. Finally, you need to remove the masking tape and clean any paint drops that fell outside the painting surface. You need also to clean your tools and protective gear. As a professional painter, I recommend that you warn people about the wet paint with a simple caution sign. If you were repainting interior walls of a room, you need to give them one or two days to dry up before returning your items.


As you can see, it is a straightforward process to repair peeling paint in your home. There are no special skills needed to carry out the process, and so you can do it on your own. With the necessary tools and enough time, you only need to follow the steps discussed above to fix flaking paint on your walls or ceilings.


  • Work R. "A Field Guide for Painting and Home Maintenance.". U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (PDF). (Rev 2011).
  • Shearer J. "Why Paint Blisters, and What to Do About It.". The House Painting Guide. (2003).
  • DiClerico D. "How to Paint a Room and Get It Right the First Time.". Consumer Reports. (2016).
  • Horvath L. "Coatings Go Beyond Appearance to Provide Quality Control.". Foundry Mag. (PDF). (2008).
  • Neguer J. "Excavation and Treatment of Plaster, Stucco and Wall Paintings.". Israel Antiquities authority Conservation Department. (PDF). (2014).

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • How do you make up bonding/primer? Is it white PVA glue with some water?

    Absolutely, but you can also dilute normal paint with a suitable solvent. Primers are also available in stores, so you can always buy a ready-made primer.

  • Can I use paint with primer mixed in to save time while fixing peeling pint, or should I just prime first?

    Take time and prime first! Painting is enjoyable.

  • I have feeling lead paint on a 16-foot ceiling. Is power washing or compressed air an option?

    The latter can do better, but you need to protect yourself well.

© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores


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