Interior Paint Problems: Cracking or Flaking

Paint Cracking and Flaking

Cracks in paint can lead to flaking and failure of the paint.
(Photo courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute)

Dry paint sometimes cracks or flakes due to aging or improper application. Learn how to fix the problem.

Cracks in paint can start off small, but will worsen over time if they're not fixed. In its early stages, the problem appears as hairline cracks. Later, the paint begins to flake off.

What Causes Paint Cracking or Flaking?

  • The use of low-quality paint, resulting in inadequate adhesion and flexibility
  • Oil-based paint applied over latex paint
  • Paint was spread too thin during application
  • Poor surface preparation, especially when the paint is applied to bare wood without priming
  • Paint drying too fast due to environmental conditions
  • Paint becoming brittle with age, failing to expand and contract with temperature and humidity changes
  • Extreme cracking, sometimes called "alligatoring," caused when a second or third coat of paint is applied before the previous coat dries completely, or when the undercoat is incompatible with the finish coat

How to Fix Cracked or Flaking Paint

  • If the cracking does not go down to the substrate, remove the loose or flaking paint with a scraper or wire brush, sand the area to feather the edges, prime any bare spots, and repaint the surface
  • If the flaking occurs in multiple layers of paint, you may need to use a filler
  • If the cracking goes down to the substrate, remove all of the paint by scraping or using a heat gun, sand the surface until smooth and even, prime, and repaint with a quality latex paint

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