Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Why Paint Peels

My 1914 shingle-style house on the Providence River/Upper Narragansett Bay was reshingled with white cedar in 1996 and recoated in 2005 with bleaching oil. The house was repainted Sept. 2010 with a different acrylic house solid stain. Within 2 -1/2 years, it was peeling on the south & west sides. The painter said we needed vents on those walls, saying the heat/moisture can cause peeling, so he installed them.  Now the east (water side) and north are peeling.  The garage is peeling so badly that I can strip it off with one tug. The painter wants to touch it up again.  The paint sales person said it’s not wise to paint cedar shingles on the water, because the retained water makes paint peel, saying it’s best to use a bleaching oil stain.  He said maybe I should just let it peel off, get it sanded and start off the right way next time.

Any suggestions?   I don’t want to throw good money after bad.  

Donna

Peeling paint is caused from a variety of issues.

Moisture detection

Moisture detection

  1. Poor bonding.  The bonding of layer to layer requires proper prep and application of the coating systems.  For instance, a poor bond can happen from residue on the surface, like salt and other environmental/organic compounds, like mold, mildew and dirt.  It also can happen from the previous finish being incompatible to whatever was used for a topcoat.  If paint was put over a stain, then the paint would require a primer coat.  A way to tell if the finish is not bonding properly is when paint peels to a previous layer, not necessarily to the wood.  Also, wood fillers can cause finishes to fail, but it is more the filler failing than the paint.
  2.  Moisture from behind will cause paint to peel down to bare wood.  A proper building system, such as good flashing, building paper like Tyvek or tarpaper, and behind the trim splines, will allow the house to breathe and not allow water to come from behind.  Siding typically does not need to “breathe”, since moisture should not be behind it.  If there are isolated areas of paint/finish failure, then it can be attributed to poor flashing or moisture from behind.  If the house is peeling on every side, then either the house was built wrong, or the finish was not applied properly.  I typically go with the paint not being applied right.
  3. Build up.  Too much paint can cause the finish to alligator with small, finite cracks.  These small cracks will allow the moisture to get behind the finish, or the topcoat cannot control if the layers underneath are no longer bonding.  This typically happens on older homes, maybe 60 years old or more.
  4. Bad paint/finish.  On a rare occasion good quality paints can have a bad formula in a batch.  This is determined when the symptoms rule out other failures.  Also cheap or low quality finishes will fail prematurely, since there is either little technology or very low quality ingredients that make it a bad formula.  This can be chalking, peeling and other failures that are more universal, not isolated to sides or areas.  This will usually peel to the previous finish, not to bare wood.
  5. Environmental conditions.  If the paint was applied when the moisture content of the wood was too high, then the finish will peel.  This again will happen universally, unless certain parts of the house dried before they applied the finish.  It may be worse on areas with full sun exposure.  This can peel to bare wood, or the previous finish.

So the answer is in the analysis.  I would look for the clues and develop a remedy based on what was observed.  If you paint again correctly and the finish keeps peeling, then it may be a house assembly issue.  Some problems may be obvious, others figured out over time.