Flaking or Cracking Paint - Causes & Solutions


Painting interior and exterior walls of a house is hard work. You might have scraped off loose paint, prepped surfaces properly, and still the paint started cracking and flaking within a year. Unfortunately, there are many causes for flaking paint, such as cheap paint, old paint, inadequate surface prep or weather conditions. It is devastating to watch all the hard work in painting a house go to waste; however, learning about potential causes of paint failure before the paint job is started, or learning how to fix flaking and cracking can help overcome this problem.


The first sign of paint failure is hairline cracks that suddenly appear in a top coat of paint and eventually crack through all layers. This ultimately leads to the paint flaking off. A main cause for cracking and flaking paint is the use of lower quality paint. Cheap paint does not have adequate flexibility and adhesion needed to last through the drying process onward. Economizing on the paint and spreading it too thin may cause cracking, as well as thinning the paint down too much. Inadequate surface preparation is a major cause for failing paint. Applying paint on bare wood or other surfaces without first applying a primer can lead to cracking.

Another reason is using old solvent-based paint. Even if paint is kept sealed in the can, it can still harden slightly and turn brittle. Painting on a surface that has some water retention or painting during a storm is a sure way for paint to eventually fail and crack. Also, painting with a latex paint over several old layers of a synthetic oil base paint might cause failure all the way down to the wood. Since oil paint never stops curing, and latex cures in a couple of weeks, the two substances do not mix well and can cause a reaction.


Fixing the problem of cracking and flaking paint starts with total removal of the failed paint. Using a wire brush, scraper or power washer, remove all loose paint chips and flakes. The next step is to sand the surface and feather out the edges of the painted surface. Feathering is done with sand paper, and the goal is too thin the previous paint coat down to the bare walls. To kill any mildew that is present on the walls, scrub the walls down with a solution of one part bleach to three parts water. Rinse the walls and let them dry completely. Prep the bare walls or wood areas with a reputable primer. If the flaking paint extends down through multiple layers of old paint, face filler is necessary.

A painter should know what a painting job entails. Look at the old paint or wood for moisture, and see how many layers of old paint are present. Ask an expert if problems or questions arise. Buy good quality paints and primers. Prepare the whole surface properly and give extra attention to possible trouble spots. With the right knowledge, you can have a successful paint job.

Primers and Finishes

Priming is essential for better adhesion, sheen uniformity, mildew control and durability. 
Select a top quality interior paint in the color and sheen of your choice.

Substrates, Primers

Substrate: Various 
Primer: 295 Uni-Prime A/P Primer Sealer 
Finish Coats: 550 Super Latex Interior Flat Wall Paint 
1610 Sat-N-Sheen Int. Low Sheen Finish 
1650 Acry-Plex Interior Latex Semi-Gloss 
1685 Dura-Poxy+ Int. Semi-Gloss Acrylic En. 
1680 Dura-Poxy+ Int. Gloss Acrylic En.