Questions on Removing and Repairing Paint

A man fixes paint on the outside of a house.

Removing and repairing paint may seem like easy tasks, until you attempt them yourself. Removing paint without damaging what's underneath takes some skill. Here, we answer your most common paint removal and repair questions.

Removing Paint

A woman paints a wall.

Q. We have a house built by my great-grandfather that has beautiful hardwood trim around the doorframes and window casings. However, over time they were painted over with regular interior latex paint. The paint never did stick very well because the original hardwood was finished. How do I get all of this old paint off? Some of it will just peel off without damaging the original finish on the hardwood.

A. It is possible to remove latex paint with lacquer thinner. Test a small inconspicuous section. If it does not affect the original finish, this will be the answer. Dampen a cloth with lacquer thinner and wipe off the latex. This will be tedious, but should work. Lacquer thinner will burn explosively, so take precautions and provide sufficient ventilation.

Q. I accidentally painted on some trim. How do I get paint off from trim in an old house?

A. Try carefully using a putty knife. If there's still some left or the putty knife doesn't work, then try "Oops!" or "Goof off." If the trim is stained, use a scotch pad, the kind that doesn't scratch.

Q. We painted over oil-based paint in our bathroom three years ago. We used a "de-glossing" preparation on the walls before painting with a latex semi-gloss paint. Now, the latex paint is cracking and peeling. Can I strip the paint off or sand it down? Or do I need to put up new drywall?

A. Scrape and sand. Anything that doesn't come off is most likely well bonded. Then prime with Kilz (or a similar primer). You will likely need to skim coat the walls with drywall mud. If so, get the walls looking good, re-prime, and then you are ready for paint.

Q. The paint is chipping, almost falling off my walls and ceilings. The chips have the thickness of a credit card, it's about three layers or so, and it's chipping all the way down to the plaster. I have a wall where I've chipped away all the paint I can so I have these huge spots where plaster is visible on about 1/3 of the wall. Do I have to fill these huge holes with Spackle to even out the walls?

A. After scraping off everything that is loose, or everything that will come off, you can use joint compound to smooth or float out just the edges of the bad areas. Several thin coats just around the edges of a large area will allow you to gradually build up the area to make a good transition. No need to do the whole thing.

Q. I am planning to skim coat walls in my house and all of the walls have semi-gloss latex paint with an orange peel texture. How much sanding to the existing paint do I need to do before I apply the coat? Should I apply some type of bonding agent to the walls instead of/in addition to sanding?

A. You don't have to sand too much, just enough to scratch the surface. No need for a bonding agent if you are using joint compound. Joint compound has a bonding agent in it. All-purpose will stick better for the first coat. Then lightweight for additional coats.

Repairing Paint

A man fixes paint on a wall.

Q. I just finished painting my little girl's room with Behr Premium Plus Satin in a lavender color, part of the Disney collection. As it dried, I saw roller marks in some areas, and in other areas, I saw where the paint did not get to the entire wall or in the "valleys" in the knockdown textured walls. I tried a sponge roller of quali-tech and a half-inch nap roller, and neither one seemed good at getting into the valleys in some areas of the walls. What should I do? Should I repaint with a different brand or should I use a different roller?

A. Apply another coat. Use a 3/4 inch nap instead, keep the roller loaded with paint, and do not overwork it. Tape off the baseboards and cover your floors, as it will spatter more than it did with the sponge of a 1/2 inch nap. Sand the walls with fine 120-grit sandpaper before the next coat, and it will go much better. Changing paints will not matter.

Q. I was painting my living room with white latex paint. When it dried, there was a perfectly circular area about 4 inches in diameter where the paint had tiny blisters. Does anyone know why this would happen?

A. The wall was most likely contaminated in that area, from dirt, grease, adhesive from a sticker, etc. Take some sandpaper to it, wash it down with mineral spirits, and touch up. If it persists, prime the area with an alkyd or oil primer, then touch it up.

Q. Is there any type of paint that will slow down the growth of mold? We have a rental property and for some reason the living room wall gets mold on it. We go in and clean it for our tenants but I would rather they not have to breathe it at all. I was wondering if after we clean it with bleach and water if there is a product or paint we could use to slow down the growth.

A. There is mildewcide you can add to the paint, but you need to find out why you have mold. Zinsser makes an excellent product. Go to their website and look for interior perma-white. It can be tinted — not dark though. Maybe take out a chunk and have a look, unless the cause can be found an easier way or is more obvious, like too much humidity — unlikely on just one wall though. The best fix might be to completely replace the wall after you find and fix the cause of the mildew or mold. If you decide to look inside the wall, try not to have the tenants around. They may develop all sorts of breathing difficulties and major health problems.

Q. I just painted a second coat on my daughter's walls and the line where the roller meets the "cutting in" is completely noticeable. It was not obvious with the first coat but now that the second coat is on and dry, you can completely notice where the roller ends and the brush begins. Is there anything one can do to blend it better? Can I take a brush with a light coat of paint on it and try to "feather" between the two without painting an entire third coat, or do I need to do the entire process over? If I do have to do another full coat, any recommendations on how to blend the two better?

A. It is usually best to use a small, or large if you can handle it, roller and go sideways at the top. This will do two things: It will give the roller texture to that area that was previously brushed, and it will get rid of the build-up that you have. Wait until it's cured enough to sand, maybe two weeks, and sand it and try to just touch up the top.

Q. Previously, the walls had semi-gloss paint on them. We bought a latex primer and began to prime the walls. The paint began to bubble down to what appears to be drywall with one coat of flat paint. In some areas, you could see the drywall tape though. We scraped off all the previous paint layers, spackled all the areas that were cracked, etc. We then primed the wall again with two coats of primer, allowing more than the 2 hours of dry time. We then applied the first coat of paint, noticing some small bubbles. After allowing this coat to dry for more than four hours, we then began to apply the second coat. The bubbles are growing and there is air behind them. If you wanted to you could pull them right off. How can I correct this problem?

A. Stop, let it all dry, and repair as before. Then prime with an oil or alkyd primer.