How to Fix Chipped, Peeling Paint Before Repainting

Desert Midwestern white house
Joseph Sohm / Getty Images
  • Working Time: 1 hr
  • Total Time: 4 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to $15

Before painting your house's interior or exterior, it's important to deal with existing paint problems. Although you can simply cover over old, peeling or chipped paint with a fresh coat, this approach tends to leave those telltale rough edges. In a certain light, this kind of paint job shouts "cheap fix." For key areas—or if you are just more of a perfectionist—you will want the underlying layer to present a perfectly smooth, flat surface as the base for a fresh coat of paint.

If you're extremely motivated, you can strip off every square inch of paint right down to bare wood, but for most of us, it's more logical to make spot fixes. When peeling or chipping paint is found in a small area, you may be able to simply brush off the peeling paint, then prime the wall and paint over it. As long as the remaining edges of the peeling area are stable, this solution will work. But it's not a very attractive solution, especially if you're dealing with peeling or chipped paint that is several layers deep.

A better method, shown here, is to fill the depressions with wood filler before priming and painting. In addition to being more attractive, this method also helps protect those edges of existing paint so that they are less likely to begin peeling again.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Putty knife
  • Paint scraper or five-in-one tool
  • Wire brush
  • Sander with fine-grit sandpaper
  • Paint brush


  • Wood filler
  • Primer


  1. Scrape Away Loose Edges

    With a paint scraper or five-in-one tool, scrape away loose edges of the painted area. Stop when it becomes too difficult to pry away the paint. And take care not to gouge or damage the wood with the sharp edges of the scraper.

    Scraping before paint
    pablohart / Getty Images
  2. Remove Loose Paint by Brushing

    With a wire brush, vigorously sweep away remaining debris from the area. Work the edges of the damaged areaa once again. If more paint begins to peel, go back and pry it away with the paint scraper.

    Fix Peeling Paint - Brush Down the Area
    Lee Wallender
  3. Apply Wood Filler

    Apply wood filler to a putty knife, and spread a thin layer of filler across the damaged area. Make sure that the wood filler extendss slightly beyond the perimeter of the damaged area Don't worry: This excess will get sanded away. Be sure to flex the putty knife to produce a flat surface.

    Fix Peeling Paint - Apply Putty with Putty Knife
    Lee Wallender
  4. Allow Wood Filler to Dry

    Allow the wood filler to completely dry, as directed by the manufacturer's instructions. This normally takes 45 minutes to one hour, but you may wish to give it at least 2 hours. If you try to sand before it has thoroughly dried, the filler will slough off when you sand.

    Fix Peeling Paint - Let Wood Filler Dry
    Lee Wallender
  5. Sand Down the Wood Filler

    Attach a fine-grit paper on asander, and grind down the patched area so is is smooth with the surrounding paint. Avoid sanding down all the way to bare wood.

    Fix Peeling Paint - Sanding the Area
     Lee Wallender
  6. Check for Smoothness

    Run a bare hand over the patched area to feel for smoothness. The patched area should blend in with the surrounding paint. If you are unable to smooth the area entirely—such as when the board is badly damaged—an option is to replace the board entirely.

    Fix Peeling Paint - Sanded Wood Filler
    Lee Wallender 
  7. Apply Primer

    When the filled area is smooth to your satisfaction, apply a primer to the entire surface to prepare it for painting. Priming the entire surface will help the filled area blend in perfectly when you apply paint. If you do not prime, the patched area may absorb paint at a different rate then the surrounding area.

    Fix Peeling Paint - Priming Wood Filler
    Lee Wallender