Flawless Fix for Peeling Paint

  • 01 of 08

    Peeling Paint Fix

    Dilapidated desert midwestern white house
    Joseph Sohm/Getty Images

    You can paint over old paint, but it tends to leave those telltale edges. In a certain light, they shout, "Cheap fix."  For key areas, you will want all the paint to be at the same level, presenting a perfectly smooth, flat surface.

    Before painting your house's interior or exterior, you need to deal with existing paint problems. Unless you're extremely motivated to strip your home of every square inch of paint, you need to reckon with peeling paint. That's where a peeling paint fix comes in.

    Peeling paint presents a real dilemma: it's too small to warrant stripping the entire wall but too big to ignore or paint over.

    You can always prime and paint over an area where paint has peeled off. As long as the remaining edges are stable, it will work, but it's an ugly solution, especially if you're dealing with peeling paint that is several layers deep.

    The method shown here fills in the depression with wood filler. It also helps protect those edges of existing paint so that they are less likely to begin peeling again.

    Tools and Materials Needed

    You may already have the tools and materials on hand to fix your peeling paint. If not, everything on this list will barely cost more than $30.

    • Wood filler or wood putty.
    • Putty knife. Be sure to use a real putty knife (it is bendable) rather than a drywall knife or some other substitute.
    • Paint scraper.
    • Wire brush.
    • Sander. Either an electric orbital sander or a manual sponge-type sander.
    • Optional: WD-40. This is my preferred way of cleaning the wood filler from the putty knife.
    • Primer.
    Continue to 2 of 8 below.
  • 02 of 08

    Scrape Away Loose Edges

    Scraping loose paint off a wall
    Lee Wallender
    Continue to 3 of 8 below.
  • 03 of 08

    Wire Brush and Light Sanding

    Fixing peeling paint by brushing down an area
    Lee Wallender
    • With your wire brush, vigorously sweep away remaining debris from the area.
    • Work the edges once again. If the paint begins peeling, go back and pry it away with the paint scraper.
    Continue to 4 of 8 below.
  • 04 of 08

    Apply Wood Filler with Putty Knife

    Fixing peeling paint by applying putty with a putty knife
    Lee Wallender
    • This is the "fun part," as far as these things go. Apply wood filler to your putty knife, and spread that filler across the area. You only need a thin layer.
    • Make sure that the wood filler extends beyond the perimeter of the area you are fixing. Don't worry: this will get sanded away.
    • Be sure to bend the putty knife as shown to produce a flat surface. This bending effect is why you use a putty knife instead of a non-bendable tool.
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Allow Wood Filler to Thoroughly Dry

    Fixing peeling paint by letting wood filler dry
    Lee Wallender
    • Here is your wood filler after it has been applied. Manufacturer's instructions may say to wait 45 minutes or an hour.
    • You may wish to give it at least 2 hours. If you try to sand before it has thoroughly dried, it will slough off on your sanding sheet.
    Continue to 6 of 8 below.
  • 06 of 08

    Sand Down the Wood Filler

    Fix peeling paint by sanding the area
    Lee Wallender
    • Use a fine grit paper on your sander. This is a bit tricky because you want to grind down this lumped-up wood filler to the thickness of one-, two-, three-, or even more layers of paint.
    • If you press too hard, you will sand all the way down to bare wood, in which case you will have to start all over again.
    Continue to 7 of 8 below.
  • 07 of 08

    Your Sanded-Down Wood Filler

    Fix peeling paint by sanding wood filler
    Lee Wallender
    • After sanding, the area should look something like the photo above. This is pretty spotty, one excuse being that the board has vertical cracking ridges.
    • If you have a similar situation, you may find yourself reluctant to sand through those ridges for fear of sanding out the wood filler.
    • If this were a highly visible area, you might even choose to replace the entire board altogether.
    • In the end, once it has been primed and painted, it will look great.
    Continue to 8 of 8 below.
  • 08 of 08

    Apply Primer to Sanded Area

    Fix peeling paint by priming wood filler
    Lee Wallender
    • Your dried wood filler will need to be primed before painting.
    • After painting, it should be flawless and blend in with the rest of the painted areas.