Peeling paint on a house

Peeling house paint, and other paint failures

Exterior Paint Failure

Peeling paint on the exterior of a house can be maddening and expensive! Having to paint your house every couple of years or so is not normal. It should not be expected or acceptable. If you find yourself in this cycle of having to paint that often, there is a reason for it. It’s what I like to call a ‘pre-existing condition’. We have all heard that term before, probably from our insurance company. It may sound funny hearing it applied to the exterior of your home, but it is true.

There are many reasons why paint fails on the exterior of a home. I will address a few of the more common reasons here today. Let’s look at them through the analogy of, the ailment and the remedy, given we have already established there is a pre-existing condition.

Common Paint Problems

Here are the top 3 complaints I hear and see when estimating repainting a house for clients. Over the past 30 plus years in the industry, my diagnostic skills have been honed and I have pretty much seen it all.

“My house keeps peeling down to the bare wood.”

This is a typical complaint from homeowners whose homes have clapboard siding and were built in the 60’s, 70’s and part of the 80’s although any house could be affected. Most times, this paint failure can be attributed to what is known in the industry as, mill glaze. When the clapboards are made at the mill, they are run through a machine that smooth’s at least one side of the clapboard. This created a glaze or coating on the surface. When the clapboards were installed with this smooth side facing out and the painter did not rough them up, ‘raise a tooth’ as the old-timers called it, the primer or paint would never adhere. The mill glaze surface was similar to a very smooth plastic. The reason I say houses built in the 60’s to 80’s is because back then clapboards did not come with primer on them, they were raw wood. The mill glaze was not addressed and the paint failed. Today most all contractors install pre-primed clapboards and this eliminates this mill glaze problem.


“The paint on my house looks like alligator skin.”

This is simply too much paint on the surface. When layers of paint are built up on any surface, the surface cannot expel moisture. Moisture is always trying to move to the outside of any surface including a paint film. When it cannot move easily, it breaks through or cracks the surface resulting in the alligator skin look.


“My house is red but the paint keeps peeling down to this yellow paint color.”

The colors don’t matter here, they are just an example. I have seen this issue time and time again. There could be one or several reasons this is happening.

The ‘yellow’ layer is the culprit. Or better said, what was done on top of the yellow layer is the problem. The paint work that was done on top of this yellow color was done improperly. A few improper steps could be, the house was not washed before applying new paint. The yellow layer is glossy and it was not sanded to knock down the gloss before new paint was applied. Or, quite possibly, the wrong paint or primer was used on top of this yellow layer and it did not adhere. Believe it or not, I have seen interior paints and primers being used on exterior surfaces. They will fail every time. Weather and climate also play a big part in paint adhesion. Temperature, humidity, damp surfaces, nighttime temperatures, water infiltration all play a role in the adhesion of primers and paints and there longevity.

Remedy for paint problems

The remedy to these paint ailments is fairly simple. But first, let me say this. If the ailment is from years ago, pre-existing condition, don’t blame the last painter who painter your house. It is not their fault. The condition existed before they arrived. You could fault them for not pointing out the condition, but that is a topic for another day.

There is really only one remedy for the conditions I describe above and that is residing the house. I know you may not want to hear that and it’s never a fun fact to tell homeowners after I inspect a house. Let’s face it, they have called me for a repaint job, not a siding job which is a very different project in scope and pricing.

If you think you can’t afford to reside the house, take a step back and think of all the money you will spend chasing the peeling paint and repainting every few years as opposed to residing and eliminating the problem altogether. Not to mention the house will almost always look like it is in a state of disrepair. You can also reside a side or two at a time to ease the budget.

I am not a fan of whole house paint removal. If you live in a house let’s say that was built in 1995, by the time the stripping/paint removal is done, your house will look like it was built in 1895! This process leaves the siding pitted, rough, gouged, wavy and over all terrible looking.

You may think ceramic paint is the way to go with these claims of ‘lifetime warranty’, ‘never have to paint your house again’. Well, get a quote on that and then come see me for residing. I will save you money. Plus, this type of paint is a newer technology and they are still working the bugs out of it. Mold and mildew is a BIG issue with this type of paint and process.

I hope you found this information helpful. I would be glad to meet with you and discuss the options if you find yourself in any of the situations I have described above. At Masters Touch we are experts in the home residing industry. We install all products from the James Hardie cement board line as well as traditional cedar wood siding and can paint the house after the wood siding is installed. One stop shopping!

Please contact me to schedule an inspection or estimate so we can ‘cure’ your home of its ‘ailments’!

Thanks for reading….

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