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Painting over Plaster

I hope I explain this so someone understands what I'm talking about because the gal in the paint department at my local HD didn't seem to get what I was saying (not that she was listening very well).


In my kid's bedroom the paint can be literrally peeled straight off the wall in fairly large sheets.  When I inspect the wall, its not drywall, its plaster.  This isn't an old house (built in 1999) so I don't know why there's no drywall.  When I inspect the peeled-off paint, there are at least two other colors under but no paper. 


The only thing I can think of is that either at some point earlier in that bedroom, someone had stripped the paper layer of the drywall off and then painted over the chalkly or plaster part of the drywall - OR - that in order to make the wall flat from corner to corner to make the rounded corners look nicer they just put up a layer of spackle-like stuff and then painted over that.


So now my question is this - without tearing down the walls in that room to replace the drywall, is there anything I can do to prime the walls with no paint so that paint will not peel off like it has?  We had been planning on using that new Behr paint with the primer already in it and the paint person at my local HD seemed to think that would all that would be necessary to use.

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Posted 2011-02-19T00:35:33+0000  by gamermomma gamermomma

Hi gamermomma,


Glad you're back with us, I hope you got that insulation issue in your daughters room lets get into your painting question.


While I am with you about how and why your drywall (or plaster) is the state it is in now, you'll need to first inspect closer on how those two colors are holding up onto the wall. If they are in good shape, no peeling or other failures, you can go ahead by way of using an oil/alcohol-based primer on your walls, and then topcoat with your new Behr Ultra paint with primer as your topcoat, preferably a sheen no higher than satin so that it looks great and doesn't reflect all the imperfections and roller marks on your wall.  Here's a picture of a primer we sell that I like to use for situations like this, and it works great for getting the job done. It dries within an hour and leave a window or fan on, as these kind of primers give off vapors.



To get the walls ready for the primer, if you see any imperfections or tears on your wall, you can use sandpaper on a pole to get the hard to reach areas as you will have to take off any bad areas. Spackle and then dust off any areas and you are ready to go with your primer. 

putty knife.JPG

Unless the top coat for your kid's wall will be a dark or "saturated" color such as a dark pink or bright yellow, then you don't have to tint the primer, but if it is, get your paint associate at your store to throw a little color in the primer before he shakes it up so as to make your topcoat go on with less coats, even if it is Behr Ultra.


If this is the same room you are/did the insulation for, my hats off to you for making their room a better place to be in.



Hope this helps you out,



Posted 2011-02-19T17:35:03+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL

Thank you so much!  I was afraid you were going to tell me there was pretty nothing we'd be able to do.  And yes, its the same bedroom.

Posted 2011-02-19T23:40:47+0000  by gamermomma

Hello, I am curious about your response to this person - I bought a mid-century home and did not realize the walls were plaster. I went ahead & used a paint directly on the plaster - no peeling except at the ceiling.  Should I go ahead & remove the paint and prime it before painting again?  I want to rectify any mistakes I may have made. Thanks, Beth

Posted 2011-03-18T16:32:29+0000  by bewillie22

Hi bewillie22 and welcome to the Home Depot Community!


My old house has plaster walls with paint in various states of gripping and peeling as well.  Where the paint is peeling, I scrape it off as best I can using both paint and razor scrapers.  I then sand any rough edges down and use a wet sponge to get up the dust.  Usually the edges where peeling paint meets gripping paint there is enough definition that I need to use a thin layer of drywall compound and more sanding to get a smooth surface.

What happens next has 2 options when not long ago there was only one.


1.       Prime the wall using primer, and then paint it.

2.       Paint the wall using a new product like Behr Ultra which has the ability to self prime.


You should not need to try and remove the paint you applied (without primer) if it is in good shape and not peeling.  Any area you are going to repaint should be primed using either methods 1 or 2 above.


The particular primer that aboveaveragejoe recommends is oil based, penetrates surfaces well, sticks tenaciously and hides even difficult stains well.  For most interior walls, I think a good latex based primer will be suitable and offer easier cleanup and lower vapor levels.



As you can probably tell by now, there are often many ways to accomplish a task.  There are a lot of products on the market, and each has its strengths or reason for existing.


The bottom line is that you only need to rectify painting mistakes if there is a failure, whether from stain bleeding through, poor color coverage or peeling.


I hope this helps,


Posted 2011-03-18T19:12:35+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI

Thank you Newf!

Posted 2011-03-18T21:07:07+0000  by bewillie22

You are quite welcome.


Please post some pictures when you are done!

Posted 2011-03-18T21:10:14+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI

You may have a situation where somebody skimmed a layer of mud on the walls and did not prime it properly. If your house was built in 1999 it is highly doubtful that it is plaster. The modern eqivelent is a product called Diamond wall wich is a cementitous mud designed to mimic the look of plaster that is skimmed over drywall.


You can solve the problem by priming with a good bonding primer such as gripper or cover stain. Bins is not necessary. This will set a good foundation for successive top coats. Good luck.

Posted 2011-03-21T18:27:11+0000  by paintguy606
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