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Paint Peeling Off Plaster Ceiling

Q: "How do I deal with several layers of paint over a plaster ceiling?"


I recently moved from a beautiful modern condo in Seattle to a very
"challenging" 1930s-era apartment in Manhattan. I don't know how to get
started on the ceiling that has two or three coats of paint
peeling off the plaster. The plaster underneath appears to be in pretty
good shape, but where and how do I start to fix it? Should I attempt to
scrape off the old paint? Instead of trying to remove this stuff, I've
thought about maybe papering over it or better yet, find some product
that can be mechanically attached — like those metal ceilings you find in old buildings.

— Tony, New York, NY


Tom Silva replies: Whatever you decide to do, you'll have to get rid of that old
peeling paint or your fix won't stick. Paint and paper need a clean
surface to adhere to or you'll be back up on a ladder doing repairs
sooner than you'd like. Even a metal or drop ceiling needs something
good and solid to screw into, so there's really no way around scraping
it. You should be able to get most of it off with a putty knife. (If you
suspect the paint has lead in it call the EPA hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD
for more information on lead paint.) Then fill in any irregularities
with joint compound and you are ready for paint, paper, or whatever
finish you decide on. The bottom line: Getting things looking good takes
some elbow grease.


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