Home>Discussions>PAINTING & FINISHING>Peeling interior paint in a 200+ year old house
8 posts / 0 new
Last post
Nancy Grim
Peeling interior paint in a 200+ year old house

I have lived in my vintage farmhouse for 17 years and have had my bedroom painted several times during that period. Each time the paint on one wall begins to peel after a year or two. I'm about to have it repainted and I would really like to solve this problem, if possible.

The room is painted white, the exterior is brick, and that wall faces north so gets no sun. Could this be caused by latex over oil? Improper curing each time? Excess moisture in the brick? And, most important of all, is there a solution? The painter that I called in for an estimate said that it would probably happen again. Do I have to be satisfied with that assessment??

Would appreciate any help.

Thanks, Nancy

Re: Peeling interior paint in a 200+ year old house

Peeling paint is generally caused by moisture. Consider installing a moisture barrier, foam board insulation and new drywall in that wall.

Re: Peeling interior paint in a 200+ year old house


I agree with McDaniel that there is moisture involvement. I would suggest you check out the porousity of your exterior brick. If it is porous, consider having the brick periodically sealed. Many bricks are extremely porous and will pass moisture to the interior wall cavity. To check for porosity, just throw a glass of water on the brick and see how much runs down or how much goes into the brick. If the brick absorbs much water and darkens, you have a problem.

A few years ago, I had to remove mylar wallpaper (foil like paper which is water impervious) from a two story living room wall. The upper paper came off fine. When I got to the lower wall, the drywall was soft and spongy! I went outside to check the extrerior construction. The upper wall was wood verticle siding. The lower wall brick, starting at just about where the interior wall was being damaged. It was a porous type of "common" brick. It was passing moisture into the interior wall where it was trapped by the Mylar paper on the inside. We had to remove all the drywall and insulation and re-build the wall.

The age of your house, It is very likely that there are seveal coats of oil paint on the interior walls. Oil paint is very water vapor resistant, much like the Mylar. We are not talking about flowing water which would readily be seen, but vapor sufficient to break the bond of the paint to the plaster.

There are many water sealers on the market. They are mostly petroleum based clear liquids with silicons in them. They will block the absorbtion of rain water and help keep your wall cavities dry.

Nancy Grim
Re: Peeling interior paint in a 200+ year old house

Thank you both for your suggestions. The porosity of the brick is probably the main culprit since two years ago I discovered a very serious mold problem in my living room wall which had panelling over it and white impermeable wallpaper over that. Squirrels get up in the gutter and the downspout had been spilling over, probably for a long time.

Do you see any problem with repainting now and applying the sealer in the spring (it's 25 degrees here now)? I can wait till later if necessary, but I would like to get it done.

Old houses are charming but they do require serious maintenance!


Re: Peeling interior paint in a 200+ year old house


Ideally, you should resolve the moisture problem first. Sealers for the brick generally require temperatures above about 40 degrees and also dry weather for a few days before and at least 24 hours afterward.

You probably still have excess moisture in your walls. If you again paint the areas which have failed formerly, it will probably fail again. Will it cause further damage if you rush the job? Probably not, but keep plenty of touch-up paint!
Personally, I would get the brick sealed first, wait several months for the walls to dry out in the heat of the summer, then paint. The nature of sealers is that they shed rain water, yet allow vapor to respire through it. Most contain silicons.

josh the painter
Re: Peeling interior paint in a 200+ year old house

So your house is wicked old and the paint peels, what are your interior walls made from ?? brick, plaster ect ... there most likley is a moisture issue but you still should have plenty of options.

If the walls are brick do a moisture test. Apply a foot square piece of plastic and tape it down, check back in a few days if there is condensation on the inside you have a moister problem confrimed. then get every little bit off that you can and dry lock the heck out of the substrate ( use the latex as most oil is a older formulation now used only on the exterior).
If your wall is plaster moisture is easier to spot, look for the soft discolored spot. You may want to look for a paint store or rental center to get a moisture meter.
most likley you have a eflouresent problem ( god I hope i spellt that right) Salt and tiny particules preventing the paint from adhering. sand it down , use a tsp product prime and paint.

hope that helps :?)

Hank Bauer
Re: Peeling interior paint in a 200+ year old house

Yes the problem is moisture with in the wall.
The results is efflorescence.
For efflorescence three conditions must exist before it will occur.
First there must be water-soluble salts present somewhere in the wall.
Second there must be sufficient moisture in the wall.
Third there must be a path for the salts to migrate through to the surface.
So being the wall is brick and plaster salts are present.Clean the exterior side water proof with a masonary water proofer NOT A SEALER.
Prep for paint in the following maner Brush away or remove all loose salts.
Wet the affected area with clear water.
Apply a salt Neutraliser ( VINEGAR ) by brush.
Allow time for neutralising action not over about 10 Min.
Rinse with clean clear water.
Let dry thoroughly ( make sure area is DRY )
Prime with a oil base primer not a sealer.

Re: Peeling interior paint in a 200+ year old house

Your walls could have an underlying coat of calcimine. It's a whitewash-type wall paint used extensively on plaster for 100 years. Modern paints don't like to stick to it. BenMoore makes a primer specifically for it, but it can be washed off with detergent and water.
Calcimine has an affinity for water, so just removing it may have a beneficial effect on other water/water vapor issues on your masonry wall. Don't ever use any sealer that is vapor-impenetrable.
Efflorescence is borne on liquid water, and it is an indicator of its intrusion. Check gutters, downspouts, roof, and plumbing.

Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.