Why is Paint Peeling Off Drywall?

peeling paint

You can lose a lot of hair watching paint peel off your drywall. We’re here to stop your accelerated balding and give you some tips on preventing your paint from flaking loose. 

Paint will peel off dry drywall if the surface wasn’t properly prepared, cheap paint was used, or there was an incompatibility between the paint and primer, or the old paint on the wall. 

Before you start worrying about all the advanced chemical reactions that could have gone wrong, or the person you suspect sabotaged your newly painted drywall, try to cover the basic issues first. 

No one likes peeling paint. It’s a hassle, and it means double and triple the work. If you’ve had paint peeling from the drywall in one room, don’t use the same paint and tactics in another room and expect different results. 

Below, we will try to help you diagnose the problem and give you a few treatments. You want to enjoy your freshly painted room, not pull out your hair. 

Top Reasons for Paint Peeling Off Drywall 

Sometimes you’ve got to pull out your Sherlock Holmes hat and really examine an issue. It’s easy to feel like we did “everything right.” However, many times there could be a silly little issue causing the problem. 

In the sections below, we will offer an issue and then suggest a fix. As silly as it sounds, many problems can be avoided by taking the time to read and follow the instructions on your can of paint. 

Reasons for peeling paint: 

  • Cheap or expired paint 
  • Poor surface preparation – dust – dirty 
  • Moisture 
  • Heat on the area 
  • Incompatible paint or primer 
  • Painting on too thick 
  • Not allowing adequate dry time 

Okay, now let’s look at these closer. 

Cheap paint can Start to Peel off Drywall 

It’s easy to think paint is a simple product. Why pay extra for the expensive stuff? It’s just paint, right? 

Unfortunately, the paint’s quality can play a large factor in how well your paint adheres to the drywall. The cheaper the paint, the more careful you’ll need to be about applying it perfectly. Also, even then, it’s not likely to last as long as more robust paint. 

So, if the paint is peeling off your drywall, ask: Did I buy the cheapest paint I could find? 

If your answer is yes, then you may have found your issue. 

However, just because the paint is cheap doesn’t mean it will peel off. There are likely other causes, and we’ll cover these below. 

The Negative Effects of Poor Surface Preparation on Paint 

Surface preparation is essential when painting drywall. Especially if you are applying the first coat of paint over freshly installed drywall, there are several things to keep an eye on. 

First, was the surface dusty? Sometimes this dust can be hard to see, sort of like a light powder. If there was dust on your wall from drywall sanding or installation, this could block the paint from properly adhering. 

Second, was the surface at all dirty? If there was any debris, sawdust, or old flaking paint, then you may have found your problem. 

Before any drywall painting task, you need to be sure the surface was cleaned and free of contaminants. 

Moisture can Stop Paint from Sticking to Drywall 

Humidity is the enemy of paint. If the drywall is inside a room that is over humid, then you’ll need to bring that humidity down. Most paint adheres the best when humidity is between 40 and 70 percent. 

Check the humidity of your room. If you find that there is too much moisture in the air, you can use a dehumidifier. 

As a rule, don’t ever paint after heavy rain or other known jumps in humidity. 

After humidity in the air, there could be a chance the drywall became wet somehow. Of course, how your drywall became moist is a mystery. If you are painting in a bathroom, or there’s a chance that you have a leaking pipe somewhere, perhaps that would be your issue. 

Your surface must be dry before you can commence painting. 

Concentrated Heat Can Cause Paint to Bubble and Peel Off Drywall 

Just like the sun can burn your skin, the sun can also burn your paint (sort of). Especially right as it’s being painted. 

If there is sunlight shining right onto the drywall through a window, it could cause the paint to peel. 

When the bright sun hits the fresh paint, it causes the top layer to dry quickly. However, the paint underneath will be unable to dry, and the fumes and gases can’t escape. And you get bubbling, and then peeling. 

To prevent this, make sure you don’t paint in the scorching heat. Cover any windows that let hot sunlight through. 

Incompatible Paint or Primer Can Cause Paint Peeling from Drywall 

Cheap paints and expensive paints. Old paints and new paints. Latex paint and oil-based paint. There are many potential combinations when it comes to painting, and not all of them play together nicely. 

Before you begin painting, make sure you do your research for each component of your project

You don’t usually want to paint latex paint over old oil-based paints. However, some oil-based paints can be painted over latex. It can be confusing trying to make sure everything is compatible. 

Be sure to read product labels before purchase and compare them to the old paint or primer on your drywall. 

Even though the primer is supposed to help the finished project, if the primer isn’t compatible with your paint, it will create more problems than it solves. 

Don’t Paint Layers too Thick 

When you are painting several layers of paint onto drywall, you want to be careful not to paint the layers too thick. When you apply layers too thick and then apply them too quickly over each other, something called “blocking” can occur. 

Blocking happens when the outer surface of the paint will dry, inhibiting the inner paint from drying. Even though the outside has started to harden, the inside is still moist, making it possible for the paint to peel off. 

Some Other Reasons Paint will Peel off Drywall 

There are a few other reasons paint will begin to peel. These reasons are not related to immediate issues, but you might end up encountering them over time. 

First, you will find that as paint ages, it will eventually begin to fail. Especially if the paint was not high quality, it could begin to expire before other paints. 

Some people have also pointed out that there could be something behind the drywall causing to act strange, such as condensation from large pipes or an improperly sealed house.

If there’s anything causing moisture, then you open up possibilities for peeling. 

Second, oil-based paints are typically considered to be more durable than acrylic or latex-based paint. So if you’d like your to paint to last as long as possible, try to use the most quality paint. 

Finally, be sure you allow the paint to dry fully before agitating it with any picture frames or moisture.

Things to Remember to Stop Paint Peeling Off Drywall 

Painting doesn’t have to be a pain. You need to do a few things to ensure you don’t end up with all your paint peeling off the drywall. 

Make sure you properly clean the drywall. Clear all dust and dirt and make sure the surface is dry. Use a strong fan on the wall before painting to make sure there is no moisture at all. 

After you’ve cleaned the walls, you’ve got to check and make sure your paint will positively react with whatever is on the surface. That could be old paint or primer. Just remember that if you paint over old paint that is getting ready to fall off, then your new paint might try to fall off with it. 

We mentioned avoiding moisture on the drywall, but you want to keep the moisture out of the air as well. If there’s too much humidity, either wait for the weather to change or control things with a dehumidifier. 

Also, paint things on in thin coats. If you lay things on too thick, then the outside of the paint will dry, but the inside will remain uncured, and you could get paint peeling. 


If you take your time to plan accordingly, then you shouldn’t run into too many issues. You can solve many problems (and prevent them) by taking the time to read the guidelines on the paint can. 

Finally, if you’re planning to hire professional painters to paint your drywall for you, be sure you check them out by asking around and see if there are any reviews online. Not all professional painters have your interests in mind, and they may be looking for a way to make an easy buck. 

Painting can be deceptively difficult. And there are lots of little things that can go wrong. Take time to ask a friend what products and techniques they used when painting their walls. Ask around and see what you can discover. Fortunately, if you do your homework and plan things out, your paint can roll perfectly onto your drywall. 

2 thoughts on “Why is Paint Peeling Off Drywall?”

  1. This is happening too my house. What do you think is the easiest way to remove the paint off of a knockdown textured wall? I’m having this problem in my bathrooms, kitchen and some of my bathroom. Thank you ! Ed

  2. Lot of good info. I have radiator heating system next to walls. New tenant moved in does boil lot of water for cooking witch creates heat in entire condo unit. I am not sure my radiator heating has leakage. Some walls next to radiator hot and cold water radiators runs. I am trying to understand why so much moister stays in room. There may be issue with a boiler in building’s basement? Thermostats in my condo unit controls or supposed to control heat. So this thermostat communicates via hard wire remote device next to heating system.

    I am trying to fix issue. Any help will be appreciated.


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