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The Home Depot

Handy Tips for Treating Cracking Paint

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Painting > Handy Tips for Treating Cracking Paint
Handy Tips for Treating Cracking Paint

It’s not your fault that the paint is cracking on a wall or ceiling. It could be as simple as the coat on the surface has grown old and needs to be retired. Other causes could be that the last paint job wasn’t done correctly. Maybe the surface wasn’t prepped before the last coat was applied. The problem may have been that the last time the area was covered, the paint was too thin.


Whatever the reason, you want to stop the paint from cracking any more. You don’t want to have to repaint the whole wall.

  1. 1.Tools

    You want to stop the paint from cracking any more. You don’t want to have to repaint the whole wall.

    While not as labor intensive as a full-blown paint project, the materials you’re going to need are nearly the same as you’ll use on a total redo.


    • Drop cloth

    • Fine-grit sand paper

    • Paint tray

    • Paint brush or roller

    • Primer

    • Paint

  2. 2.Origin and Prepping

    First you want to find out why this happened in the first place. We talked about the top three causes earlier, but here’s another: Moisture. If it was painted on a rainy day, that could be the problem. Determining that is close to impossible, but it does demonstrate an important lesson. Don’t paint when the air is full of moisture.


    Consider this possibility, too. Is the foundation shifting? Are there cracks in the surface and not just on the old paint job? If that’s the case, just fixing the cracking paint is pretty much a waste of time. You have a much bigger issue to deal with.


    However, let’s say it’s only the paint; you’ll first want to sand down the cracking area. The sandpaper should be in the 600 grit range. You’re going to want to smooth the spot back-and-forth. With wood, sand in the same direction as the grain.

  4. 3.Prep To Paint

    The best way to apply any paint is to start by laying down a coat of primer. Same with this project. You want to make sure that the painting surface will hold the stuff when you lay down a coat. Also, this procedure will make the new paint less likely to have a repeat performance of cracking and flaking in the same area again. After stroking on the primer, take a break. The first coat’s going to need to dry before you apply the final fix.


    While you’re enjoying your time-out, take a look at the directions on the paint can. Sometimes you’ll have to dilute it. If you do, follow the manufacturer’s directions. Remember one of the causes? If the paint is not properly diluted, well, that’s why you have to tackle this issue now. The last coat might have been too thin.


    After the primer has completely dried, it’s time to pour some of the paint into the paint tray. Rule of thumb: If it’s a small surface, a brush will suffice. Larger areas are well-suited to a roller. Once that dries, eye-ball it. Does it need another coat? Slap it on.


    Probably the top solution is to wean yourself from the water-based paints and go for the hard stuff. When you decide to totally paint the interior of your house, shoot for oil. Oil paint rarely suffers from cracks. Go to the museum and look at some of the works from the great masters.

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