How about some homeowner fun on this Monday morning? Let’s talk paint.
All houses have their mysteries, and ours is no different. One of the things that we loved most about this house was the minimal updating. In fact, the paint colors even gave the impression of decades ago and the shadows on the walls showed where picture frames and shelves had hung for those same decades. We placed “painting the entire interior of the house” on our list of aesthetic priorities. There’s just something so satisfying about a new coat of paint suited to your own tastes.
I love to paint. Honestly. Give me some work lights, good music or Gilmore Girls for the background, and I will paint all night long (I don’t really have time to paint during the day). Prepping and priming aren’t my favorite tasks, but I’m warming up to them. But I love colors: thinking about them for days or weeks, matching them, choosing lots of different colors, etc. And the end result is always worth all of the effort and the paint that somehow ends up on my face.
So far I have painted three rooms (living room, bedroom, guest room) with four to go (dining room, kitchen, bathroom and office). The guest room, which is the smallest room, took the longest amount of time and the most effort because of peeling paint on the plaster ceiling. And then I was inspired to paint horizontal stripes (which, by the way, sound scary and require a lot of painters tape. but turned out great). I owe a great deal of thanks to a few flamingos and my sister Sarah for their help.
Now I am moving on to my next project: the office. It is currently a pretty shade of blue, but there is one big problem: the paint is chipping everywhere in this room. By chipping, I mean something akin to alligatoring. See below.
And that is only one small section of this room. See here:
Fun, yes? Good thing I like a historic house puzzle. However, this one is driving me crazy. Why is the paint chipping like that? It is the only room in the house where this is happening. For reference, aside from the wall with the windows, all of the walls are interior walls. I’ve asked everyone who walks through the door, but no one has come to any conclusions, yet. Perhaps you can help. Here is what I know about the paint in our house (with thanks to the sellers who were kind enough to answer my questions):
The upstairs rooms have only been painted once, probably with one coat. Downstairs rooms have been repainted in the same color, except for the kitchen (new color). Any room that was repainted was done in the 1970s. The house was built in 1928. In other words, there is very likely lead paint in this house (pre-1978 as all preservationists know).
My questions relating to this information: How has one coat of paint lasted 83 years? Why is the blue room chipping and the other rooms are not? And, how am I supposed to remove that chipping paint? And will this happen again when I repaint?
Regarding the one coat of paint: it’s good to know now that some rooms have been repainted. But was lead paint that durable to have one coat last 83 years? Isn’t that impossible? So far in my paint endeavors I have not found evidence of multiple coats. Others have suggested that the house was wallpapered, then stripped of its wallpaper and painted. (I would not want that job.) Others have suggested that the house (the walls) froze last winter when it was unoccupied and unheated. And others have suggested it’s just a bad application in the blue room. That was my first instinct, but I’m still amazed at the other rooms that have had only one coat of paint.
Regarding paint removal: scraping creates dust particles and scratches the smooth plaster. Chemical stripping or something like citrus stripper is not effective.
While I love colors and painting, I am not an expert. If you have experience with chipping paint or can help me solve the old paint questions, I’d be very interested to chat. This room will take a while to finish; but, I will share what I learn and the end results.
4 thoughts on “The Bungalow: Paint Chatter”
Just like the fact that lead in high enough concentrations is toxic to humans, it’s also toxic to mold and mildew producing organisms (at least that’s what I was taught in school). When those organisms don’t have a suitable environment in which to grow and flourish, deterioration of those sacrificial paint layers aren’t as likely to happen. That’s why leaded paint was such a godsend (before we understood the whole story)…it had good bonding qualities and wasn’t susceptible to deterioration.
My guess on the paint would be wide temperature/moisture swings during the home’s unoccupied period causing the paint to separate from the substrate. It would be interesting to test the paint with various solvents to see whether you have oil, latex, or tempera/milk paint.
I’m gonna guess that its probably not milk paint. The deterioration is probably a prep problem considering that this is the only room in the house that is doing this. If the room had wallpaper, the paste might not have been completely removed. With changes in temperature (and it looks like the room gets a good amount of sunlight) the paste might expand and contract differently than the plaster causing the paint to fall off.
I would recommend a light sanding to remove any loose paint and to feather out any edges. The number of primer and color coats is of personal preference but I would suggest a very light sanding between each primer coat and before the first color coat, remembering to wipe down the residue after sanding(that’s one step I always forget)
You’ll have to let us know how it comes out. Best of luck!