The Mystery of Peeling Paint | Tom Curren Companies Skip to main content
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An estimator is a kind of investigator, the mystery of peeling paint a kind of detective story.That’s one way of saying: there could be any number of reasons your house is peeling, and the best thing to do is to call us so we can take a look.

One common reason for peeling is plain old product failure—that is, the paint may have been improperly applied in the first place. If your exteriors weren’t adequately scrubbed or sanded before painting, or if painting was done at the wrong time (before or after a storm, say, or during swampy, humid weather), then peeling can certainly happen. Another, more controversial cause that we’d be remiss not to mention is something called mill glaze (also known as planer’s glaze),which happens to vertical and flat-grained woods like red cedar and redwood. It’s worth noting that there exist articles with titles like, “Mill Glaze: Myth or Reality?” but the general idea is that, during the milling process, your wood got overheated. Overheating wood brings water-soluble resins to the surface, creating a varnish-like glaze that makes it difficult to get paint to stick properly.

Many of the old, beautiful homes across the North east have problems with peeling paint, in part because most houses built before 1950 are covered in several layers of oil (rather than latex) paint. Unlike latex paints, oil paint never stops curing, meaning that—as the years go by—it continues to oxidize, becoming more and more brittle. When the wood beneath the paint expands and contracts (as wood does in varying weather), hairline cracks start showing up. Oil-based paints are simply less flexible than modern latex paints. That’s one big reason upgrading an old paint job can easily fail: the modern latex paint literally pulls off the layers of old oil paint. It can come off the side of your house like sheets of bark peeling off a tree, often down to the bare wood. But why does that happen? It happens because wood and latex expand, unlike your middle layer of oil paint, which cracks and loosens its grip on the wood. So, in short, latex paint over oil paint accelerates peeling. And that leaves you with a couple of options: (a) strip the whole thing and repaint, or (b) spend less money and touch up cracks with oil paint in the short term. Should you decide to go with option (a), your best bet for repainting after stripping off the old paint will be an all-acrylic latex paint. Even though it’s the most expensive option, it may end up cheaper in the long run, saving you a lot of maintenance time.