Help! Problems painting over skim coated walls....

iapq1990July 26, 2006

I've cross posted this in Home Decorating hoping to find all the paint experts. I've had some problems painting the first of two rooms we've had skim-coated as part of a remodeling project. We live in a 1926 Tudor and the walls are in poor shape. I removed 1980's wall paper from a bedroom and hallway and found holes, cracks, and various wallcoverings going back 80 years. Our contractor recommended skim-coating the walls to repair them back to an even surface that could be primed and painted, which we had him do. I primed the bedroom with two coats of Gripper after vacuuming and dusting all of the loose sanding dust. After letting the primer dry for two days in 80-85 degrees with around 15% humidity I did two coats of SW Superpaint in satin, waited a day, taped the edges of the walls and ceiling with blue 3M painter's tape, then painted the trim and moulding in the room with semi-gloss. About an hour after putting the last coat of trim paint on I removed the tape and to my disgust large chunks of the wall and ceiling paint and primer came away from the skim-coating. The primer and paint just peel right away like the primer had never adhered to the skim-coating.


1) What did I do wrong? Does this sound like a problem with the surface of the skim-coated walls or was it the primer that the Home Depot paint "expert" recommended? (I use the term "expert" loosely.....he had never even heard of skim-coating, typical of my HD experiences.)

2) What do I do to salvage this room now? I spent hundreds of dollars having the walls skim-coated and purchasing paint so thinking that I may have screwed this up makes me sick. The areas where the paint came away and the skim-coating is exposed feels powdery even after carefully wiping them with a dry dusting cloth.

Any insight and advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Might be wise to call the contractor that did the skim coat.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 2:35PM
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My guess is the primer didn't stick to the dust left on the walls and or a combination of the dust and the surface may not have been sanded properly for the primer to adhere well. If you do it again, use a tack cloth to get all the dust off the walls then use a good primer such as Zinsser 1-2-3. The cheaper option might have been to replace the drywall. It is a hard call sometimes.

Good luck

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 10:46PM
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How long did you let the skim coat cure before you primed. With the heat and humidity could be the wall wasnt really dry when you primed. Ive done lots of skim coating and if its thick it takes a while to cure. Id make sure the plaster was good and dry before I did anything else.

A little plaster dust wont cause primer to not stick. The dust just mixes in.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 1:24AM
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Skim coating old surfaces requires some prep work on the old surface.
t needs to be reasonably clean and free of any type of grease or oily residue. The residue from smokingis particularly bad. The skim wil not adhere very tightly.
Skimming with pre-mix mud while fast (no mixing) does not give as good a result as skimming with setting type compounds.
A slow setting compound produces a much better finish with almost no surface cracking from shrinkage durng setting.
For really hard jobs a bonding agent should be applied to the old surface before the skim coat.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 8:56AM
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I'm afraid I can't call the contractor for advice at the moment....he had knee surgery this week. I let the skim coat cure about 10-14 days before priming. I guarantee there was very little humidity during the curing process; Utah is a desert climate and anything above 20% in the summer is considered "humid". I know the walls were free of debris before the skim coating was begun, and I know it's not a problem with the skim coating itself not adhering. When the paint came off with the tape the skim coated surface beneath was intact. I don't have the brand of the compound that was used but I know it was not children had a lot of fun watching the compound being mixed in the back yard with the giant "cake mixer" drill attachment.

Yesterday I did repair the appearance of the jagged edges where the paint came off by sanding, priming, spackling, sanding, priming, and re-painting and everything looks great now........but I can't help be worried that my careful paint job is eventually going to bubble up and come off the walls.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 10:18AM
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You didn't do anything wrong -happens all the time. Even the blue painters tape can be too aggressive for fresh water based paint. Water based paint can take over a week to gain maximum adhesion.

Next time, if you see the paint start to peel with the tape, you can score the edge with a razor blade and use a hair dryer to help loosen the adhesive on the tape.

Your repair was fine - sand, patch, sand, prime and paint.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 11:06AM
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Thanks, Randy! I thought about using a hair dryer but my husband said that was a dumb idea. Ha!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 1:47PM
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We skim coated about half our house to get rid of the 1970's knock down finish, and put new drywall in the other half during the renovation. I was very nervous about the skim coating sticking, but we've had no problems and live up in the wet northwest. Our drywall guy did the skim coating himself...he wouldn't let his hired help do it. It dried for quite a while before they came back and spray primed the entire house...then we let that sit for quite a while before we were allowed to paint.

We also used water based paint (Rodda's Yolo zero emissions line), and have had no problems at all. Be we did not use any blue tape during the painting...all straight lines were hand-done. I think the important part was waiting until everything was completely dry before we painted. We even had to turn the heat on in the house for several days to dry the skim coating.

I just think it's amazing how they can coat over that super thick 1970's stucco looking knock down finish. It was really horrible stuff, and now the walls are super smooth...level 4 and 5 finishes.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 1:00AM
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