Lines on Drywall

P_BennettJuly 29, 2014

I don't know how to describe the issue other than there are lines showing up on our wall and I can't figure out what exactly it is, or how to fix it. We think the lines are fairly new. This is a wall that does have outdoor exposure on the other side, so water is a possibility. We also were without AC for 3-4 days this summer when it was very hot and humid, not sure if that might have something to do with it.

The picture that's attached shows the lines going in different directions, however, in some areas of the wall, it is only horizontally.

No other walls seem to have this, just in one room (2nd floor bedroom, roof is above).

Anyway, picture is attached. If anyone has any idea what might be the cause and how serious it is, I would greatly appreciate it.


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Are you walls textured? It looks like water / excess humidity has gotten into your wall.

To repair it you will have to scrape off all the loose paint.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 10:03AM
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the photo looks like a paint peeling issue to me. /Might be that moisture has gotten to it. As stated the fix would be to scrape it off and redo it. Are you sure the photo shows a wall with drywall or is it plaster?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 10:57AM
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I'm embarrassed to say I'm not 100% sure if it's plaster or drywall, we just moved in recently. The house was built in the 60's though, so I think plaster is a definite possibility.

Someone said it may be wallpaper underneath the paint - any thoughts on that?

On another section of the wall, the lines are only horizontal - which I find very odd.

I guess we'll have to scrape it to see what's going on.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 12:36PM
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If that is the paint, the term is "alligatoring". If that is the problem, sanding it smooth and repainting will NOT solve the problem. Alligatored paint must be absolutely and completely removed before repainting is attempted. Adding a new layer of drywall on top of the existing is another alternative to removing the existing drywall/plaster.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 2:51PM
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Does alligatoring mean there was something wrong with the paint, or something wrong with the wall itself?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 4:25PM
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"Alligatoring" refers to the alligator hide. In any case, cosmetic fixes are not the way to go until you figure out what is wrong. If you really want to deal with this once and for all, you will likely have to open a hole in the wall to inspect whether you have a moisture problem (meaning whether there is a leak) . If that is the case, and you try to simply address it cosmetically, the problem will reoccur, and, more importantly, you may have structural damage and rotting in the wall. Since it sounds like you are not particularly well-versed in home maintenance (no insult intended), you should get a professional involved if you are too unhandy to open up the wall and repair it.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 2:27AM
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one possible scenario is that there are multiple layers of paint on the wall. when the last layer was applied it dried out over time and shrunk. The previous paint layers aren't fully adhered to the wall so they start to curl and form the ridges. As bus_driver said, it needs to be removed to create a smooth surface. I think if you got a flexible metal scraper/putty knife you might find it popping off in pieces done to the base coat/wall. Time consuming job to get it all off. Again, installing a new later of 3/8 drywall over the existing should give a smooth surface but then you need to deal with the finish trim (base boards/door frames/etc.)

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 9:28AM
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Every time I've had alligatoring on my walls, it has been a moisture problem.

Interesting about the shrinking of paint layers as a cause!

But yes, you have to get everything off, and because moisture is so VERY damaging (and pretty rapidly sometimes), it's really smart to use this as a "warning light" and check to be sure you don't have some problem inside the walls.

It's not always that difficult to get the alligatored paint off--it -wants- to come off.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 5:37PM
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So to follow up on this earlier thread, I bought a moisture reader and checked the drywall the day after it rained for most of the day. When I put the reader over the aligatoring paint, I get 0 moisture, or very low reading. The areas near a window are a higher, but not concerning. The areas in the middle of a wall register a 0.

I would think that would eliminate outside water damage from consideration. Maybe it was humidity earlier this summer, or maybe it was the paint curling like previously mentioned.

I think I will plan on sanding off the current paint and repaint, but I don't think I have a water issue back there.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 11:13AM
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Good...that must be a relief. At this point, I think you're taking the right approach. I would only suggest opening the wall if you fix the problem and then it reappears.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 11:31AM
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