Caulk is Pulling Paint from Wall

snookums2November 16, 2012


I noticed the other day that the caulk has pulled away from some baseboard. This area was caulked by a carpenter. But instead of just cracking, it's pulled the paint from the wall instead. (All the way to the old paint and bare drywall beneath. There are some problems with the original 40 year old builders paint flaking off to bare drywall. All walls were Gardz'd and as far as I know, this one was.)

This was caulked maybe 5 months ago, long after any painting. I'm not sure when it pulled away but haven't noticed it until recently. I think I would have noticed this if it had happened shortly after installed.

How would you fix this and what to do with all the rest of the caulking that needs to be done so it doesn't happen all over.

Not the best picture.


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What's happening is that with the change in humidity as the seasons change the wood baseboard shrinks and swells at a different rate than the plaster. The movement then shows up at the weakest point, in your case the joint of the paint to the wall underneath. It would have been better not to caulk a joint like this, but once done probably all you can do is scrape it off and touch up the paint. This is very common, if that's any consolation. It can happen even if you don't caulk but just bridge the gap with paint.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 10:18AM
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I'm confused that you say not to caulk. There are lots of gaps between the wall and the trim work. Some are narrow but some are rather gap-y. I think this gap was moderate. I would think if paint bridged the gap it would be even more likely to gap.

I'm wondering what to do about the issue of the paint actually being pulled from the wall rather than the caulk just cracking. This was only one coat of white, supposedly over Gardz. I will be caulking and painting the entire house.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 10:59AM
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The problem goes back to how the paint that is being pulled loose was applied. If that was the first coat, second, or whichever.

It was probably applied without the proper primer or over dust/dirt/etc.

The cause is the movement between the trim and the wall. The caulk is stronger than the adhesion between the paint layer and the other surface.

The larger concern is why there is that much movement. If it is in a short defined space---like that in the picture and not anywhere else---it is probably just a bad caulk application. If there are more areas, there could be a wall/floor movement that is causing it. Or the trim is moving too much because it was not primed/painted on all sides and the humidity is affecting more porous sections.

Lots of reasons. Best way to find out is get a professional painters opinion. They deal with this kind of thing more than carpenters.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 12:15PM
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Thanks. I did post over on the Paint forum but it's very slow over there and people here seem to have a broad range of knowledge so thought I'd ask.

It appears the original builder's paint was not put on primed drywall. It's 40 years old now and had some flaking problems recent years. The whole thing was scraped, patched where necessary, and Gardz'd over to try to lock everything down. This wall should have had Gardz and then one paint of white was put on it. I didn't see what caulk the carpenter used. Caulk wasn't in the bid but he did a little of it anyway. This seems to be the only wall doing this at this point.

I thought maybe he might have used too much water when wiping, too, which got to the lower layer. It's kind of bubbled looking.

I just did a little upstairs with DAP Alex Plus 35 year but was just reading here that this is considered a cheap caulk. DAP and Red Devil Painter's caulk is on hand but I'm going to switch from big box products to BM Moorlastic 464. DAP Dynaflex 230 is supposed to be particularly good, too, and I think comparable to the Moorlastic.

It's one thing for the caulk to pull away, which is common, and you re-caulk. But it will be a real problem if the paint comes off the walls in the process as it's doing there.

I will definitely be using Aura paint now, so touchups won't be an issue. The area above the baseboards would need to be scraped down, filled, and re-painted.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 12:44PM
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Good caulk may make the issue worse as the caulk bond will be even stronger, the real issue as handymac states is "why is there so much movement"?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 8:43AM
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The wood looks awfully new (not a lot of layers of paint from years of use), and that means it likely newer fast growth pine.

Fast growth wood moves significantly ore than older sower growth wood.

Poplar moves more tan many of the softwoods.

If it is MDF trim, all bets are of.
That stuff moves like crazy.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 10:12AM
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Hmmm. Well, I was all ready to do some caulking today with Moorlastic. I think the thing with the good caulk is that it's maximum flexibility. It doesn't really harden.

This paint thing is disheartening. I think I will try a small area and see how it goes. Thing is, I believe it took months for this to happen. Maybe I could lower the temperature a lot so there's fluctuation in the house to see how it performs before caulking everything.

I will have to check that wall and see if it's somehow moving. It's an inside wall.

Do you think a humid summer application of caulk would be more prone to shrinking when the weather turns cold? I have kept the air and heat low unless I'm there (not living on the premises). So there has been a good bit of fluctuation actually. This was pre-primed molding. I think the back side is also primed.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 10:21AM
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This is pre-primed pine, purchased from a good lumber yard (not big box).

I have no idea how to know whether it was fast or slow growing. I was told the baseboard profiles vary from lot to lot, though, because all this stuff comes from overseas anymore. A different company each time. Their last supplier from the States had closed.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 10:26AM
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About how long do you think it usually takes for caulk to begin to crack?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 10:49AM
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Probably radiata pine which is similar to yellow pine and moves dramatically. And probably take a couple of expansion and contraction cycles to peel the paint.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 5:01PM
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The foundation here is a concrete slab.

Would it help to pack professional strength wood fill into the gaps, where I can? I did that in a small wider gap so the caulk could fill.

I checked to see if the baseboards themselves move, ie, how secure they are affixed to the wall. If I press on the top portion, yes, it can move. There aren't nails in that upper curved part. What should the nailing schedule be for baseboards and casing, ie, how would you nail them securely? Should there be any movement? Maybe I should have more nails put in. This was done with a pneumatic nailer.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 5:23PM
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Nothing you do can stop cruddy wood from moving, and you wasted money on 'pre-primed."

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 5:21PM
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