Late Night Primer Party

I spent yesterday prepping the back bedroom for paint, mostly by spending much of the day washing the walls.

Back bedroom prepped for paint

I also had to apply quite a bit more caulk than I expected, so the whole process took longer than I thought it would.

But after dinner we put the first part of the first layer of primer on. I expect the wood will need three coats of primer (it seems to have very high tanins -- the primer I used is designed to cover high-tanin wood). I hope the upper walls only need two coats.

First part of first coat of primer

Let me explain that weird line to you. The paint does not seem to want to stick to the plaster (which is the original plaster with lath behind it and horsehair as reinforcement). Especially so when it has a skin on it rather than being completely dry -- run a roller over the skinned paint and it just peels right up and wraps around your roller. So I painted the bottom part of the wall then when Noel came through and painted the top, we left a gap so the paint would not straight-up peel off the wall.

Peeling primer

Here's one spot where I reached up to pull a piece of fur off the wall (hey, it happens in this house) and a one-inch sheet of paint came off with it. Not good.

We had this problem in the dining room as well, and I still find it baffling. I'd be overjoyed to hear suggestions on making this not happen that do not involve skim-coating the room with drywall mud (paint store guy's suggestion). I guess long-term I don't care too much, because all the actual plaster in the house is coming down (it's a real hazard in an earthquake) and eventually it will not be an issue. But we are going to live with some of the plaster for the time being and I do not relish repainting rooms annually to deal with peeling paint.

We waited an hour, and then put another layer of paint on -- this time Noel used the roller on a stick and did the whole wall at once so no weird line (well, just slightly visible weird line because that area had only one coat of primer on it).

Basically the first layer of primer

This morning I checked on the paint again, especially the paint over the wainscoating. I'm beginning to wonder how many layers of primer it will take before the wood stain stops bleeding through. Maybe I will just decide on a stopping point and leave it at that.

Tanins leaking through primer

Today's plan is to do more caulking (the primer coat definitely showed me places where we needed more caulk) and another coat of primer, and then put a top coat on the walls, at the very least (and use that tester of paint on the wainscoating). I sure hope the wainscoating colour I chose is good because I really would rather make a quick trip downtown to get a gallon of paint rather than several trips to get testers and try them out over and over again.

posted by ayse on 09/15/10


How thoroughly did you wash the walls? THis looks an awful lot like the results of painting over old distemper (also called calcimine) paint. It's water based and never cures chemically, so every time it gets wet it softens again. For the first few years this isn't too bad, but apparently as the paint ages, the glue loses strength and even small amounts of water or other mositure will cause it to fail, i.e. within the first 10 years you can quite happily paint over it, but later on, the mositure from the new paint causes your exact problem. Depending on what kind of paint you use it can be better or worse, painting over with fresh distemper only required scraping for me so far, latex seems to require a full washdown.

We actually scrubbed that old distemper paint off the walls. Well, first wet it, scraped off most of it, then washed it off in multiple rounds of scrubbing both with a sponge and with a power wall washer. So what we were painting over was a wall that had been painted with an oil-based paint (and the primer is suitable for priming oil paint to take latex).

It happens on bare plaster, too, much to my befuddlement. My only theory is that the plaster is damper than it looks, and the wet surface is rejecting the primer.

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