Many summer projects will involve figuring out what damaged your paint and preventing it. Peeling paint comes in many forms, including the most common alligatoring. Figuring out what kind of damage your paint has taken is the first step to avoiding a second failure! We’re going to cover a few of the more common causes of damage here:

Alligatoring (Somewhat patterned damage)

Alligatoring is a common issue when repairing older furniture. Most frequently, it is caused by painting over primer or a first coat before they are fully dried, capturing the moisture beneath the paint. It can also occur when painting over a very glossy/shiny surface, such as with oil. It’s important to give paint time to reach the re-coat period on a can, even if the paint is dry to the touch. The paint is still chemically bonding to the surface beneath and needs to be able to breath to finish. If the surface is glossy, it will need to be sanded until the shine is dulled, giving a place to adhere for the paint.


Flaking, or, paint falling away in strips from the wall tends to occur when the paint cannot adhere to a surface, most commonly with fresh wood. “Fresh” wood, such as furniture bought from a store or wood that has been unpainted and weathered will close its surface pores or clog them. This makes the surface extremely difficult for paint to bond with. The solution is simply to use sandpaper on the surfaces briefly to rough the surface up. Primer is also recommended for this sort of project as fresh wood can be extremely absorbent, soaking the moisture out of paint too quickly.


Peeling paint tends to hang off the wall, coming away in leathery strips. This happens when moisture is trapped underneath drying paint, preventing the paint from bonding with the surface. In the pacific northwest this can be a very common problem, especially when painting early in the morning. Peeling can occur with morning dew, a fresh rain, or painting over primer or paint that has barely begun to dry. It can also happen if the surface has significant water damage, as moisture is still trapped inside damaged wood. For dry times, its important to wait. For moisture on the surface, proper surface prep including cleaning, some sanding, and drying with a towel is required for the repair coat. Continued peeling implies deeper damage then just ambient moisture and is likely a problem with the surface.

These are just a few of the common paint failures, ones that don’t spell doom for your project. Its also important to keep exterior paint to the exterior and interior to interior! If you have more specific questions or unusual problems you can find help at your local Mallory Paint Store. Our staff can help identify which type of damage you have and which tools you need to be sure your project gets done right, without anymore hassle!