Paint Not Sticking to Wall? Easiest Solutions for Paint Separation!

Author: Pat Freling | Updated: | Affiliate links may be present.

If you’ve spent your time and money to paint your walls only to realize your paint won’t stick, it will probably leave you frustrated and confused about the reasons why. Luckily, with a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you can avoid this issue in the future.

The most common reason for paint not sticking to walls is that the wall is too dirty. Other common reasons include not priming the wall correctly and using a latex-based paint over an oil-based paint.

Dirty Walls

As mentioned above, the most common reason new paint won’t stick is that your walls are too dirty or dusty for the new paint to properly adhere to. This is especially true in kitchens and the homes of former smokers, where years of grease or smoke residue has built up on the old paint, compromising the surface.

How to Fix It

It seems pretty obvious that the quickest fix for this issue is to thoroughly clean your walls. Give your walls a quick wipedown with a dry rag to remove all the dust, then simply wash with soap and water. Make sure you let it dry completely before adding any additional paints or primers on top.

Not Priming Your Walls Correctly

Unless you are using paint that specifies it’s “paint and primer in one”, it’s necessary to prime your walls correctly before adding more paint. Primer gives the new paint a slightly coarse surface to grab on to and also helps to hide any stains. Using primer correctly will help solve most of your paint adhesion problems.

How to Fix It

aYou can find primers in the same area as paints in your local hardware store. Ask an associate or do some internet research to determine which kind of primer works best with your specific type of paint.

After you’ve properly cleaned your walls, apply your primer with a roller brush or regular paintbrush. You may need to apply a second coat as well. Make sure to let it dry completely before you add your paint on top.

Using Water-Based or Latex-Based Paint Over Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paints usually have a glossy finish to them, making it difficult for anything to stick to them. While this is helpful for cleaning purposes, it also prevents you from painting directly over it with a different kind of paint because latex- and water-based paints can’t stick to the glossy surface.

If you attempt to paint over an oil-based paint with a latex- or water-based paint, you’ll quickly notice the paint separating on the wall.

How to Fix It

The first step in painting over an oil-based paint surface is to rough it up. Use a fine-grit sandpaper and a sander over the entire surface and then wipe it clean with a damp cloth or trisodium phosphate (TSP) to pick up all the dust.

Next up, wipe it down with just some water and let it air dry. Then you can apply your primer and water- or latex-based paint as usual.

Other Common Reasons Paint Won’t Stick to the Walls

If you’ve followed all the steps so far and you notice your paint is still having problems staying on your walls, it may be due to some less common issues.

Your Paint Wasn’t Mixed Correctly

If you notice your paint is watery or separated, you will need to mix it thoroughly before you can apply it properly. If you have mixed it well and you still notice your paint is watery, it’s possible that it’s gone bad and needs to be thrown out.

If your paint hasn’t gone bad and has been mixed correctly but is still too watery, try using a paint thickener from your local hardware store.

You Didn’t Allow Each Coat to Dry

If you try to paint over primer or other paint that hasn’t dried correctly, it will clump up and peel away from the surface. If you notice it’s still tacky don’t try to apply anything else on top, just be patient and give it the full dry time per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Your Room is Too Humid or Too Cold

It’s almost impossible to paint over a moist or damp surface. It can lead to unsightly bubbling and peeling. If you live in a humid environment, invest in a dehumidifier for the room you are about to paint. Otherwise, you will have to constantly wipe down the surface you are about to paint (which can be a nuisance).

Paint thickens when it’s cold and it also dries slower. Paint likes dry, warm temperatures. Heat up your room with a space heater if you believe this is the issue, or put your project off for the summer months.

Final Thoughts

There could be multiple reasons why paint has problems sticking to your walls. Make sure you run through the list of possible problems so you can find the best solution and get the beautiful new walls you want.

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About Pat Freling

Pat has been into DIY painting since he was 14 years old. He's painted interior walls, decks, patio, and even the first car that he'd purchased at 18.

1 thought on “Paint Not Sticking to Wall? Easiest Solutions for Paint Separation!”

  1. I live in Italy, it is very humid here. we had some walls repaired, in two rooms on the ground floor. in spots on the repaired wall it flakes off. Very frustrating. Their paints here are horrible, they call them reathable paints because of mold. or muffa as they call it. we do not have a problem with that here, just the flaking in these two rooms. would using an exterior paint help?


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