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How To Fix Peeling Paint on A Bathroom Wall or Ceiling 

The bathroom of your home is a room often visited by guests. Unsightly peeling, flaky paint or mould on the ceiling or walls can appear unhygienic and be a source of embarrassment.

However, with the right approach, a shabby looking bathroom can be brought back to its former glory in no time. It is important to bear in mind though that despite its small size, redecorating a bathroom has its own challenges. With plumbing fixtures, confined working space and variable humidity to contend with it can sometimes be trickier than expected.

Finding the perfect colour is the fun part but paint that is easy to wipe down, durable and humidity-resistant are important considerations when selecting.

Paints specially formulated for the bathroom are widely available if slightly more expensive. They are designed for hard-wearing durability and inhibit mildew and mould growth. There are other options. Most premium brand regular interior paints will have the same qualities once you choose the right finish. For example, a good semi-gloss paint will be easy to wipe and moisture resistant.

Bathrooms are one of the rooms in the home that experience the most traffic throughout the day and moisture levels change dramatically with steamy condensation from hot showers and baths. The humid atmosphere contributes to paint problems, making the ceilings and walls prone to peeling and mildew as well as mould growth.

Bathroom paint problems are not limited to peeling or flaking; they can also manifest as cracks, holes or bubbling and blistering paint on walls and ceilings.

What Causes Peeling Paint in the Bathroom?

If your bathroom paint is peeling, the odds are this is down to one of three things or a combination of these; a moisture resistant paint wasn’t used the last time it was painted, the surface wasn’t properly prepared and primed, or the ventilation system in your bathroom isn’t up to scratch.

It’s essential to properly prepare your wall and ceiling surfaces in advance of applying a new coat of paint. Scraping off old paint, removing loose material, thoroughly cleaning, and priming or mist-coating the surfaces are really important steps that you will definitely come to regret skipping.

Humidity and high moisture levels are also prime suspects behind peeling paint in the bathroom. When moisture builds up on the walls, like from the steam off a hot shower, it can penetrate the surface causing the paint to separate from the wall or ceiling in flakes or bubbles.

An example of peeling paint in the bathroom.

How To Fix Peeling Paint in the Bathroom

If your bathroom ceiling and walls seem relatively flaw-free, you can simply wash them down with sugar soap to remove any dirt and grime before painting. However, if you encounter signs of peeling or blistering paint you will need to follow these steps:

Removing Defective Paint

Use a paint scraper or jointing knife to remove all loose material from the surface. When you examine your ceilings and walls closely and begin scraping you can discover the issue is more extensive than you thought. Make sure to get rid of all loose paint.

The task can be messy, and it can be more comfortable and safer to wear safety goggles and a dust mask especially when scraping a ceiling above your head.

Using a fine grain sandpaper sand back any rough edges. If the whole ceiling is impacted, you can consider using an electric handheld sander to sand back the entire surface. Otherwise, you can simply fill in holes, where paint has been scraped back to plaster, or cracks with a patching compound or filler. A finishing skim is a liquid filler applied with a brush and can be bought in any hardware or home decor store. Allow it to dry then sand back to a smooth finish that is flush with the rest of the surface.

When you have achieved a level, smooth surface, you can wash it all down with sugar soap to get rid of dust and debris. Then the bathroom ceiling and/or walls are ready for sealing.

Sealing the Walls / Ceiling

Prevention is better than cure, and a good primer will seal surfaces so that moisture cannot penetrate, prevent peeling, and will ensure you don’t have to ‘cure’ this peeling paint problem again in the future.

If you have patched up spots you can choose to spot-prime these areas, or you can prime the entire surface to be painted. This is useful if you are going from a dark colour to a lighter shade or when there is significant staining on the surface to be painted

Repainting A Bathroom Ceiling

Select a paint finish and colour – semi gloss sheen is usually recommended for bathrooms and high gloss paints are great at resisting moisture. Satin finish will not be as durable and hardwearing.

Make sure to protect all your surfaces and fixtures with drop cloths and masking tape to prevent paint splashes.

Use a small paintbrush for ‘cutting in’ around edges. With a roller apply paint to surfaces in clean even strokes.

Allow to dry thoroughly before applying a second coat. If you do it too soon it can lead to paint bubbling especially in a humid environment like your bathroom.

How To Stop Bathroom Paint from Peeling

Aside from proper preparation and priming before painting you might be wondering how to make sure peeling paint won’t reoccur down the line. Bathrooms are small spaces that deal with changing humidity daily. A good ventilation system is key to keeping them in good shape.

It’s vital to have an efficiently working fan in the bathroom that is timed to come on during and after showers. You can also ensure your bathroom remains well ventilated by opening the window, when possible, to keep air circulating around the room.

If you are considering putting your home on the market, it’s worth knowing that painting your bathroom has been shown to add value. Especially, it seems, if you choose a light periwinkle or baby blue. According to one study carried out by a popular paint brand, this colour scheme in a bathroom can increase the value of your home by up to 1.3%.

Whatever your motivation for tackling that peeling paint you can create a beautiful, warm, long-lasting finish for your bathroom ceiling and walls through good preparation, some easy preventative measures, and a splash of fresh colour.