Should You Paint Over Old Paint?

by Charlie
Should You Paint Over Old Paint

Have you got some painted areas that have seen better days? Paint is a fantastic and versatile material, but it doesn’t last forever – and once it starts to deteriorate, it quickly looks faded, shabby, grubby, greasy, and generally unpleasant. Nobody wants this in their home, so it’s time to get out a can of paint and start redoing the surface.

However, you might be wondering whether you can paint directly onto old paint, or whether you need to strip the item back to its bare material (whether that’s wood, plaster, metal, etc.). You want to get the best finish possible, so what do you need to do before you start painting?

Should you paint over old paint? You can paint over old paint, but you must prepare the surface properly first. Painting over peeling or flaking paint will ruin your new coat. Painting on a surface that is greasy, sticky, wet, dusty, or otherwise unsuitable will do the same. You must put sufficient time into the preparation work if you’re going to succeed at painting over old paint.

What Do You Need to Do to Prepare Old Paint for New Paint?

In most cases, you will need to thoroughly sand old paint before you can cover it up. Old paint may be peeling, blistering, cracking, flaking, or bubbling. It is also likely to be greasy in places, which will prevent the new paint from sticking properly. Sanding will address all of these issues.

Determine what condition your paint is in by taking a sharp knife and cutting a little “X” mark into the paint. Next, press some sticky tape firmly over this “X” and then rip it off. If the paint adheres to the tape and not to the wall, the surface needs sanding, because the bond with the wall is weak.

If you can see paint flaking off in places, you may wish to start with a scraping tool to remove the loose flecks, and then move on to sandpaper. Thoroughly sand the surface, starting with a low grit sandpaper and moving onto a high grit option. This will give you a nice, smooth finish.

You should sand the surface even if you think the old paint is still well stuck. Sanding will remove grease and dirt from the surface, which will help to ensure the new paint adheres properly. When you have finished sanding, wipe the area down with a damp cloth to remove all the dust, and leave it to dry. When it is dry, you are ready to start applying paint.

Remember that if your surface has been damaged in places, you will need to fill and seal the damaged areas before you can sand them. You can then sand the filled area at the same time as the rest. This will give you a smooth, even surface to work with, ensuring that your paint takes well and looks great.

Do You Need to Remove Old Paint If You’re Changing the Color?

If you’re trying to paint a lighter color over a darker color, removing the old paint may help.

It’s hard to change a wall from black to white, for example, and getting rid of the black paint may make the task easier. However, you don’t have to remove the old paint if this is difficult; you will just have to put more layers of the new paint on.

Changing the color of a wall (or another painted surface) can be really challenging, but it is possible to do simply by painting multiple coats over it. If the old paint is flaking away, removing it may make sense, but if you can’t easily remove the old paint because its adhesion is too good, repeated coats are generally the only way forward.

Going from a light color to a dark color is often easier than the other way around, so bear this in mind when you’re choosing your paint colors. If you can’t remove the old dark paint and you’ve got limited time for painting, don’t choose a really light color. The dark color will show through the first few coats, and ruin its appearance.

Do You Need to Prime Old Paint?

You won’t always need to prime old paint, but there are some situations in which it may help. You should prime any surface that is very rough, so if your wall is in bad shape, adding a coat of primer to it should help the new paint look smoother and better.

Primer can also be used to cover up a dark color – so if you’re struggling with the problem mentioned above, you might want to put a coat of primer on. Primers are generally very light and they will block out the color underneath more effectively than a coat of paint. Priming will therefore reduce the overall number of new coats you need to hide the old color.

This can save you time and money, so it’s well worth considering, even if you have to purchase a can of primer separately.

Priming may also improve the adhesion of your new layer of paint. If the wall is in great condition and you’ve got a smooth surface that the paint can cling to, it may be unnecessary, but otherwise, it’s a good idea. It shouldn’t take too long to add a coat of primer. Alternatively, you can purchase a paint that already contains primer.

Note that if you have stripped your wall back to plaster, you must prime it before you can paint it. Your wall will otherwise soak up a lot of paint and it will take a large number of coats to get the paint to look even, rather than patchy. Primer also protects the wall.

Final Thoughts

You can paint over old paint, but all the usual rules apply. You must have a surface that is sound, and free from dust, flakes, grease, and other contaminants. That often means you need to sand the old paint, at least lightly, and wipe the surface down before you start adding new paint.

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