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Peeling wall paint and salt water

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  • Peeling wall paint and salt water

    This may sound like a strange question, but... Our family has a house at the Jersey shore. We have a persistent problem with paint blistering/peeling on the walls, pretty much every spring requires some scraping and painting. Walls are plaster. House is clapboard, uninsulated, about 100 years old.

    Here's the strange part. The paint peels uniformly from floor level to about the height of the window sills, throughout the house. Above window sill height, the paint is fine. The foundation is very well vented, so I've ruled out moisture from below.

    My theory. In 1962 there was a severe nor'easter that had ocean salt water in the house, up to the window sills for a couple days. I'm sure the plaster absorbed a lot of salt. Salt will pull moisture out of the air; leave a container of driveway salt open for awhile and it will be full of water. So I'm thinking that salt is pulling in moisture and causing the paint to peel. The house was raised a couple feet, new foundation, additional venting, after the 'perfect storm' had 4" of ocean in the house. This made no difference, still peels exactly the same, window sills down. A section of wall in the kitchen was repaired with sheetrock when the house was raised and the chimney taken down, and the paint doesn't peel there

    So, assuming I may be correct, how would I seal the plaster so that any moisture absorbed would not blister the paint? any other theories?

  • #2
    Re: Peeling wall paint and salt water

    You could try an oil based primer and then paint. An oil based primer should seal the walls.
    SSG, U.S. Army
    K.I.S.S., R.T.F.M.


    • #3
      Re: Peeling wall paint and salt water

      Sealing the plaster might work, but I fear it will trap the moisture inside the wall cavity and the plaster which will cause it to fail eventually.

      Though it might seem like a lot of work and expense your best bet might be replacing the plaster with new Sheetrock and insulating while the walls are open wouldn't be a bad idea either. Think about the time and expense you are going through every year now when justifying the cost of removing the plaster. The "March Storm" of 1962 (as it is referred to locally) was a biggie. It did more damage to the Jersey shore than ANY hurricane to hit the region since 1944. I can remember working in buildings in AC and you go in the basements and you would see where people had labeled the waterlines left by various storms.
      In most of them the March Storm is near the top. My home (I was 8) on the mainland (12 miles from the beach) had boats cruising up and down US Rt 9 for a couple days which was 2 to 3 foot deep in salt water.

      From Wikipedia:
      In New Jersey, the storm ripped away part of the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. Avalon, New Jersey lost 6 blocks. Long Beach Island was cut through in several places. The destroyerUSS Monssen was washed ashore near Holgate. In New Jersey alone, an estimated 45,000 homes were destroyed or greatly damaged.
      "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006


      1/20/2017 - The Beginning of a new Error


      • #4
        Re: Peeling wall paint and salt water

        Replacing the plaster and insulating would be great, but not an option at this point. I'd like to be able to extend the season by insulating; and with the hot summers we've been having, A/C would be a nice improvement. Maybe someday....

        That March storm made a huge impression on me as a 10 year old. Our house is in Cape May Point. I remember the 2 feet of debris everywhere; we had the entire porch roof of a summer friends house in our yard. Their house was beachfront, and the ocean had knocked the front of the house in; the ocean filled the entire first floor with a couple feet of sand. Also remember the house from the next block that floated off it's foundation, came down the street, made a left toward the ocean, and settled in the street. They put it back, on a higher foundation, and it's still there. Lost the last of the houses that had been on the original Beach Drive, which is in the ocean. Later, as a lifeguard, an elderly gentleman came up to me and said we were sitting where his house used to be. I know John Wanamaker had a house there, and wonder if that was him or a relative? Must be weird to walk on the beach where your house once stood.

        Hope to never see another storm like that.


        • #5
          Re: Peeling wall paint and salt water

          Is the paint you are using water-based or oil based? Oil based paint/primer will lift off of any substrate that accumulates enough moisture to soften the top layer of bonding molecules.

          I would suggest latex. If what you are using is latex, and it is still lifting off, you probably have a lot of the old original oil or lead based paint still in the pores of the plaster. Next time you scrape it down, also follow with a wire brush, and then rinse with a mild acid. Rinse it after the acid. After it is dry, then prime with a latex primer and top coat.

          As for the mild acid, my first thought would be diluted muriatic (hydrochloric) acid, but that may be a bit strong and not practical inside the living quarters. A clear vinegar will still give an acid etch to the plaster, letting the paint bond better. All paints bond better to a slightly acid surface than to an alkaline surface, so don't neutralize it with baking soda, etc, unless you are using a strong acid.

          You can do this with a spray bottle (think a windex bottle, etc) for both the acid and the rinse water, and tape plastic to the base boards to protect any flooring or carpet. Try it on a section this year, and if it works, continue on with the remainder.

          Hope this helps.

          Last edited by Gofor; 10-20-2010, 07:14 PM.
          Practicing at practical wood working


          • #6
            Re: Peeling wall paint and salt water

            Thanks for the reply.

            I'm not sure which type of paint has been used, my brother has done most of that painting in recent years. I will definately try your suggestions next spring. Thanks for the detailed response, much appreciated.


            • #7
              Re: Peeling wall paint and salt water

              Insulating would be a good solution for that. Here in our house the sealing are insulated so that the paint holds tighter and it will last longer.
              Last edited by rotech; 08-21-2011, 11:24 AM.
              Water Damage | Water Damage Elgin IL