How to Fix Peeling Paint on Wood

Updated May 14, 2024 | Posted Aug 13, 2023 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 1 comment

Peeling paint on wood can be an absolute nightmare. Not only does it look unsightly, but it can expose bare timber underneath, which will cause it to degrade further.

Another fly in the ointment is, you can’t just give it a little scrape and then paint over the existing paint. If you do that, then the existing paint will continue to fail, and you will be left with exactly the same issue a few months down the line.

In this blog, I’m going to explain how to fix peeling paint on wood. There are a couple of different ways you can go about it, and a few different methods. Each works equally well. I’ll section the blog and recommend products where needed.


Stabilising the Wood


It is possible to remove the peeling paint, stabilise the paint that’s left, and create the perfect base on which to apply fresh paint. The first thing you need to do is sand and scrape the wood. Really go to town on it and remove every bit of paint that’s unstable.

I’m quite lucky because I’m a Painter and Decorator and have powerful sanders I can use. But you could buy a cheap palm sander from your local DIY shop, or even use normal sandpaper and a bit of elbow grease. A good quality, robust paint scraper will also help remove the peeling paint.


Even after extensive prep, if you were to just paint over the paint that’s left, the issue of peeling paint would soon reoccur. You need to stabilise everything to create a sound base on which to work. For this, I use Zinsser Peel Stop.

This is a clear stabilising solution that penetrates deep into the timber, seeps underneath the edges of the remaining paint, and helps to stick it all down.

Using Zinsser Peel Stop essentially stops the rest of the paint from peeling. It also works well for fixing flaking paint on masonry.

Peel Stop is probably the easiest way to fix the issues of peeling paint on wood. It is certainly less work than stripping all the paint and starting again. The only downside is you are not left with a completely smooth surface. You will see the texture between the existing paint that’s left, and the paint you removed, even after repainting. This is fine on something like a timber gate, a garage, soffits and fascias etc, but probably not ideal on a front door.

What if the Peeling Paint Isn’t Exposing Bare Timber


If your paint is peeling, but it’s just exposing a previous coating rather than bare wood, then the chances are you have an adhesion issue between two products. This can happen when painting over varnish or using water-based products over oil-based products.

This can be a little trickier to sort, simply because you can’t use a stabiliser to stop the paint from peeling further. You don’t necessarily need to remove every bit of paint on the wood,  but you do need to remove the paint that is failing.

You should be able to do this by sanding and scraping, but if you’re struggling, then skip ahead to the next part of the blog.

Once the failing paint has been removed, you will need to apply an adhesion primer to stop additional coats of paint from peeling. I like to use Zinsser Cover Stain, which is an oil-based product. It’s a great primer to be honest, easy to use and quick drying. You can also use it on different types of material.

Just apply a coat of Cover Stain, allow it to cure, then paint over using your preferred paint system. It’s fine to use water-based products over Cover Stain.

best stain block

Removing all the Old Paint


The other way to fix peeling paint on wood is to remove all the old paint. You do this by stripping it, and there are a couple of ways you can tackle this. The easiest way would be to burn it with a blowtorch or heat gun, but I wouldn’t advise this. I know from past experience that using heat can be dangerous. So much so, that it’s difficult for a professional tradesman to attain liability insurance to cover against damages caused by using heat.

Luckily, there is a low-cost and safer way to burn paint off nowadays. The Infer Red Paint Stripper is a relatively new invention and burns paint in a more controlled way using infer red radiation. Simply turn it on, place the head over the paint you need to shift, wait a few minutes, lift the head and scrape the paint.

When you get the knack, you can simply move the head to heat another section of wood while you’re scraping the bit that is already heated.

This is a fantastic way to remove paint, and really does leave you with the perfect base on which to work. All you do then is prime and repaint the timber once bare.

Spengar IR Paint Stripper Review

The other way to remove the paint is to use chemical paint strippers. This type of product has changed dramatically over recent years due to restrictions on chemicals that manufacturers are allowed to use.

There was once a time when effective paint strippers were easy to come by, but now they’re few and far between.

My favourite paint stripper right now is Bartoline TX10 Paint and Varnish Stripper, simply because I know it works well. It’s safe for me to use on a client’s home, and you can use it to remove multiple layers of paint at once. When finished, simply remove excess product from your wood, leave to dry, then saint over again.

Bartoline TX10 Paint and Varnish Stripper

Final Thoughts


Hopefully this has given you all the information you need on how to fix peeling paint on wood. The only other thing to consider is what paint system to use after you’ve remedied the problem. This is particularly true when painting exterior timber.

When exposed to the ever-changing conditions of our climate, timber will constantly expand and contract with heat and moisture, so it’s important to use a paint system that will cope with the movement. If a paint is too brittle, then it will simply split and peel over time.

I could (and probably will) write a whole other blog on the best paint for exterior wood. For now, I’ll just briefly give you a couple of examples.

Zinsser AllCoat is a fantastic paint system with great adhesion and longevity.

Sandtex X-Tra is another great example. It has an extended drying time, but it’s perfect for a long-lasting paint finish on wood. I love this paint.

Dulux Trade Weathershield Gloss is another great option, be it the oil- or water-based version.

Updated May 14, 2024 | Posted Aug 13, 2023 | 1 comment

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Gregory is a Professional Painter and Decorator who works in the Northwest of England. He mainly sub-contracts for large decorating firms and works on a wide variety of projects.
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1 Comment

  1. stan oliver

    When prepping peeling and flaking paint, my go-to tools are carbide scrapers, particularly on smaller areas like window frames and sills. Far faster and more effective than sanding, either by hand or machine and easy to feather our edges between layers.


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