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The paint on our house is peeling badly. It's yellow paint over wood siding (clapboard). When I scrape, I get pieces of paint that are yellow on both sides, and bare wood underneath. Does that mean that the previous owner failed to use primer?

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It would appear to be that way. There should be a layer of primer. If they did I am sure you would have seen some white on the other side instead of just yellow.

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Yep. Or he used cheap primer, or he used the wrong primer, or he used primer made by a different manufacturer. All can lead to paint failures rapidly. I can think of a few application problems (such as applying the paint with a sprayer on a hot surface on a hot day) that could also lead to a failure to bond to the substrate.

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"he used primer made by a different manufacturer", really this makes a difference? I understand different types of primer but I don't see how useing one brands primer with a different brands paint would make a different (as long as it was the proper type). –  auujay Aug 11 '11 at 21:00
    
That's what the paint store people say, and I've got no reason to disbelieve them. It has to do with the drying process and what kind of surface the end material wants to adhere to. Some primers leave things somewhat shiny/smooth -- Benjamin Moore Superior K046 is one I can think of -- and some paints don't adhere to things that are shiny and smooth. Benjamin Moore Aquavelvet N319 will adhere perfectly, though. –  Karl Katzke Aug 11 '11 at 21:41
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