The paint in our kitchen is failing. The walls are plaster. Initially we thought the paint failed because the plaster cracked and was shifting. We repaired the plaster, scraped all lose paint, cleaned, primed and painted. That paint lasted for about 6 months and then started to fail. We did the process again and the paint lasted for 2 years and then started to fail again. Eventually the paint starts to scale and bubble and separate from the wall. We just got done scraping a majority of the loose bits off (mostly because we were tired of paint falling down in our cooking area). I'm confused by what I see. Here are some pictures:

enter image description here The above picture is the ceiling. There appears to be 3 layers here. The paint, a thin brittle layer, and the plaster. What is this thin brittle layer? I assume since it is brittle I would need to scrape it completely off to be able to prime and paint over the plaster. Is that correct?

enter image description here Some walls also have dark spots behind the paint. Is that mold? There are more places without visible dark spots like this that are failing than there are. Would I be able to clean, prime and paint this, or is there something else fundamentally wrong here?

enter image description here Here is another picture of what we're dealing with.

The main question we have is what steps do we need to take to successfully repaint the walls and have them smooth and the paint not fail. Is this possible, or should we look into ripping them out and replacing with drywall? That seems like overkill and far off in our budget so not sure what my options are.

  • 2
    I've see that where joint compound instead of veneer plaster was used for skim coat.
    – Jasen
    Nov 23, 2019 at 22:06
  • 1
    May or may not help: I've seen this happen in drywall houses when they were winterized and left without heat for the winter. My thinking is that it's a moisture issue. Supporting evidence for this theory: Problem is only on exterior walls, or on walls that have a bathroom on the other side. Nov 23, 2019 at 23:39
  • What type of paint/primer are you using and who is doing the work? You/contractor/friend? From the pictures, all of those layers look like paint... or at least primer. Did you clean the walls prior to painting?
    – tahwos
    Nov 24, 2019 at 11:31
  • @tahwos Yeah, the walls were all cleaned and primed prior to painting. The texture of the darker brown layer in the first picture is not the same as paint. It is brittle and crumbles. The thicker white stuff is also not paint like in texture. Nov 24, 2019 at 14:03
  • You didn't answer the first two questions: Incompatible systems/products, moisture and temperature extremes/fluctuations, will all contribute to this type of failure. The black stuff looks like mold, which the latter will foster.
    – tahwos
    Nov 25, 2019 at 19:47

3 Answers 3


Those walls look in bad shape. The fact that you've done so much work on them and they're still failing is not good sign. You can add drywall on top of the existing walls, tape, prime and paint. This would be a whole lot cheaper than removing and hauling away the plaster. I have not done this but I did go in afterwards to reinstall the electrical switches, outlets and fixtures and add box extenders. It seemed to be a great solution.


It's not normal or expected to have an adhesion failure, occur in the same place, more than once. I'm surprised nobody mentioned what is clearly happening, which is moisture is damaging this ceiling! The black spot does look like mold, that is why I'm positive it's the cause. This isn't the fault of old plaster, or cheap paint, no wall can withstand moisture unless it's built like a shower wall. No matter what you do, this problem will happen again, until you identify the source of the moisture.

Are you steaming often in that kitchen? If you are producing lots of steam, you should invest in a venting solution.


I would score the entire damage area and take down the damaged plaster. I would supports thr perimeter with 1x 3 before scoring and removing the plaster. This will allow you to see If there is anything behind there . If there isn t any signs of deteriation on the joist l you re good to go. Yes it will be messy but not as bad as you think. If you have a helper it will be easy with clean up. Now you can replace the cut out with drywall. USE tape and joint compound for the seams. Then skim coat the damaged area feathering it out ceiling.
If the area is wet or damp you must leave it dry out before covering it . 2nd option remove just the plaster check the area and use some gypsum lite, it is a dry mix you dilute with water, make it thick. You have plenty of time to work with it. Let that dry 24 hours. Spread within 1 /16th to 1 /8 of an inch with adjoing plaster. Then tape and skim coat the area. For a good finish put at least 3 coats of drywall compound on it and fether it in. DON t forget to take the 1 x 3 supports down. Secure the adjoining area with dry wall screws and cover with joint compound Hope some part of this help. I have done this several times. Good luck be safe and wear a mask with the plaster removal.

  • It won't hold, check that mold, paint peeling in the same spot... Jun 4, 2021 at 2:20

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