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.

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    I've see that where joint compound instead of veneer plaster was used for skim coat. – Jasen Nov 23 '19 at 22:06
  • 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. – Sherwood Botsford Nov 23 '19 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 '19 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. – user2719430 Nov 24 '19 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 '19 at 19:47

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.

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