Problem Ceilings (Peeling & Flaking Paint)

by Ali |

The most common problem area when it comes to painting is the ceiling. If a problem ceiling has been identified in the quoting process, we have a specification which attends specifically to this problem.

Our problem ceiling specification states:
Please note “Problem Ceiling” identified – meaning the possibility exists that paint may blister or peel (sometimes rapidly) this would be related to the condition of the surface itself or the performance of previously applied coatings (both being beyond the control of Rochele Painting). We therefore cannot accept any responsibility in the event of such a breakdown occurring.

There are several problems that can occur on a ceiling to categorise it as a problem area:

Calcimine Paint

Fibros plaster ceilings were originally being painted with calcimine paint. Calcimine paint came in powdered form. It was mixed with water then applied to the ceiling. Once it dried by the water evaporating it left a coat of pigment powder on the surface of the ceiling. Years later the ceiling would have been recoated using a flat plastic paint which resulted in the calcimine pigments and powders sucking all the binders out of the new plastic paint making them unstable. Over the years with extra coats being applied to the surface creating extra pressure as well as gravity doing its job causes the paint to flake.

Incorrect application

In the early 80s where gyprock homes were being built to price and with little knowledge of paints, the incorrect application was being used. Painters were applying flat paints straight onto bare gyprock and therefore, the paint was not soaking in as a primer would usually do. This application process becomes unstable over the years as well as more coats being applied over time creating more pressure on the surface and gravity doing its job the result is a problem ceiling which peels and flakes.

water damage repair ceiling


One of the more common issues with problem ceilings is moisture. There are several reasons why moisture occurs. Moisture from storm damage can release the coating from any ceiling surface causing peeling or blistering paint. Also wet areas in the house such as the kitchen, laundry and bathroom can create moisture. For example in a bathroom with lack of ventilation, steam damage can occur to the coating causing it to flake and peel. Using paint with a higher sheen level may help reduce water absorption which accelerates peeling ceilings. More info on this in our Sheen Levels article.

Style of home

Queensland style homes most commonly have VJ timber ceilings. When flaking occurs on these types of ceilings it is usually due to new acrylic paint being applied over old enamel paint. This occurs because acrylic paint is flexible by nature and the enamel coating is rigid. Therefore over time due to changes in temperature the different paint properties work against each other resulting in the top layer de-laminating. To solve this issue the acrylic coating needs to be completely removed followed by using a general purpose undercoat to stabilise the surface before recoating. More info on this in our Acrylic vs Enamel Paint article.

painter fixing problem ceiling

In Summary

The common theme in the above reasons for problem ceilings is preparation, wrong application and the ceilings history. Due to all these reasons it is hard for the painting of a ceiling to be guaranteed. If a problem ceiling is identified there is usually more work involved to reduce the re-occurrence of past and existing problems. However, no matter how much preparation occurs if the history of the ceiling is problematic it is difficult to treat with a simple paint application.

Unfortunately the only way to 100% fix a “problem ceiling” is to replace the ceiling itself. However many customers with an identified “problem ceiling” try painting it once first as it is a far more affordable option even if a temporary one.

Ceilings painted by Rochele painters

school building ceiling painting


ceiling with ornaments painted



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