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How to Paint Over Paint

By Jim Dugan
Professional Contractor and DIY Expert

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In certain situations, if you try to paint over paint without employing certain preparation strategies, you may end up with poor adhesion, cracking and/or coverage problems. Learn the proper way to condition existing painted finishes to improve coverage and adhesion, or you may end up with disappointing results.

Painting Over Paint

If you attempt to apply paint directly over an existing glossy painted finish, poor adhesion will lead to peeling. To encourage better results, gently scour the existing finish by sanding it with relatively fine-grit sandpaper. Once the old finish feels slightly rough, the new paint should stick without any problems.

Problems with Cracking

If you try to apply an oil-based paint over the top of an existing acrylic or latex finish, cracking may ultimately result. Because water-based acrylic and latex finishes are more flexible, they aren't well-suited for oil-based topcoats that tend to dry hard.

Paint Coverage Problems

Whenever you attempt to change from a very light or dark color to something on the other side of the spectrum, coverage problems often result. You can promote better coverage by using a base primer. Choose a white primer if you plan to apply a light color of paint; choose a gray or blue tinted primer if you plan to apply a dark color of paint. Just make sure you choose a primer with the same base as your paint. For instance, choose latex primer to go with latex paint, etc.

Other Problems

Quite often, paint failure occurs due to improper or inadequate preparation. No one likes to perform tedious prep work; however, if you try to paint over dusty existing paint or chipping, peeling finishes, poor adhesion will lead to flaking. For lasting results, take the time to thoroughly remove failing paint and wash or dust existing finishes.