How to Avoid Enamel Paint Peeling

Enamel paint is preferred by many crafters because of its excellent coverage, rust-preventive properties, and great color retention. Enamel paint is also simple to use and a perfect option for numerous projects outdoors and indoors. However, a common question amongst many homeowners is: “Why is my enamel paint peeling?”. In this article, we are going to look at the various causes of enamel paint peeling and possible solutions for this.

There are several factors that can contribute to enamel paint peeling, the most common ones being poor prep work, excess humidity, and using the wrong primer or using none. So to avoid any peeling of your enamel paints you have to prepare your painting surface by sanding and priming it correctly.

Reasons why Enamel Paint Peeling May Occurs

There are several reasons for Enamel Paint peeling but I listed the most common ones here and how to avoid them.

Prepare the Surface Before Applying Anything

Enamel paint peeling occurs when the surface was not prepped properly, making it hard for the paint layer to adhere to the surface.

Of course, the type of preparation will depend on the condition of the surface and the existing finish. Nonetheless, the basic steps are mostly the same:

  • Use a mild detergent on non-wood surfaces to remove dirt and dust.
  • Remove unwanted buildup from the surface using a clean cloth.
  • Use fine-grit sandpaper to rough up the surface.
  • Clean with a damp cloth and allow to dry.

No Primer was Applied Before Painting the Surface

This is another common mistake that could be the reason why your enamel paint is peeling.

After cleaning the surface, it is important to apply the right type of primer before you progress to painting. A primer will protect your new painted area especially if the previous cause for peeling was moisture. 

It could also be a problem if you use the incorrect primer for the job.

Using the Wrong Paint or Primer

Generally, using the wrong type of paint and primer could also be a reason why you are experiencing peeling problems.

Here is a list of paints and primers, that work on the given materials.

MaterialPrimer and Paint combination
WoodKILZ Premium Primer and Enamel Paint
MetalSelf-etching Primer and non-acrylic Enamel Paint
PlasticRust-Oleum Plastic Primer and Enamel Paint

You can get al of these primers at your local hardware store or on Amazon (Links Below)

KILZ Premium Primer for priming wood.

Self-etching Primer for Metal.

Rust-Oleum Plastic Primer for preparing plastic surfaces.

The Enamel Paint Has Aged

Paint is not guaranteed to last forever.

If your enamel paint has been in place for a long time, peeling may occur. This results from the cohesive bond strength of the coating overwhelming the adhesive strength.

There is really nothing, that you can do to avoid this. Simply sand the previous paint off of the surface, prepare the surface, prime it, and then paint it again.

High Temperatures can Hinder Proper Adhesion of the Paint

Paint that is applied during extremely high temperatures tends to dry too quickly, causing the paint not to adhere to the surface.

This mostly occurs when coasting was applied when the surface temperature was too hot.

Applying the Paint Wrong

If apply the paint wrong, then your paint is more likely to peel.

This includes not applying a primer, using the wrong brush, and applying the paint too thick.

Also, applying uneven paint and not allowing one paint layer to dry before applying another layer could cause the paint to peel more quickly.

Painting Over Paint

Peeling often occurs when there is an incompatibility in the paint layers.

For instance, trying to paint Enamel Paint over a surface that still has a layer of oil-based paint on it. Doing this will lead to peeling paint. That being said, there are some paints, that you can apply Enamel Paints on.

You can check out my guide on Painting Enamel Paints over different kinds of paints if you want more information on that.

Not letting a Layer of Paint Dry Before Applying a Second One

Applying a second layer of paint too soon is likely to soften the first layer, resulting in a weaker bond.

This could be a cause for enamel paint peeling. A great tip is to follow the manufacture’s recommendations with regards to drying time.

Poor Painting Conditions

Although not common, bad weather conditions can interfere with the quality of painting and can cause peeling later.

This is particularly true when working in less-than-ideal painting conditions like when the temperatures are below 50 degrees F.

Conditions like these can complicate the painting job and inflate the drying times.

How to Prevent Enamel Paint From Peeling

Now that you know the various causes for your enamel paint peeling, you probably are wondering what the solutions are. Here is how to fix enamel paint peeling permanently.

Apply Enamel Paint to Clean Surfaces

Before painting enamel on any surface, it is important to remove any dirt and debris. This is because it does not stick well when applied on dirty surfaces.

You should also ensure that the surfaces are free from oil and grease since this can cause poor adhesion of the paint.

Properly Prepare Surfaces Before Painting

Before you paint or repaint enamel, you need to ensure that the surface is well prepared to achieve the best results possible.

Applying Enamel paint on surfaces with holes and cracks can cause the paint to peel off later on. Therefore, before painting, use a suitable patching material and fill the holes, cracks, or depressions. If you plan on painting metal, then make sure to get rid of any rust before starting to paint it.

If you are repainting enamel, it would be best to first get rid of the old coat using a paint scraper. After scraping off the loose paint, clean the surfaces with a pre-paint cleaner and then sand it lightly using a 220-grit sandpaper.

Then apply a coat of primer on the old paint before you apply the new enamel layer.

A primer coasts the surface and makes it more suitable for painting. Use a water-based primer if the old paint is water-based and an oil-based primer if the old paint is oil-based.

Paint During Modest Weather Conditions

This is another effective way to prevent enamel paint from peeling on exterior surfaces.

Excess heat can cause the new paint to bubble, which eventually leads to peeling. On the other hand, humidity can cause moisture to get caught under the paint resulting in the growth of mildew and mold.

Keep Painted Surfaces Away from Water

Water can weaken adhesion between the surface and paint, causing the layers of paint to detach from the surface. This then results in peeling and cracking of the enamel paint after some while.

To prevent this, you need to ensure that the surface you are painting is well protected from water.

Also, you can prevent water damage by using sealants, which protects the painted surface by blocking water. You can read more about that in my article about primers and topcoats for Enamel Paints.

Apply the Right Kind of Paint and Primer

It goes without saying that different paints are designed for use on different surfaces. This also applies to primers. Not using the right paint and primer for your project can cause peeling due to bonding issues.

Therefore, it is important to select the right enamel paint and primer designed for your surfaces. It is also advisable to use the same brand of primer and topcoat to ensure compatibility.

You can refer back to the table of paints and primers for different materials, that I posted above.

Use the Correct Painting Technique

One of the possible causes of paint peeling is poor painting practices and methods. This includes over thinning the Enamel paint or using the wrong brush when painting enamel. For proper application, you need a top-notch brush, spray type equipment, or roller.

When it comes to paintbrushes, you need to check the durability and quality of the bristles. You do not want a brush that will show signs of wear and tear in just a short time. Besides, a synthetic bristle brush will do well when painting water-based enamel while a natural bristle brush is best for oil-based enamel.

If you want your enamel paint to last and not peel off, consider not applying it too thick. Instead, apply the paint in multiple layers.

After cleaning the surface, coat it with a layer of primer and then apply two layers of enamel paint. Wait for the first layer to dry before you apply another layer of paint.

It is also advisable to apply few thinner coats than a single heavier coat since this is unlikely to give a high-quality finish. Also, thicker paint coats tend to lose their flexibility, eventually leading to cracks and peels.

Ultimately, the painting technique you choose will depend on the type of job and paint being used. The point is to follow the right procedure to evade premature peeling.

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