Photograph of  peeling paint on a building exterior - can you diagnose this failure by eye? Diagnose, Correct, & Prevent Exterior or Interior Paint Failures - paint failure diagnostic clues found indoors

  • PAINT FAILURE - INTERIOR CLUES - CONTENTS: List of interior building clues assists in diagnosingboth exterior paint problems on buildings and also interior paint failures. Paint failure diagnosis checklists for the building interior
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to diagnose, cure, & prevent peeling paint failures on buildings - clues found indoors can diagnose exterior paint failures

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This paint failiure diagnosis article explains that clues found indoors can help explain both exterior building paint failures (especially bubbling and peeling paint) as well as interior paint failures.

An interior paint diagnostic checklist found here describes common building interior surface painting mistakes and lists visual clues that help diagnose paint failures on building most surfaces.

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PAINT FAILURE CHECKLIST: INTERIOR CLUES - Interior Observations Related to Paint Failures

This article series reviews common building exterior & interior painting mistakes, describes how to diagnose paint failures on buildings, and outlines a procedure for diagnostic field inspection & lab testing of failed painted surfaces. We include photographs of paint failures on buildings and more photos of forensic paint laboratory examination of samples of failed paint useful to assist in diagnosing the probable cause of each type of paint failure.

Although outdoor sun and weather exposure are not a significant factor in indoor surface paint failures, many building interior paint & coating failures are similar to other causes of exterior paint job failures in their origin and cure, including bad surface preparation, incompatible paints, etc.

Our page top photo shows popcorn-style ceiling paint in good condition. Textured ceiling paints, including the spray-on "popcorn" type coatings that were used into the late 1970's may contain asbestos and should be handled accordingly if the surface is being stripped or demolished.


The diagnosis and cure of paint failure on building interior ceilings, walls, floors, trim, and other surfaces is quite possible if there is a careful and thorough inspection of the building, its history, its surfaces, and the actual points of paint failure. It is diagnostic to compare the same coating on the same type of surface at different locations on a building and in areas of failed and not-failed paint.

List of Indoor Clues that May Explain Exterior Building Paint Failures

Here is our list of clues that help diagnose the cause of both indoor paint job failures and some exterior paint failures. Additional clues that can help diagnose an indoor paint problem are at STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS. If you are diagnosing a building exterior paint problem also see PAINT FAILURE - EXTERIOR CLUES.

  • Signs of leaks or water entry from all sources, at all locations
  • Relative humidity, use of humidifiers, dehumidifiers, hot air heat
  • Construction details, air movement in the building
  • Sources of water, leaks, moisture
  • Sources of exfiltration - indoor air moving out through the building envelope
  • Sources of infiltration - outdoor leaking into the building or into building cavities
  • Information about insulation, ventilation, vapor retarders, water and air barriers
  • Presence/absence of mildew, moisture stains, other signs
  • Type of heating/cooling equipment installed (forced air, humidifiers, etc.)
  • Fan placement and usage and effect on air movement
  • Relationship of leaks or high humidity, vapor barrier defects, absent insulation, or other contributors, and areas of paint failure
  • Placement and type of vapor barriers in building walls and ceilings
  • Mapping of failed and not-failed paint on various building areas, overlaid on the above list of possible causes.


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