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Cracks In Newly Painted / Patched Walls?

Question: Last June, we patched and painted every crack in the walls of our 100yr old apt. Now I have two questions:

  1. There are tiny, almost feathery looking cracks appearing on several of the walls. They are very shallow and fairly uniform (i.e. everywhere). What might have caused this and is there any cure?
  2. Several large cracks have appeared on the walls that don't have the problem I listed above. I assume if we patch and paint again we'll have the same problem. Any ideas on how to get a longer lasting solutions?

Answer: The feathery looking cracks sound like a paint compatibility problem - undercoat/primer versus finished coat - from your description it sounds as if the paint is cracking not the wall.

Large cracks sounds like a settling problem - foundation problems in a 100 year old apt. The answer to your question is - YES , if you patch and paint you will most likely have the problem repeat itself.

Question: If I've got a paint compatibility problem (the feathery cracks), what do I do to fix it? Paint again?

Also, what, other than patching and painting the walls with the big cracks, can I do? Does skim coating take care of this? Other ideas?

Answer: It may be possible to correct cracking if it is confined to small areas by removing the loose or flaking paint with a scraper or wire brush, sanding to feather the edges, priming any bare spots and repainting.

If the cracking involves large areas or the entire surface, remove all of the paint by scraping, sanding and/or use of a heat gun or power washer.

Then, prime with a quality primer and repaint with a quality latex house paint.

I would also recommend that you go talk to a paint expert - Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams paint store - not a big box like Home Depot or Lowes and ask for their advise.

I am sorry to say that with the big cracks, you have to fix the problem, and if it is the foundation it is a major exercise.

A building only has to shift 1/32 of an inch to produce cracks. The only way to "possibly" stop the appearance of the cracking would be to put a layer of thin drywall over the wall. Drywall will stand-up better to shifting than plaster.