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Old 01-01-2013, 04:45 PM   #1
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Bathroom Ceiling Woes


Bit of a long story, I'll try to make it as short as possible. I moved into my house 3 years ago. The previous owner had re-painted the bathroom ceiling with who-knows-what. No idea what condition the ceiling was in before that.

A year or so later, the paint started to peel/chip in spots. Eventually (maybe a year later), I finally got around to re-painting. I scraped and sanded the spots that were chipping, spackled them, and primed and painted. I can't remember what I used now for some reason, but it wasn't necessarily low quality (not like behr or anything).

Anyway, after 6 months or so, there was more chipping/peeling. Not necessarily in the same spots as before, but similar (generally near the edges of the ceiling. I decided to do things "right" so read as many forum posts on the topic as I could and settled on using Zinsser Cover Stain oil-based primer and sherwin-williams bath paint.

It's been a couple months, and no peeling yet (though it's early). However, I still smell the paint, especially after showers or even if the heat is blowing for a while (forced hot air - there's a single floor register in the bathroom). Will this smell eventually go away? Or did I make bad paint choices (again)? I suspect it's the cover stain that smells so bad; I've since heard the oil-based primers aren't great for indoors. Is the odor harmful?

As for the general problem of peeing paint, do people have alternative paint suggestions. I do have an exhaust fan that vents to the outside, and we always run it during showers. I'd hate to have to replace it with a fan that moves more air, I'd think the one I have is sufficient for the fairly small bathroom I have.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Old 01-01-2013, 05:24 PM   #2
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It is really surprising that you can still smell paint. usually after a cure there is nothing left to off gas, and if you covered the primer with a top coat it is not exposed to the air.

Either you are -very- sensitive, or something else is going on here.

Very doubtful that the paint can be harmful- but like I think- something else is going on..

Not even sure what to ask you to get to it though.

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Old 01-02-2013, 06:11 AM   #3
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Hmm, interesting. OK. Maybe I'm just being sensitive. I can't really imagine any other source of the "smell." My pregnant wife's overactive sense of smell must be rubbing off on me.
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Old 01-02-2013, 06:59 AM   #4
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was the finish paint old? Sometimes it can go bad in the can and get real funky smelling, and if applied I have seen that take a long time to go away.
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Old 01-02-2013, 07:16 AM   #5
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Bathroom Ceiling Woes


Is it possible your exhaust fan is vented into your attic instead of outside or the tube could be broken. Then when you were using the oil primer the fan was on and filled the attic space with the odor.
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Old 01-02-2013, 08:09 AM   #6
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I bought the paint new from a paint store, so hopefully it wasn't stale. The smell does kind of remind me of what you describe ("funky old paint smell"), but everything I used was brand new.

I don't think the air in the attic is the problem. The fan is definitely vented to the outside, albeit through a long run of rigid duct (maybe 20'). I don't think the attic air has the odor because the attic has vents, and I believe I've been up there since painting. On top of that, I also had a box fan in the bathroom window when I was doing the painting.
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Old 01-02-2013, 08:15 AM   #7
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Bathroom Ceiling Woes


Read somewhere about open jars of vinegar will absorb some of that odor. You could try and paint a coat or two more and hopefully that will seal in the odor better. If possible you could keep it very warm in there for a few weeks and see if that will speed the curing process up a bit. It would seem that if you have good air flow the odor will not collect so well.
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Old 01-02-2013, 08:20 AM   #8
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I forgot to mention... I did two coats each of primer and top coat. I waited the manufacturer-suggested time between coats of each, and waited overnight between prime and top coat. Also had fans blowing air around in there along with the vent fans. It might have been a little cooler in that room than usual during drying (e.g. 60 degrees F) because I had the window open with the box fan in it and it was late November in New England when I painted.
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Old 01-02-2013, 08:40 AM   #9
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Once again- I don't get it. Shouldn't be a problem.
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Old 01-02-2013, 04:11 PM   #10
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Bathroom Ceiling Woes


I give up
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Old 01-02-2013, 04:13 PM   #11
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Well at least I didn't do something obviously stupid, I guess...
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:06 AM   #12
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It appears that you did nothing wrong. Ventilation is helpful, or perhaps cleaning with a product like Zorbx (they have a web site, and the product is sold in Lowes and other stores- noted on their site).
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:20 AM   #13
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Thanks for the suggestion, I'll definitely look into Zorbx. It sounds pretty helpful in general.
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Old 01-04-2013, 07:05 AM   #14
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Bathroom Ceiling Woes


OK, a bit more information. There's definitely a problem.

I had my wife take a medium-length "warm" shower (her warm is my hot) last night. During and after the shower, the fan was on (obviously) and we left the bathroom doors (there are 2, one on each end of the bathroom) cracked about 4". The theory was that would let more dry air into the room.

Maybe 10 minutes after her shower, we opened the bathroom doors up and it had a real distinguishable paint smell. I reached up to the ceiling (not even in the shower, but above the sink) and it felt soft-ish. Almost like a hard rubber. Before the shower, it was definitely hard. Obviously the ceiling also felt a little damp to the touch, too.

It seems like the ceiling has had plenty of time to cure. Right after painting, we went a couple days without using that shower just for that purpose. And since then, we've also taken shorter, cooler showers and even been out of town for a few days around Christmas so... I painted it about 6 weeks ago.

Any thoughts? Why is the paint behaving that way? I've never had any other type of paint do this. Is it a problem with the type of paint I used (Zinsser Cover Stain and Sherwin Williams Bath Paint)? Did I somehow apply it wrong? I can't help but think that paint combo makes a lot of sense in this situation.

And how can I fix it? Will I have to strip the paint at this point? Any chance of painting over it with something different? Seems unlikely that that would work. Arg.
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Old 01-04-2013, 07:44 AM   #15
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Bathroom Ceiling Woes


The first thing that comes to my mind is there was a problem with the ceiling before you painted it and painting just cover it up and now it is showing up again. But this is just a guess on my part maybe someone else will have a better idea. Just thought of something check your exhaust fan it may be running but not moving any air. Turn it on and hold a piece of toilet paper up by it and see if it pulls the paper or holds it tight against the fan.


Last edited by ToolSeeker; 01-04-2013 at 07:50 AM.
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