Last owner put latex on oil- how to fix?
Ack. I'm still working on that "weird wall" bathroom- the wallboard is greenboard, so that part's OK, but I've confirmed that the previous owner painted a flat latex paint over previous layers of oil based paint, which I think is why things are peeling so badly. The mildew is being addressed through proper priming, a new exhaust fan, and the new paint will be semi-gloss, but am I going to need to sand every square inch of the latex paint off every surface, to get back down to the original oil based paint and then prime appropriately before painting with a nice latex? Man I wish the previous owners had done that. Am I correct though, in thinking that there is no shortcut here and the only answer is sanding everything all the way and then priming and doing it right?
Do you know if the walls are plaster or drywall?
If plaster, then an easier solution would be to remove ALL the paint from the plaster, and then prime the bare plaster and paint over that primer with your latex.
If it wuz me, I would use a paint meant for bathrooms like Zinsser PermaWhite Bathroom paint instead of anyone's semi-gloss latex.
Before trying to scrape all the paint off the plaster, try removing the latex paint from the oil based paint with a "Nestor Scraper" (named after it's inventor). Grip the back of a single edge razor blade with a pair of needle nose style locking pliers. Use that tool to try to scrape the latex paint off the oil based paint. The long jaws will hold the blade at a good angle for scraping.
If you find the razor is digging into the wall too frequently, try dulling the blade by simply dragging the sharp edge of the blade over some sandpaper or a sharpening stone.
Also, I think SlickShift was saying that you could remove latex paint from oil based paint with a product called "Goo Gone" or "Goof Off". You might want to try brushing one of these products onto the latex paint and apply wax paper over the wet Goo Gone or Goof Off to prevent it from drying out while it works. Feel the latex paint under the wax paper to see if it's dissolving, and if so, clean the dissolved latex paint off the oil based paint with paper towels to get the worst off, and then with soapy water to remove the residual dissolved latex paint.
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