DIY Home Improvement Forum banner

1 - 20 of 22 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
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.
 

·
Rubbin walls since'79
Joined
·
2,518 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,606 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,896 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
411 Posts
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).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,606 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
The fan is at least moving some air. Sometimes it can hold a piece of heavy toilet paper, other times not quite (but close).
 

·
Member
Joined
·
2,392 Posts
JM, I noticed that you're still monitoring this thread as of today. While you may have a ceiling fan issue that contributed to the failures previously, the fan has nothing to do with the issue of paint smell. Is the paint still off gassing, I don't know, and you might be overly sensitive. Should it be, probably not? But all paints are different. A cast iron rad will cook an oil base finish for quite a while during heating season. Will it hurt you? No. I'm not an health expert, nor an air quality expert, but I'd venture to say that it's more unhealthy to be outdoors than in your bathroom.
But the problem is the paint, if there is one, not the ceiling fan. That's like complaining the pain killers aren't killing the pain of you banging your thumb with a hammer. Stripping the ceiling is really not even a consideration. But you can, either, a) coat the ceiling with Zinsser BIN, it blocks smoke and cat urine odor, then coat the ceiling with a different bath paint, or satin of any flavor, b) Call the SW rep to your home, and run a hot, steamy shower just prior to his arrival (you don't have to be in it) and let him smell the paint. It's slightly possible you got a bad batch, and if you show him the batch number on the can he can look into that.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Just a quick update on this. I still have a smelly bathroom ceiling (and it's definitely not just me being sensitive), but here's what I've found out since my last post...

I spoke to the manager of my local Sherwin-Williams store where I bought the bath paint. His best guess was that I didn't allow the paint enough time to cure before using the shower, but I'm pretty sure that's not true because I did a pretty good job of ventilating the bathroom after painting and didn't use the shower for at least a day or two (and even then was careful to do quick, cooler showers).

Regardless, the manager was pretty helpful. He took my paint can and did a check to make sure I didn't get a bad batch (it wasn't bad). He also had me bring in a sample from the ceiling (I took a utility knife and sliced out a chip of paint). He sent it to their lab, where they supposedly put it under a microscope and analyze what caused the failure. Their response was that the Sherwin Williams paint was fine, but something underneath it failed. Now of course, this is exactly the response you'd expect from SW, so who knows if it's true, but it's certainly possible that e.g. the Cover Stain coat was the problem.

I just called Zinsser. Not surprisingly, they said it's probably the topcoat. They also suggested that it (the top coat) might just require more time to cure. I doubt that though. 1.5 months, and the odor/softness doesn't seem to be getting any better.

Sherwin Williams is offering to cover the costs for any repainting supplies, which is a plus. However, I'm not sure exactly what I need to do to repair it at this point, so that only helps a little bit. jsheridan, thanks for your suggestions. I hope you're right that I don't need to scrape. Do you think Zinsser BIN will prevent moisture from softening up the paint layer(s) below it? How many coats should I use? And should I let the primer fully cure (1-3 days) before applying the top coat?
 

·
Member
Joined
·
2,392 Posts
Sorry JM, I've been out of town. Not surprising that the paint cos are playing volleyball with you. At least they'll help you with the material cost and that you're only doing a small ceiling.
To answer your question, BIN is an excellent vapor and odor barrier. Prove it to yourself. Roll a coat of BIN on the ceiling and live with it for two weeks to see if the current smell goes away. SW doesn't carry BIN, but they have their own pigmented shellac, which may even be private label made by Zinsser.
If the smell goes away then finish the ceiling with a different paint. When it comes to showering in a freshly painted bathroom, the longer you can avoid showering the better off, minimum 48 hours, longer for colors. You can shower under the BIN the next day.
Keep us posted.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
505 Posts
Just a quick update on this. I still have a smelly bathroom ceiling (and it's definitely not just me being sensitive), but here's what I've found out since my last post...

I spoke to the manager of my local Sherwin-Williams store where I bought the bath paint. His best guess was that I didn't allow the paint enough time to cure before using the shower, but I'm pretty sure that's not true because I did a pretty good job of ventilating the bathroom after painting and didn't use the shower for at least a day or two (and even then was careful to do quick, cooler showers).

Regardless, the manager was pretty helpful. He took my paint can and did a check to make sure I didn't get a bad batch (it wasn't bad). He also had me bring in a sample from the ceiling (I took a utility knife and sliced out a chip of paint). He sent it to their lab, where they supposedly put it under a microscope and analyze what caused the failure. Their response was that the Sherwin Williams paint was fine, but something underneath it failed. Now of course, this is exactly the response you'd expect from SW, so who knows if it's true, but it's certainly possible that e.g. the Cover Stain coat was the problem.

I just called Zinsser. Not surprisingly, they said it's probably the topcoat. They also suggested that it (the top coat) might just require more time to cure. I doubt that though. 1.5 months, and the odor/softness doesn't seem to be getting any better.

Sherwin Williams is offering to cover the costs for any repainting supplies, which is a plus. However, I'm not sure exactly what I need to do to repair it at this point, so that only helps a little bit. jsheridan, thanks for your suggestions. I hope you're right that I don't need to scrape. Do you think Zinsser BIN will prevent moisture from softening up the paint layer(s) below it? How many coats should I use? And should I let the primer fully cure (1-3 days) before applying the top coat?
Hiya JM,

I've been reading your post, and responses, with interest but it seems like something hasn't been addressed. You described the smell as a "funky old paint smell"...are you absolutely certain the smell isn't actually a musty mold or mildew smell? Typically a "funky old paint smell" is the result of bacteria growing/feeding on organic paint components.

You mentioned "The previous owner had re-painted the bathroom ceiling with who-knows-what. No idea what condition the ceiling was in before that." Are you sure he/they didn't paint the ceiling to cover up an existing problem in order sell the home?

If that is a possibility, that could contribute to why the long lasting smell...and why the original app of cover stain hasn't seemed to dry hard (or softens some when exposed to steam/humidity). Matter-o-fact, if that is the case, the Cover Stain could actually be contributing to the long lasting smell - but not because of any solvent "out-gassing" - it would be more due to the fact that Cover Stain contains organic materials that bacteria/mold & mildew feed on - which, again, explain the smell and why the film hasn't cured hard (and impermeable) to date.

It doesn't surprise me that both SW and Zinsser are quick to defend their products and suggest the fault lies with the other brand. This is one of the reason many architects disallow painters to use different brands of paint and primer on jobs - when problems do occur, no one entity is there to definitively account for the problem and subsequent resolution. Both are reputable companies though, and what I've described makes a lot more sense than the very unlikely possibility of a "bad batch".

I agree that BIN primer is the ultimate problem solver (especially when trying to bind and contain stains or smells)....And BIN works great as a moisture barrier (as JSheridan mentioned)...the problem with BIN is if there is a moisture issue in the wallboard*, and that moisture cannot find an escape route**, the result may be some pretty funky crazing on surfaces coated with BIN.
* Moisture in board could be due to inadequate or improper ventillation - or inadequate sealing of the board that allows for condensation to wick up through the board. Again (to me, at least), this scenario kinda makes sense since you said there was some damage - that was repaired. Then about a year later, more damage occurred, but in different areas.
**Escape routes through board and into the attic could be thwarted by (a) colder temps in the attic than in the bathroom (as moisture, in the form of vapor, will always travel to the heat) - or (b) over-insulation in the attic (such as plastic or vinyl lined batting).

If any of what I've said makes any sense, it won't be necessary to remove all the coating that is currently on your ceiling - but it probably wouldn't hurt to install some temporary weep holes in the ceiling, get some heat in the bathroom, and take showers in a different bathroom for a couple days before continuing with the BIN solution (btw, BIN is unlike the other products you've used to date as the cure time is the same as dry time. Once your solvent evaporates, BIN is completely cured.)

...Or I could be completely wrong. Good luck and let us know how things turn out.
 
1 - 20 of 22 Posts
Top