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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am remodeling a kitchen and prepping to paint a plaster wall. The house is 150 years old, and the wall was previously an exterior wall, so I'm assuming it is plaster applied directly over brick, as was common.

After removing the old wallpaper and paste, I applied standard Killz latex primer which worked fine on all parts of the wall except one area close to the floor, directly above the basement. After a couple of weeks, the primer, which was dry, bubbled and peeled off the wall. Next, I thoroughly scraped and sanded the peeling primer and applied Killz oil-based low odor primer. To my surprise, it also peeled and bubbled off the wall in the same spot. I re-scraped and re-sanded the wall again and this time I applied Zinnser Bullseye bonding primer. The same thing appears to be happening again.

What is the solution here? I am guessing that the issue is moisture, so I thought for sure the bonding primer would do the trick, but no such luck. I had another old house and we had a very similar issue with painting plaster over brick wall -- no paint would stick to it. I am considering putting 1/4 inch dry wall over the wall, but that will be labor intensive and I'm hoping to come up with something easier, like skim coating it with a masonry product maybe?

Thanks in advance.
 

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retired painter
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I never use latex Kilz because it's a poor stain hiding problem. It's also reported to have adhesion issues. Since the bullseye is doing the same thing it has to be either a moisture or contaminate issue. A solvent based primer would help if it's the latter.
 

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Plaster can be tricky. It's like a sponge when it gets wet. And, it's hard to tell sometimes (because it's so hard) if it's damp or not just from observation. A pic sure would help because it could also be other things causing the adhesion issues such as old, shiny, oil-based paint, mildew, dust, etc.
 

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Sounds like moisture. Tape some plastic over the area to check. Do everything you can to solve the moisture problem first. Gutters, roof leaks, pipes, condensation, soil grading, etc. Then I'm thinking maybe a basement waterproofing type of primer. That's the only thing I can think of that will resist any kind of hydraulic pressure. I don't see how drywall or skim coating would solve the problem unless that water has someplace else to go. That's an old house.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you for these replies. See the attached photo. The bubbling spots are isolated close to the floor which is why I suspect moisture from the basement. But, If the culprit is moisture I'm guessing it's a very small amount, nothing like what would be produced by a roof leak, for example.

Thanks again for your help.
 

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retired painter
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That looks a lot like moisture. I'd scrape off the bubbles and look for any sign of moisture. I've never used drylok [or similar] over plaster but mathmonger might have a good suggestion if you can't otherwise find and correct the source of the moisture.
 

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get it back down to bare plaster, and wipe it with vinegar and let it dry before you apply a GOOD TRUE alkyd primer. Coverstain is crap now and Kilz is worse. Sherwin Williams alkyd wall and wood primer, SW multi-purpose alkyd primer, or Pratt and Lambert alkyd multi-purpose primer are much better options. Ben Moore alkyd primers are good as well.

The moisture is activating the alkalinity in the plaster. Wiping it with vinegar will neutralize the alkalinity. (this is why you need to find a real paint store with people that know what they are doing instead of shopping at Home depot and Walmart for paint!)

Of course it is important to find the source of the moisture, and that may be difficult because it doesn't look like there is a great deal present. Make sure that you check for any plumbing pipes behind that wall that may have water condensing on them. I have seen that cause this many times in the past.
 
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