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Home Improvement--General/Interior paint without a primer


Hi Steve,
I have a 2 year old home that I had custom built. All of the interior walls are painted with Sherwin-Willimas paint and look as they should. However, they scratch incredibly easily and something as simple as hanging up a picture leaves the wall paint damaged at the slightest scrape. Also, it is wearing off in some of the corners. My wife has considerable construction experience and strongly suspects that the textured drywall was painted without first using a primer (which is clearly specified as being necessary on the paint cans). If we try to wash a dirty spot off of the wall, paint comes off on the sponge. This paint has not been abused....we have no children living here! Is there a simple way of finding out, for sure? Thank you!


I'm a long-time user of SW paints and have had a good history with their products.  One reason a painted surface will easily scuff is because it is a flat sheen, which means that flattening agents are added to the original formula.  Flat paint does not fully lie down or develop a smooth shiny surface.  The rougher coating texture looks great and hides defects in the drywall, but the trade-off is fragility.  An egg-shell or satin sheen uses less flattening agents and is thus more durable.  A gloss or semi-gloss sheen is the most scuff resistant, but the shiny appearance can be objectionable on a broad surface like a wall, and any defects in the drywall substrate are easily seen.

Another reason that causes a painted surface to be fragile is inadequate build-up of coats.  Self-priming paints are only OK for previously painted surfaces, but for new construction you need to build the surface the hard way, with a tinted primer followed by two finish coats.  This three-coat process is especially important for any deeply tinted paint, otherwise it is just too thin to prevent the underlying white drywall mud from showing in the event of a disturbance, like cleaning.  

If the contractor is using spray equipment, the surface should be "back-rolled" with a wet-paint roller as the spray is applied.  This tends to even out the sheen and cause much better adhesion.  

Do you know if your walls were sprayed?  If so, and if the coat was thin and/or no back rolling was done, this could cause the problems you are having, even if a primer was used.  

If you really need to find out, Google the terms "paint coatings forensic testing" to find a lab that can analyze the paint.

Best of luck, and let me know if you need anything else.

Steve Major  

Home Improvement--General

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Steve Major (Owner - Major Design Group)


I can answer any questions regarding the design and execution of home improvement and remodeling. This includes trade-specific questions (how-to) in all major building trades: framing, foundations, site prep, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, water treatment, interior finishing, trim & cabinetwork, exterior finishing, roofing, siding. PLEASE indicate your state or region, so I can provide the best possible answer. PLEASE provide photos whenever possible.


30 years experience in home improvement design and construction, all hands-on, including the construction of dozens of single-family homes and hundreds of remodeling projects in the northeastern US.

Author: "Architectural Woodwork - Details for Construction" published by Van Nostrand Reinhold (now Wiley).

BS -- Cornell University

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