Emulsion drying and peeling back off?

3 Feb 2008
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United Kingdom
Not often I venture into here, but need some help please Guys and Girls. Victorian property, lath and plaster ceilings. Ceiling was originally papered, but it was showing signs of age, nicotine staining and was peeling in places anyway. removed the lot, sugar soaped the ceiling, applied 2 coats of white emulsion.

It started to bubble in places whilst still wet, then has dried and basically peeled back like a skin, leaving the plaster underneath as it was. What is happening and what can I do about it please?
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you were painting on bare plaster? Or was there old distemper or something remaining? Did you mist coat?

On the back of the paint skin, is there a coating of greyish dry dust?
Looks to me like bare plaster. Gave a thin quick coat initially, then went over it again afterwards to thicken it up. Has peeled off akin to the skin on a custard. No noticeable dust on the back of the skin, but it is off white.
Try thinning the paint with 50% water, whisked in well. It will soak straight in and disappear, that's fine, after drying give it another. This will seal the surface and also prevent your full coats from drying out too fast. You will find the second watery coat does not disappear.

The tin probably suggests thinning the mist coats with 10% water or so, but on a very absorbent surface, additional thinner coats will soak in better.

You can do this, experimentally, on a test patch furthest from the window, where any patchiness will not show much.
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Sounds like you may have an old Distemper finish on the ceiling, did you wash off the ceiling prior to painting it, if so you would have noticed the water turning white.
I have used Stablising Solution successfully on Distemper finish, then two coats Emulsion.
You mention the old finish is an off white colour, if its a sort of grey off white its a good chance its distemper.
It was washed with a sugar soap solution to remove any traces of paste from the previous wallpaper, small imperfections were filled then painted. Will try a mist coat on a small area and see what happens
Distemper washes off in hot water, but not in cold. It settles to the bottom of your bucket because it is mostly ground chalk. It has a distinctive and rather unpleasant smell as it includes boiled up dead horse glue.

Agree it is usually light grey (or pastels), and a very bad surface to try to paint.
Ah, I did have a residue at the bottom of the bucket IIRC, hot water was used to mix the sugar soap solution in.

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