How to Remove Chipping and Peeling Exterior Paint

When it comes to exterior painting projects, many do-it-yourselfers underestimate the importance of proper preparation.

The fact is: If you don't spend enough time and effort on surface preparation, your paint job simply won't hold up. By far, the most important aspect of surface preparation is the removal of loose, chipping and peeling paint. However, if you are inexperienced at removing chipping and peeling exterior paint, you could actually do damage to the surface. Before you get started, know the proper techniques to be sure you are able to effectively remove old paint without causing unnecessary damage.

Use a pressure washer to clean the surface and to wash away as much chipping and peeling exterior paint as possible. Begin the pressure washer on a low setting and stand about four to six feet away from the surface to avoid damaging the surface. Allow the surface to dry completely before proceeding.

Use a metal putty knife to lift and scrape away as much loose paint as possible. Work slowly, being especially careful not to accidentally remove chunks of wood in the process.

Use the pull scraper to remove any remaining chipping or peeling paint. Always pull the scraper toward you and never push it, because you could damage to the surface. Follow the grain of the wood as you pull the scraper along, because working against the grain could also cause damage to the wood.

Use 80- to 120-grit sandpaper to sand away any remaining spots of chipping or peeling exterior paint, and to smoothen any jagged or splintering wood uncovered during the paint removal process. Again, follow the grain of the wood as you sand.

Things You Will Need

  • Pressure washer
  • Metal putty knife
  • Pull scraper
  • 80- to 120-grit sandpaper


  • When you remove chipping and peeling exterior paint, you will often expose some raw wood in the process. It's vital that you spot prime these areas to promote adhesion and block bleed-through. Paint simply won't adhere to raw wood. So always apply a coat of latex primer to these areas.


  • You may be surprised to see that the pressure washer eliminates most of the chipping and peeling paint on its own. However, don't get too aggressive with the pressure washer in an attempt to avoid laboring with the metal putty knife and pull scraper. Pressure washers are extremely powerful and can cause severe damage to wood if used improperly. Always start the pressure washer on a low setting and stand about four-to-six feet away from the surface to minimize the chances of damage.
  • If using a ladder to reach otherwise inaccessible areas, be sure it's stable, and exercise extreme caution: The force from a pressure washer or jerking movements from scraping could cause the ladder to lose its footing.

About the Author

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He has been writing professionally since 1999. He has 10 years of experience as a professional painting contractor. Lawrence writes for High Class Blogs and Yodle. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations with a minor in history from the University of Oklahoma.