Question: I am experiencing a paint problem in my new home. We've been living here since March. I was painting the white walls a custom color so I trimmed the ceiling and the baseboards with 3M blue tape I purchased from Lowe's Home Improvement. The tape promptly took the paint off the ceiling when I peeled it off after only 5 seconds of being applied. The paint and drywall contractors and the homebuilder superintendent have been here to inspect the home and have determined after 2 months, that nothing is wrong, but that walls were not intended to be taped unless you use the $11 per roll 3M tape. Not only did my tape peel off paint, but there is a spot on my wall where the paint just rolls off. There are numerous walls with orange peel, I think they call it, where there are many little cracks in the paint. Any advice?
Answer: Your problem is common for a couple of reasons. On new construction, we see a lot of drywall dust remaining on walls prior to painting. You always have a mud joint at the ceiling and wall joint, and when sanded prior to painting, you get a tremendous amount of dust accumulating in the corners. If this dust is not vacuumed off, and the surface wiped, the remaining drywall dust on the surface keeps paint from soaking in. You will likely see a white powder on the back side of the paint chip, and from the surface where the paint peeled. Wipe with a dark rag to check, looking for this white residue. This residue should be removed from the failed areas prior to repairing. This problem is typically compounded by the use of inexpensive flat latex paint as a primer and finish on ceilings. Many paint companies are promoting "self-priming" builder flat finishes for new construction, so I can't even blame the builders and contractors. These products typically do not wet through this dust. If the finish was sprayed on the ceiling, and not brushed or rolled in the corners, this will compound the problem. We do not like Blue tape, especially 3ms. It will pull flat latex in most cases, even if little dust is under the surface, which is almost always. I feel it is too aggressive for any flat acrylic.
I do not like the "$11.00 3m " tape you refer to if it is the white paper tape. It will fall off the surface. We have a purple delicate surface tape that can be purchased on our site:
Delicate Surface Tape. For Taping Flat Wall or Ceiling Paint.
We have found this to be the best choice after testing every safe-release available to us.
If the dust underneath is severe, you may still get some slight pulling, so please test this tape as well. Also, DO NOT pull the tape quickly after painting. After painting walls, a lot of moisture and humidity will be in the room, and this will wet and soften the ceiling paint temporarily, making it extremely sensitive to pulling. Wait at least 4 or 5 hours, and possibly overnight. On the area that has peeled, or any additional pulls, you may need to put on a little drywall mud to fill the area, but if there is not a lot of light on it, it may be acceptable to just "touchup" the pulled areas with the ceiling paint. You will probably still see the rough surface, but it may not be overly obvious.
As far as who is to blame for the failure, it is hard for me to address that. This is common practice in most new construction, and we have been promoting dust free drywall sanders, and better procedures, with little success. We always recommend sweeping drywall and damp towel wiping of sanded surfaces, especially corners. We also encourage the use of a drywall 1st coat primer, specifically designed to wet into residual dust remaining on the surface. It is just hard to find many painters or builders who budget these procedures into a project.
Bottom line, I would recommend the use of the Purple Delicate surface tape to minimize pulling, and make sure dampness is out of the room before pulling tape. If you are going with a slight sheen on the walls, you may want to consider painting walls first, hand cutting line at the ceiling, then taping walls after a few days, and paint the ceiling edge last, using the masked walls as the guide.
We have some short video clips and DVDs available on taping and other topics. I understand your frustration, because we see this problem all the time. Let me know if you need clarification, or further details.