Re: What is the best way to repair bathroom ceiling paint cracking?
First, I would mitigate the cause of the crackling paint, which is usually excess moisture not being vented from the bathroom.
- Install exhaust fan vented to the exterior of the structure.
- Install a timer switch on new fan or existing fan so that it operates long enough to vent the excess moisture.
The repair is as you suspect, sc**** down the ceiling to remove the roughest areas and remove loose/flaking material. Float with drywall topping compound which will take several coats if you want a smooth surface, however if you are retexturing, then you don't need baby-buns smooth, just the crackle effect filled and a relativlely smooth surface, the texture will hide small imperfections.
Repaint with two coats of a good primer such as Kilz or BullsEye 123. Finish with two coats of good quality semi-gloss or gloss paint, if you really want a durable finish, use exterior grade paint which is formulated for the harsh exterior environment. If you've got a mildew problem, the fan/timer switch will help greatly, there is also a mildecide additive you can mix with the paint to help inhibit bacterial growth.
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