Question on prepping/painting my banisters

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I've asked about this before and thought I was on my way to get this job done finally. Today I started doing some sanding on the banisters but find in some areas, the old paint is behaving strangely -- or so it seems. It almost seems moist (that's the best way I can describe it) and instead of sanding down smoothly, some of it wants to peel off.
I painted the white paint over a dark brown banister several years ago. I can't remember what I did to prep it but I'm wondering now if I primed it. Could that be the cause of this "wanna peel off" problem?
I only started sanding in a few places. Some seem to sand down just fine but others do the peeling thing and don't seem to want to sand into a smooth area.
The "knobs" at the bottom and top of the stairs (I don't know what the real name is for these "knobs.") The paint started coming off them rather soon after I originally painted them yrs ago. The one at the top sanded down nicely today. The one at the bottom wants to do the peeling thing and doesn't respond well to sanding. Should I use paint remover on it?
Due to wear and tear of yrs, the white paint is scratched in many places and very little of it feels smooth, so I assume that means I'll have to sand it more? Or what?
I'm going to paint the banister a rich, deep red so want the end result to look nice. For primer, I bought Zinsser B-I-N Shellac Base and had it tinted gray, but they couldn't make it dark gray. I bought a hi-gloss latex for the red.
prepping and painting wood stair banisters, painting, stairs, These are the stairs and my dog s feet on the left
These are the stairs (and my dog's feet on the left).
prepping and painting wood stair banisters, painting, stairs, Knob at the bottom of the stairs You can see places where it wants to peel I peeled it up with my fingernail
Knob at the bottom of the stairs. You can see places where it wants to peel. I peeled it up with my fingernail.
prepping and painting wood stair banisters, painting, stairs, Top sanded knob Nice and smooth now but most of the paint had worn off over the yrs
Top sanded knob. Nice and smooth now but most of the paint had worn off over the yrs.
prepping and painting wood stair banisters, painting, stairs, Pulled this paint up with my fingernail but should this be happening
Pulled this paint up with my fingernail, but should this be happening?
prepping and painting wood stair banisters, painting, stairs, Same here Pulled it up with a fingernail but not hard to do
Same here. Pulled it up with a fingernail, but not hard to do.
prepping and painting wood stair banisters, painting, stairs, Two largish pieces that pulled off
Two largish pieces that pulled off.
  9 answers
  • Claire M Claire M on Jan 04, 2015
    Just guessing you didn't prime it when you painted it before. So are you wanting wood now or white? Were the spindles white originally or did you paint them too? Do you want them white or wood now? If they were originally white, my thinking would be to leave them white and refinish the banister and posts, but I don't know if that is your intention. I think a wood banister with white spindles would look nice, but you may not...lol

    • Louise Louise on Jan 04, 2015
      @Claire M They were originally stained dark wood. I painted them white yrs ago. Now I want to paint them deep red.

  • Jessie Jessie on Jan 04, 2015
    It looks like the bannister wasn't adequately prepped (sanded then primed) before being painted white. If you really want the paint to hold up well you'll need to remove the white paint and sand the wood enough for the primer to stick to the wood, then prime, and sand again before painting. If it was my project I would probably use citristrip to remove the peeling paint. It's fairly easy to use, just a little bit messy.

    • See 1 previous
    • Jessie Jessie on Jan 06, 2015
      A general paint remover would probably work perfectly fine. I prefer citristrip because it's non-caustic and doesn't smell as terrible as some of the others. It removes both oil and latex, but a lot of other paint removers do too. If you already have something else that you're use to using, you might as well try it.

  • Lori Lori on Jan 05, 2015
    Do you know if you painted with latex over oil when you painted them white? That could cause this peeling.

  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Jan 05, 2015
    I hear you! Have experience! LOL Don't go with the expense and mess of strippers. Did a railing during reno - don't know how old the paint job was - at least 25 years. Same thing. Some would peel off like a banana peel using a fingernail! Other spots, not so much. Figured possibly no priming had been done, or was really old latex paint before techno advances. Couldn't sand the stuff - just gummed up. Could use small pieces of steel wool for stubborn spots although I didn't. I, too, used my trusty fingernail, and also a razor scraper and various gadgets to get it off. Actually, didn't take too long. Then bought the Zinzer 1-2-3 primer that comes in spray cans. (Didn't do any sanding on the original stained wood or any of the paint that had adhered well.) Then bought spray cans of top coat. Just have to TAPE DOWN A LOT of protective plastic/newspaper over your work area. The tiny particles get air borne, and the air of the aerosol can send them under the protection if not secure. Any particles that went on the stairs had time to dry before they landed so just vacd them. Would cover the stairs, too, just in case. Am very pleased at how it turned out. Looks like a pro job.

  • Stacy | BlakeHillHouse Stacy | BlakeHillHouse on Jan 05, 2015
    I agree with Lori. I think it is latex over an oil-based product (the stain) that is causing the problem. Once you sand, I would use an oil-based primer which can be covered with a latex paint.

  • Funnygirl Funnygirl on Jan 05, 2015
    I would scrape off any large pieces of paint that are flaking off then repaint entire staircase with liquid sand.This is much easier to apply(can even be rubbed on with a cloth),takes a few minutes to dry,not hours then that should give you enough"tooth" for your paint to adhere.Beats the hell out of sanding !Try it on a small area to see if you get the results you need.

  • Louise Louise on Apr 19, 2015
    I'm finally just about ready to prime and paint these banisters. I want the finished product to as smooth and shiny as possible. I bought the paint that I was told is appropriate. BUT, should I use a small roller on this or use a paint brush? I'd guess spraying would give the smoothest coat, but I can't do that. If I use a roller, what do I look for in the "fabric" and if I use a brush, what kind should I get?

  • Mdbaron Mdbaron on May 10, 2015
    Use a milk paint or chalk paint next time it adheres to everything with no priming or sanding needed. Unfortunately you will have to lightly sand these now to refinish but with the two options you wont have to prime or sand to surface.

  • Louise Louise on May 10, 2015
    I went to Lowe's yesterday to buy some sponge brushes because someone said they do better in leaving a smooth surface. But while there, the paint guy told me I should use a brush instead and to use the floetrol someone mentioned here. But he told me something I'd never known about paintbrushes. He said that the light color at the end (see photo) shows how much paint to put on the brush. He said since the brush is "layered" that if more paint is put on it, then those shorter layers will cause the brush marks. Any painters here who can verify that? I bought this one, but won't this mean my job is going to take FOREVER?