Paint Problems and How to Fix them

Paint problems and how to fix them! This is a straightforward topic that you know is important just by reading it.

Yes, there are, unfortunately, many paint problems that can occur through insufficient preparation, misapplication, weather and humidity related issues, and many other reasons.

Fortunately, you can understand these paint problems and how to fix them yourself.

Whether you’re dealing with interior or exterior painting, there are some common paint problems such as flaking, peeling or blistering paint that must be corrected first before attempting to paint again.

Without attempting to fix these types of problems, your efforts for repainting will be in vain. No paint will be able to bond or adhere to lose and peeling paint.

There may also be some “chalking” on the surface of the old paint that will prevent the new top-coat to bond properly.

This would need to be cleaned with a TSP solution for instance.

On this page, I will identify the problems that you might expect to encounter when painting your interiors, and then suggest a solution for those paint problems.

Shiny Spots

This isn’t an issue with a newly painted wall, but rather, on that has been painted for some time.

There was a mark or a smudge on the wall, you took a rag and perhaps some cleaning material, and you rubbed, and rubbed with unhappy results.

Rather than removing the smudge, it seemed to grown, and all around it, you end up with large shiny spots wherever you have wiped the walls.


Many of us like the look of a flat, or satin sheen on the walls of our living rooms, hallways, dining rooms, etc.

These sheen has low reflectivity and tends to make any wall imperfections less visible.

In simple terms, the surface of the low sheen paint is “jagged”, when looked at microscopically.

This jagged nature of the low or flat sheen paint surface tends not to reflect light.

When you aggressively wash a low sheen wall, if you concentrate your cleaning in one spot, you will “burnish” that one spot. Burnishing simply means that you are smoothing the surface.

If you rub the surface, and smooth or burnish the surface enough, you actually change the sheen of the paint from the low sheen that is on the rest of your wall to eggshell or even a semi-gloss.

Not The Paint’s Fault

The tendency at this point is to complain to the painter that their paint quality is inferior, and demand a re-paint.

Lower costs paints may tend to burnish faster than higher quality paints, yes.

The real issue though is that you have washed the wall incorrectly, and you have modified the surface of the paint to change it’s sheen.

And this will happen to any sheen of paint if you wash it or rub it too aggresively. All sheens will burnish. Some sheens show it sooner.

What To Do?

In terms of a wall that has shiny spots from being burnished, the only solution is to re-paint. Not just the one spot, but from corner to corner, ceiling to floor.

That is the only way to get an even coat back on your wall, particularly if it has been some time (a year or two) since the wall was first painted.

The other thing you can do is to ensure that you are washing your painted walls properly!.


Paint Surfactant Leaching

No, paint surfactant leaching isn’t a “sexy” problem, yet when it occurs, it stumps many a professional painter and the do-it-yourselfer alike.

Latex surfactant leaching, when it occurs, is most frequently seen on ceilings in bathrooms, but it is possible to experience this unsightly condition in other areas in the house.

Instead of drying uniformly to a nice sheen, the drying paint may appear blotchy with clear, shiny patches.

Some of the blotchy areas may even peel from the newly painted surface.

What Is Happening?

What is happening is that the latex paint hasn’t been able to dry quickly enough, and the surfactants, which are very important parts of the paint formula, leach from within the paint film and onto the surface.

Surfactants are intended to be encapsulated in the paint, and when that paint dries properly, they flash off during the normal drying process.

Exposure to high humidity before the paint film is completely cured is the normal cause of paint surfactant leaching.

If the paint is exposed to cooler temperatures when it is drying, that too slows the drying time, and latex surfactant leaching can occur.

Watch for it when painting during unseasonably hot and high humid days, in an un-air-conditioned room.

Can It Be Fixed?

Sure, no problem.

Simply wait until the paint is thoroughly dry and then gently wash the surface of the paint with a light mixture of household dish soap and warm water.

Use a soft sponge and gently wash from side to side, or top to bottom. Do not wash in a circle as this may cause visible paint wear.

Rinse thoroughly with clean water, and allow the surface to completely dry.

Re-wash stubborn spots if any are present, being careful to apply just enough pressure on the sponge to clean the surface.

Wait until the weather has cooled and the humidity has lessened. Repaint.


White Spots

Your wall paint or ceiling paint job is dry, and white spots have appeared on the paint surface. What’s up with that?

The white spots are likely minerals that have been dissolved in water, and when that water has evaporated, it left the white spots behind on the nice, new, painted surface!


How did you go and get water spots on your newly painted surface?

There are a couple of ways that come to mind.

If the walls and or ceilings that you’ve painted are located in or near a bathroom, and you (or in my case, my partner, who showers with water so hot that it could peel the skin off me) have had a shower before the paint has completely dried, the steam from the shower condenses of the surface of your new paint job, and there you go.

When the water dries, you might have white spots.

Another Way

I was recently called out to diagnose a problem a paint contractor was having. They had spray painted the ceiling in an industrial building they were working in.

The ceiling, in this case, was metal roof deck, and part of the superstructure they painted was the large, round, air conditioning ductwork as well.

During this period the temperatures outside were approaching 100 deg. F., and the humidity was in the 90% range. The inside of the building, particularly at the ceiling level, was even hotter.

They sprayed the ceiling in the afternoon, closed up the building for the night, and came back the next day to find much of the ceiling, and all of the ductwork covered in white spits, dime-sized, with some a little larger and some a little smaller.

Here Is What Happened

As evening arrived, the temperature started to fall as the sun had gone down.

The temperatures in the building stayed relatively high, but the metal roof deck and the metal ductwork cooled much more rapidly than the room air.

As the surface of the metal became cooler than the air temperature, that surface temperature rapidly hit the dew point, and the high humidity in the room began to condense onto the metal surfaces.

The paint, since paint takes much longer to cure when it’s humid, had not dried properly, and the condensing water more aggressively marked the metal surface with the characteristic “leopard spots”.

Fix It

Depending on the project size, you might try damp wiping the surface and then let it dry.

If that doesn’t eliminate the spots, your recourse is to wait until temperatures and humidity is back into a normal range, and repaint.


Flaking and Peeling

Possible Causes: 

  • Probably the top of the list of common paint problems. Paint simply doesn’t stick. The surface might have been dirty.
  • It might have had too many layers of paint already.
  • The wrong type of paint might have been used.


  • Locate and eliminate sources of moisture. Is area near a bathroom or kitchen? Is there seepage or leakage from eaves, roofs or plumbing?
  • Scrape off the old paint where the flaking is occurring up to 12 inches away from the flaking condition.
  • Sand surface to fresh wood and spot prime with recommended interior or exterior undercoater.
  • Seal all seams, holes, cracks against moisture entry with caulking compound.
  • Apply a top coat of house paint according to label directions.


Alligatoring, or Checking

Possible Causes:

  • Paint has many reptilian-looking interconnected cracks. The outer coat has not adhered properly to the paint beneath.
  • Previous paint film applied in several heavy coats without sufficient drying time between coats or use of undercoater not formulated for the finish coat.


  • Sand surface smooth – often right down to the raw wood.
  • Apply one coat of exterior undercoater and one top coat of recommended house paint according to label directions.



Possible Causes:

  • Bubble form under paint.
  • This common paint problem is due to moisture trapped in siding is drawn from wood by sun’s heat and pushes paint from the surface.
  • The temperature was too high when the top coat was applied.


  • Locate and eliminate sources of moisture. Is area near a bathroom or kitchen? Is there seepage or leakage from eaves, roofs or plumbing?
  • Scrape off the old paint where the blistering is occurring up to 12 inches away from the blister condition.
  • Sand surface to fresh wood and spot prime with recommended exterior undercoater.
  • Seal all seams, holes, cracks against moisture entry with caulking compound.
  • Apply the top coat of house paint according to label directions.



Possible Causes: 

  • Most exterior paints are formulated so that the surface gradually breaks down into a powdery chalk that takes dirt and grime with it when rain washes it away. This feature keeps the paint looking clean. Chalking surfaces, however, will not hold new paint.


  • Scrub a chalking surface with detergent or TSP solution and rinse well as the first step with this common paint problem.
  • Apply a top coat of house paint according to label directions.


Cracking and Scaling

Possible Causes:

  • Fissures open in the paint, allowing in moisture, which lifts off the paint. Usually caused by aging paint that has lost its elasticity and can’t change with temperature and humidity changes.
  • It may also result from moisture seepage or air pollution.


  • Locate and eliminate sources of moisture before painting.
  • Sand surface smooth – often right down to the raw wood.
  • Apply one coat of exterior undercoater and one top coat of recommended house paint according to label directions.
  • Wash newly painted areas periodically.


Wrinkling, Running and Sagging

Possible Causes

  • The paint puckers, drips, or lumps. Often the result of applying too thick a coat or of poor painting technique.
  • It can also be caused by painting over an undercoat that is not yet dry.


  • Strip the surface and repaint.
  • Be sure to allow the first coat to dry completely before applying an additional coat.


Top Coat Peeling

Possible Causes:

  • Usually found on overhanging horizontal surfaces and other areas protected from the weather. It is caused by poor adhesion of previous coat of paint from the build up of “salt” deposits which are not washed away by rain.


  • To help with this common paint problem, sand surface thoroughly to remove all peeling paint.
  • Wash sanded surface with a solution of three heaping tablespoons (1/3 cup) tri-sodium phosphate to one gallon of water.
  • Rinse well and allow to dry.
  • Apply one coat of undercoater and one top coat of house paint according to label directions.



Possible Causes

  • Mildew is a fungus that thrives on high humidity and high temperature. If left on the surface and painted over, it will grow through the new coat of paint.
  • Usually found in shady, protected areas that don’t get enough sun or air to prevent the growth of the fungus.


  • Scrub the entire surface with a solution of (1/3 cup) trisodium phosphate (TSP), eight tablespoons (1/2 cup) household bleach, in four quarts of warm water.
  • Apply one coat of mildew-resisting primer. Note: Mildew-resistant additive may be added to an undercoat if mildew conditions are severe and an oil based top coat is used. The additive in a finish coat should be avoided.
  • Apply one top coat of mildew and fume-resistant white or latex house paint.


Flaking/Chalking Masonry

Possible Causes: 

  • Inadequate surface preparation. Paint flakes off in “scales” or powders and chalks off.


  • Remove flaking and chalking paint by wire brushing or sandblasting.
  • Seal all surface cracks from moisture with a suitable masonry patching compound.
  • Apply masonry primer according to label directions.
  • Apply two top coats of latex house paint or exterior masonry paint according to label directions.


Redwood and Cedar Staining

Possible Causes: 

  • This common paint problem is mainly due to moisture in siding dissolves coloring matter in wood. Colored water escapes through breaks in paint films and drips from underneath overlapping boards. The stain is deposited as water dries.


  • Locate and eliminate sources of moisture before painting. Wash stained surface with a mixture of 50% denatures alcohol and 50% clean water.
  • Allow surface to dry 48 hours.
  • Then apply two coats of house paint according to label directions.


Peeling Gutters

Possible Causes:

  • Peeling or cracking of galvanized metal gutters, downspouts, etc are the main causes for this common paint problem. Improper metal primer or no primer used on galvanized metal results in paint film with little or no adhesion.


  • Strip off all loose paint by a scraper, wire brush, or best of all, power wire brushing. It is very important that all loose paint be removed or succeeding coats of paint will subsequently peel away, too.
  • When finishing with oil base top coat, prime bare spots with galvanized metal primer.
  • When finishing with latex top coat, apply latex paint directly to bare galvanized areas after cleaning with a solvent such as mineral spirits. Allow solvent to evaporate.
  • Finish with a top coat of latex or oil base house paint. Use two top coats when a color change is involved or substantial bare metal is exposed.


Nailhead Staining

Possible Causes:

  • Excessive moisture contributes to rusting of uncoated steel nails used in construction.


  • To help with this common paint problem, locate and eliminate sources of moisture.
  • Sand or wire brush stained paint and remove rust down to a bright metal of nailhead.
  • Countersink nailhead 1/8-inch below the surface of the siding.
  • Immediately spot prime countersunk nailhead with recommended exterior undercoater.
  • Fill primed, countersunk holes with caulking compound. Apply two top coats of house paint according to label directions

Okay! There You Have It. Please Share With Others!


Want more painting tips? Check out our other articles on:

      Pin It on Pinterest