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  • Melanie Evans

Pesky Home Paint Problems and How to Fix Them

Those getting ready to sell their Waterloo region home, or even those thinking of buying one, hear it a lot; a new coat of paint will work wonders. And it's often true. A new paint job can brighten up a darker room, give your home that neutral, appeals to everyone clean look that is a must for successful home staging or spruce up a space in a new home that was less desirable, but you loved the house otherwise, and were assured that a new paint job would solve any lingering doubts you had.

The problem is that interior painting is not as easy as it looks, and that goes double for exterior painting. That's why so many people choose to go with the pros. However, if you are set on tackling the job yourself there are some things that can - and will often go wrong that, if you are aware of them in advance, and have an idea of how to fix them (or better still prevent them) your home paint job should turn out well.

With this in mind here's a look at some common paint problems and how to repair them and avoid future issues.

Flaking, Cracking and Clumping

Vein-like lines that appear through at least one coat of paint may appear faint at first, but they tend to deepen and grow into dry, jagged flakes. Such ugliness can appear on a variety of surfaces, both inside and outside, ranging from plaster to wood and siding.

What causes cracks in paint?

Crack attacks are primarily caused by insufficient surface preparation. Splitting can also be caused by over-thinning or applying paint too thinly.

A heavy hand while painting, on the other hand, can cause what are known in painting circles as mud cracks, where too-thick paint dries with a clumpy, swollen appearance. Allowing insufficient drying time between coats can also cause these issues. Unfortunately, cracks can develop simply as a result of age. Paint becomes brittle over time, making it less adaptable to changes in temperature and humidity.

Repair and Preventative Maintenance

If the damage is severe, the entire surface may need to be repainted. If not, you can easily repair a badly painted spot with the right technique and save yourself a lot of time and effort. Solutions can be found by following the steps outlined below.

  • Using a scraper, wire brush, heat gun, or chemical application, remove all cracked and flaking paint (depending on the extent and severity of the problem).

  • Sand the edges to blend them together, then clean and prime the surface.

  • Repaint problem areas, taking care to properly load the brush or roller to avoid an application that is too thin or too thick.

  • Dip the brush into the paint, allowing one-third of the bristle length to be covered; tap the brush lightly on both sides and avoid dragging the brush against the container's edge.

  • Fill the roller tray halfway if using one. Remove the lint from a new roller cover, dip the roller into the tray's well, then roll over the ribbed portion of the tray several times to evenly distribute the paint.

To avoid heavy buildup in corners where paint frequently overlaps, feather out the cut-in area thoroughly; then clean and prep, evenly reapplying paint. And remember to be patient, allowing paint to dry completely between coats. You'll probably want to use the same product you used before when repainting to repair (but in subsequent projects, opt for quality latex paint, known for its adhesion and flexibility).

Peeling Paint

While improper preparation and application can cause peeling, moisture is the number one enemy. Excessive moisture in the home can be caused by high humidity in the basement and/or foundation, but it can also be caused by overzealous showering, cooking, and humidifier use. Preventing quality indoor paint from peeling is rather straightforward: improve interior ventilation as needed with exhaust fans, wall vents, and/or louvers.

Repair is a different matter. In almost every case spot repair is inefficient, and the whole area should be redone. Remove peeling paint by sanding, cleaning, and priming before repainting.

Bubbly/Blistered Paint

Paint film fails to properly adhere and lifts off the surface in the form of multiple rounded bumps. Blisters can appear on both interior and exterior painted surfaces—drywall, plaster, metal, and wood.

What causes paint to blister or bubble?

Heat and moisture are both blister gremlins. Painting in direct, intense sunlight or on overly hot surfaces can cause heat bubbles on exteriors; newly dried latex paint that’s exposed to dew, rain, or high humidity may also blister.

On interiors, moisture passing through the walls from bathrooms, kitchens, basements, and laundry rooms can push paint off the surface. Oil-based paint is also apt to blister when applied over a damp surface—or when applied over water-based (latex) paint. Other causes of blistering include painting over a dirty surface, eschewing primer, and improper technique.

Repair and Prevention

  • Burst a few bubbles and examine the backside of blistered paint, as well as the substrate if it becomes exposed, to determine if moisture or heat is the culprit.

  • If the blisters contain several coats of paint and popping them reveals bare substrate, there’s a moisture issue. Address this by repairing plumbing, replacing caulking, and/or increasing ventilation as required. Then remove all blistered paint, sand smooth, clean, prime, and repaint.

  • If blisters affect only the previous coat of paint, heat is likely at fault. Remove blisters and the underlying paint or primer, then sand to smooth and dull the surface, clean, prime, and repaint, taking care that the surface is below 90º F.

  • Stir paint slowly with a wooden stirrer. Stirring too quickly or for too long can introduce bubbles to the paint that could transfer to the surface.

  • Be patient when rolling. If you detect bubbles during application, slow your stroke speed.


Crusty white salt crystals may look appealing on a pretzel, but not on the painted masonry of your home. Efflorescence (also known as mottling) appears when the salts inherent in brick, concrete, cinderblock, and mortar dissolve in moisture and then leach out to the surface.

What causes efflorescence?

A variety of factors contribute to efflorescence, including:

  • insufficient curing time for cement or mortar during construction;

  • moisture migration from inside the house;

  • groundwater penetration from an inadequately waterproofed basement;

  • insufficient surface prep to remove previous efflorescence; and

  • painting over holes, cracks, or unrepaired pointing.

Repair and Prevention

Tackle efflorescence on a warm, dry day. Eliminate excess moisture conditions externally by waterproofing and repairing cracks, repointing, and sealing around windows and doors with butyl rubber caulk.

There are various ways to remove efflorescence, and you may need to use a combination, depending on the extent and severity: a wire brush, scraper, low-pressure washer, and/or cleaning with diluted white vinegar or a trisodium phosphate (TSP) solution (wear protective gear when working with this chemical) and then rinsing thoroughly.

Applying an impregnating hydrophobic sealant to a building material surface can prevent water absorption and keep moisture from entering the material. Colorless water repellents may prevent efflorescence from recurring, as may silicone or acrylic coatings. Allow to dry completely before repainting.


Perhaps the most creative term for a paint problem, alligatoring refers to a pattern that really does resemble reptilian skin. It starts as subtle wrinkling (a.k.a. checking), then develops into wide rectangular cracks. Alligatoring tends to be more common with oil-based paints.

What causes alligatoring?

Paint naturally expands and contracts in response to temperature fluctuations and, over time, loss of elasticity can result in alligatoring.

The process can be hastened through such missteps as applying a rigid coating such as oil enamel over a softer, more flexible coat (e.g., latex paint or latex primer); painting over a glossy finish (the topcoat not bonding properly to the glossy finish), or not allowing sufficient dry time between primer/basecoat and topcoat.

Repair and Prevention

  • Remove unsightly scales by scraping, sanding, applying chemical removers, or using a heat gun.

  • Rinse to banish dust and let dry completely.

  • Prime, allow to dry and repaint.


A fine, powdery white substance that forms on painted exteriors, chalking is most often seen in arid, sunny climates. It tends to be most visible on pale-colored flat paints and is likely to occur on improperly sealed porous materials and poor-quality, factory-finished aluminum siding.

What causes paint to chalk?

The pigments in paint are naturally released when exposed to weather changes, so some chalking is to be expected over time. But serious cases are usually due to using the wrong product—either interior paint or low-quality exterior paint that contains a high degree of extenders (white, powdery paint additives). Over-thinning paint prior to application can also lead to chalking.

Repair and Prevention

  • Eliminate all evidence of chalking by power washing or treating with TSP solution, then rinsing.

  • Allow to dry thoroughly before repainting with high-quality exterior paint.

Planning to buy or sell a home in the Waterloo Region but have questions? Why not speak with an expert? Contact the award-winning Team Pinto here, or book a free Zoom consultation to discuss your unique Waterloo Region real estate needs here.

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