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5 Tips on How to Fix Painting Mistakes from Experts

Painting is undoubtedly one of the quickest and least expensive ways to transform your home. It can update an area, hide flaws, highlight architectural details and so much more. If you follow the 10 commandments of painting, you’re on the road to success. However, mistakes and problems do happen. If you encounter a hiccup, the painting experts explain how to fix it.

A woman using a paint roller, painting wooden planks on a wall.
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The paint is blistering/bubbling  

Fortunately, this type of blister doesn’t hurt, but it can be painful to look at. “Paint blisters or bubbles occur when the paint film lifts from the underlying surface,” says Mike Mundwiller, Field Development Manager at Benjamin Moore.

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So what causes a paint blister? “The loss of adhesion between the paint film and surface is usually caused by heat, moisture or a combination of both,” Mundwiller says. And it eventually leads to peeling. While it can be corrected, he says you need to figure out what’s causing the problem or it will occur again.

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How to fix blistering/bubbling paint

You can scrape and sand the blisters to remove them (if they don’t go down to the substrate). Once the area is smooth, Mundwiller says you should apply a coat of primer and then apply the paint. “However, you’ll need to find and remove the source of moisture if the blisters go down to the substrate.”

To stop paint from blistering or bubbling, Mundwiller says you should always start with a clean, dry surface. “Apply primer-sealer over any stains and give it time to dry completely,” he says. “Always make sure that the paint is completely dry before you expose the surface to moisture,” Mundwiller adds. He also recommends using (or installing) exhaust fans or vents in high-humidity areas. 

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The paint is cracking or flaking

When you see a hairline crack, don’t ignore it. “Cracks in paint can start small, but will worsen over time if they are not fixed,” Mundwiller notes. Cracks or flakes can be caused by a variety of issues which may include inadequate preparation of the surface, or inappropriately applying oil-based paint over latex paint. “Also, if you use cheap paint, it’s not going to adhere properly or be flexible,” Mundwiller says. Sometimes, the paint is old, or it’s being applied in the wrong environment and, therefore, is drying too quickly.

“Extreme cracking, sometimes called ‘alligatoring,’ is caused when a second or third coat of paint is applied before the previous coat dries completely, or when the undercoat is incompatible with the finish coat,” he explains.

How to fix cracked or flaking paint

You can use a wire brush or scraper to remove loose paint (if the paint cracking isn’t down to the substrate). “Then, sand the area to feather the edges, prime any bare spots and repaint the surface,” Mundwiller explains. You may need to use a filler if flaking happens in multiple layers of paint.

“If the cracking goes down to the substrate, remove all of the paint by scraping or using a heat gun, sand the surface until smooth and even, prime, and then repaint with a quality latex paint,” Mundwiller says.

couple painting wall
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The paint is spread too thin

Colors are powerful and that’s why your color choices are important. But it’s also important to use the proper techniques when painting. A common mistake is spreading the paint too thin, according to Jenny Burroughs, PPG Paint Brand Senior Product Manager. “Always ensure that your brush is evenly covered but not soaking wet, and follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions for application,” she says.

How to fix dry paint

“Always ensure that your brush is evenly covered but not soaking wet, and follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions for application,” she says. One step is to avoid pouring too much paint into your rolling tray. Excess paint in your tray will begin dry if not used quickly enough, creating a dryer and more resistant roll-on finish. With just enough paint in your rolling tray, you will have enough to coat the entire roller with paint and avoid a sloppy paint finish on walls.

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The paint has runs and the edges aren’t neat

You may have noticed your paint has begun to run, streaking downward with gravity’s help. Your edges are looking funky, especially where your walls meet your ceiling. These unfortunate occurrences are prompted by the use of an incorrect tool for detailing or an inappropriate amount of paint. Like dressing a salad in a bowl, there is such a thing as too much paint in your tray. Also, a wrong tool may never get the detailed finish in certain areas, even in the hands of a professional.

How to fix paint runs and edges after painting

To prevent your paint from running, you may have to look at a few things. Are you adding too much paint onto your tray, thereby adding too much paint onto your roller? Too much paint on your roller will deposit a lather too generous upon the material you are painting. Too much paint will not adhere and sit onto the surface. Avoid adding too much paint into your rolling tray and, especially, your roller. When applying the paint onto your wall, ensure your roller is actually rolling. If your roller is surfing on the paint and not rolling much, you’ve applied too much paint onto the roller. When rolling on paint, go over your previous roll about a half or quarter inch. This will ensure your paint doesn’t thin and spread to fill in the surrounding areas. 

To fix edges after painting, you’ll want to get as close as possible with your roller to the areas that require details and then cut it short. Don’t sweat the little gaps. It is much better than reaching your ceiling or other areas with paint. To prevent ceilings from getting unwanted paint, get painters tape and seal off the ceiling, or other areas you want to avoid. Once the paint is applied, strip off the painter’s tape to avoid cracking or shearing off-dry paint. 

In areas where walls meet or where details are required, an angled paintbrush will do. When applying a finish to an edge, dip the brush about a quarter to a third of the way in, and wipe off the excess from both sides. To wipe off the excess paint, a common painter’s trick is to put a rubberband large enough around the entire can, lengthwise, to create a symmetrical divide with the rubber band. You may also use the interior rim of the can, as well.

Once your paintbrush is good to go, orient the paintbrush so that the wide end of the tip of the brush is always running parallel to the edge you want to finish. The slimmer, not wide, brushing will deposit the paint more effectively. At first, do not put on more paint when streaking begins. Make sure the paint is grazing the fine line where you want to stop.

Let’s say your hand isn’t that steady. You can grab a ceiling line paint tool that has a set of wheels and a pad that absorbs paint. Essentially, the wheels ride on the surface you don’t want to be painted and, perpendicularly, paints the surface you want.

Touch up mistakes

Sometimes, you don’t need to paint a whole room, you just want to touch up a small area. “It’s not uncommon to see a noticeable difference in appearance between the original finish and the touched-up areas,” according to Mark Eichelberger, Senior Product Manager of Architectural Paint at Sherwin-Williams.

“To avoid this, I recommend trying to clean marks with a soft sponge and liquid detergent before touching up,” he says. If it’s possible, he also recommends using the original batch of paint and a similar applicator to the one used in the original job.

wood stain deck paint tips
LisaInGlasses / Getty Images

The Wood Stain Doesn’t Look Good 

Interior paint isn’t the only place you can run into issues, either. Staining a newly replaced deck can produce undesirable results. “People do not allow for proper curing time. Once cured, they also don’t know that they have to remove the mill glaze prior to staining,” says Michael Nungesser, Owner of Five Star Painting of Central Georgia and Fayette/Coweta.

How to fix wood stain mistakes

“Allow 30 to 60 days for new boards to cure,” Nungesser advises. He says that most homeowners aren’t aware that the new decking has a mill glaze (a glossy film that forms on the deck). The glaze can be removed with a wood deck cleaner, but Nungesser says this is another area prone to mistakes. “People often wash a deck with bleach and don’t neutralize the bleach with a wash prior to staining.” He also warns against using a pressure washer since it will impregnate the wood with water. For the best finish, he says to “allow the deck to dry to 20% moisture, and then apply two new coats of stain.” You may also use bleach to wash, but be sure to rinse the bleach thoroughly. Then await the rinse to dry up appropriately before applying your preferred stains.

The bottom line

Your painting job should prioritize the right tools at the right time. Avoid using a roller when an angled brush will apply a better detail. Too much paint in your tray, as well as on your roller, will overdress the substrate with paint which leads to runs and streaks. Apply painter’s tape to areas you want to avoid painting, using them as a marker or barrier to avoid breaching. Use tools like painter’s tape, ceiling line paint tool, and different rollers/brushes to appropriately apply the details you desire. Finally, be sure to read the manufacturer’s specifications and guidelines for their products.

Frequently Asked Questions


How do you fix tape bleed in paint?


To avoid tape bleed, use a putty knife or a device that will conform but not shear off the paint while pressing upon it. Surfaces with textures have more surface area, requiring a bit more attention to detail when applying painter’s tape.

Ensure your tape’s adhesive is sticking to the surface of the substrate. There’s a possibility that your painter’s tape has a more non-stick surface or adhesive. Consider purchasing a premium or higher quality painter’s tape.


How do you touch up paint?


Your best approach to touch up paint is with an angled brush. Rollers may apply too much paint and, if your paint has aged considerably, show differences in your freshly applied paint when compared to the rest of the dried paint. If you have to touch up recent paint, an angled brush will always be your friend, especially during cuts.


Will streaks go away when paint dries?


Streaks, or runs, will not go away when paint dries. In fact, the streak will harden exactly how it looks. Avoid applying too much paint onto your roller, or brush, to prevent runs or streaks.


What is the best way to hide paint imperfections?


Your best bet to hide paint imperfections is prudence, patience, and proper use of the tools at your disposal. Hiccups and mistakes can be addressed, although hassle-free errors don’t exist. Paint imperfections will show and should be addressed as soon as possible before the paint dries. Blotchy areas, runs/streaks, or thin paint can be addressed by sanding and then a proper application of the primer and/or paint you desire.

Contributors: Amanda Push

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