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February 9, 2023

22 Common Exterior Paint Problems and Solutions

22 Common Exterior Paint Problems and Solutions

Painting the exterior of a house can be daunting, and even the most experienced painters can run into issues. This blog will discuss common exterior painting problems and their solutions. From dealing with blistering paint to mildewed walls and learning what causes paint to bubble,  we'll provide you with the information you need to paint your home's exterior like local exterior house painters.

#1 Cracking, Flaking, and Clumping

  • Cracks: Lines resembling veins can be barely visible on a painted surface at the start but typically expand and deepen into rough, jagged pieces.
  • Clumps: These small lumps or bumps of paint that form on the wall and can be difficult to remove without causing damage.
  • Flakes: Paint flakes are small pieces of paint chipped away from the wall, leaving a textured, uneven surface.

Why Does Paint Crack?

  • Water/humidity: Paint applied to a wet surface or exposed to high humidity can easily peel off. Plywood is especially susceptible to these issues as it expands and contracts according to the humidity level.
  • Expired or Low-Quality Paint: Cheap paints peel quicker than fresh, high-quality paint.
  • Improper Application: Incorrect surface application, thin paint, uneven coats, or when paint doesn't dry properly between coats.

Paint Cracking Prevention & Solutions

How to prevent paint cracking on walls or flaking paint:

  • Ensure the wall’s surface is clean and dry before painting.
  • Use a primer.
  • Apply high-quality exterior house paint; several thin coats instead of one thick coat.  
  • Use a high-grade brush or roller and brush out any air bubbles that form
  • Seal the paint with a topcoat.
  • Use paint or primer specifically designed for the surface you are painting.

How to fix cracked, loose, or flaking paint:

  • Painting over a cracked paint exterior is a no-go. Rather clean and sand the area of the cracked paint.
  • Use an appropriate primer, sealer, or paint conditioner.
  • Apply a new coat of paint.
  • Once the paint has dried, apply a sealant.
  • If necessary, apply a second coat of paint.

And there you go! Taking care of exterior paint problems and solutions isn’t so tricky!

#2 Paint Peeling off a Wall

why does paint bubble

Peeling paint is paint that no longer adheres to the surface it was applied to and starts to come off in flakes, chips, or strips.

Why Does Paint Peel?  

Wondering, “why’s my paint peeling?” Here are the reasons:

  • Moisture: high humidity levels and improper drainage.
  • Improper application: Paint Applied too thickly or too thinly.
  • (UV) radiation exposure: The sun's UV rays can cause paint to fade, discolor, and eventually peel.  
  • Poor quality paint: Cheap paint may not adhere properly to the wall's surface.
  • Extreme temperatures: Extreme temperatures, either hot or cold.

Paint Peeling Prevention & Solutions

How to avoid exterior paint adhesion problems:

  • To prevent an exterior paint peeling paint problem, make sure that gutters and downspouts are properly draining away from the foundation.
  • Install exhaust fans, soffit vents, siding vents, louvers, fans, or dehumidifiers to eliminate moisture.
  • Inspect the caulking and repair or replace missing or damaged caulk.

And here’s how to fix peeling paint:

  • Scrape away old peeling paint and sand/smooth affected areas.
  • Prime the bare area.
  • Caulk as required with a high-quality caulking product.
  • Repaint with a good paint brand.

#3 Blistering or Bubbling

What causes paint to bubble? Painting film can often lift off the surface, creating multiple rounded bumps known as blisters, especially when painting in humid environments.

Why Does Paint Bubble?

  • Direct sunlight: Paint applied on a hot surface dries too quickly and traps solvent vapor.
  • Dampness: Damp surfaces cause trapped moisture to expand its film.
  • Moisture: Any moisture can push paint off the surface.
  • Other causes: A dirty surface, eschewing primer, low-quality latex paint, and improper technique also cause blisters.

Paint Blistering Prevention & Solutions

How to prevent paint bubbling on a wall:

  • Properly ventilate the walls, roof, eaves, bathrooms, etc.
  • Check for loose or missing caulking and consider installing siding ventilation for added protection.

And here’s how to fix paint bubbles on a wall:

  • Scrape away blistered paint with a stiff bristle brush until the surface is entirely bare.
  • Let the wood dry completely.
  • Prevent exterior paint drying problems by working in non-direct sunlight.

#4 Efflorescence

what causes paint to bubble

Efflorescence, a problem in painted masonry construction, is identified by white salt deposits seeping through the paint film from the underlying masonry structure.

What Are the Causes of Efflorescence?

  • Poor surface preparation: Basement walls should be waterproofed to prevent groundwater from penetrating the walls.
  • Painted masonry: Masonry should only be painted after the concrete or mortar has fully cured and dried.
  • Masonry wall cracks: Unrepaired cracks and loose tuckpointing allow water to get behind the masonry walls.

Efflorescence Prevention & Solutions

To prevent painting brick exterior problems such as efflorescence, you can:

  • Properly tuckpoint cracks or missing mortar in the wall.
  • Clean out gutters and downspouts.
  • Caulk joints around windows and doors with a butyl rubber caulk.

The solution:

  • Remove all efflorescence and any loose flaking, chalking paint with a wire brush, scraping, or power washing.
  • Clean the area with a trisodium phosphate solution and rinse with clean water.
  • Let completely dry, then prime and paint with high-quality latex house paint.

#5 Chalking

Paint chalking occurs when paint erodes slowly due to exposure to the elements. This powdery substance (chalk residue) can then be eradicated with pressure washing.

What Causes Chalking?

  • Poor Quality of Paint: Low-quality paint often contains fillers and extenders less resilient than higher-quality binders.
  • Exposure to Acidic Gases:  Certain gases can react with the paint.
  • Contamination of Paint by Oils or Grease: These substances can prevent paint from properly adhering to a surface.

Chalking Prevention & Solutions

You can prevent chalking and exterior house paint problems by:

  • Removing leaky faucets, pipes, and condensation.
  • Sealing any cracks/ crevices in the walls and ceilings.
  • Cleaning the walls regularly with a damp cloth.

How to fix chalking:

  • Remove chalking with a trisodium phosphate cleaning solution, then clean water.
  • Allow the area to dry before applying high-quality latex house paint.
  • Scrub with a specialized masonry cleaning solution for brick areas stained by chalking runoff.

#6 Alligatoring and Checking

what causes bubbles in paint
  • Alligatoring: This happens when the paint's surface develops a cracked pattern similar to a reptile's skin, featuring a cracked pattern with deep relief.
  • Checking: A less severe form of paint failure than cracking, checking is characterized by long, evenly spaced cracks in the paint film with minimal depth.

What Causes Alligatoring?

Incorrect application: Not allowing paint to dry between coats.

Incompatible paint: Glossy paint or a hard oil enamel over latex-based paint.

Old paint: Aged oil-based paint loses elasticity.

Paint Alligatoring Prevention & Solutions

To prevent common exterior paint problems associated with alligatoring and checking:

  • Buy top-quality exterior paint with a high-quality resin to ensure quality exterior coating.
  • Use the right brush or roller and apply the paint in multiple thin coats.
  • The ideal temperature for painting is 50-90 degrees to ensure proper drying.

How to repair alligatoring:

  • Remove the old paint from exterior walls, then sand, prime, and repaint with flexible latex-based paint.

#7 Mildew

Mildew is a fungus that grows in warm, damp places and can cause discoloration and damage paint; it is usually white or gray and may have a musty odor.

What Causes Mildew?

  • Humidity and poor ventilation: High humidity levels cause moisture to build up and mildew growth.  
  • Not allowing painted walls to dry completely: When paint is not allowed to dry completely before being covered, mildew can develop on the walls.  
  • Not cleaning walls regularly: Dust and other particles on walls can attract moisture.

Paint Mildew Prevention & Solutions

To avoid interior and exterior wall paint problems caused by mildew, you should:

  • Improve air circulation by opening windows and doors.
  • Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture.

Follow these steps to get rid of mildew:

  • Scrub the affected area with mild detergent and warm water.
  • Then, rinse the area with clean water and allow it to dry.
  • Mix 1 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water.
  • Apply the bleach solution to the affected area.
  • Allow the solution to sit for 10 minutes, then rinse the area with clean water.
  • Finally, use a vacuum cleaner to remove any remaining mold spores.

#8 Sagging or Running

why does paint crack

Exterior wall paint problems, such as sagging paint, occur when the paint droops or sags down the wall. Running paint is when the paint does not adhere to the wall instead and adequately runs down the wall in streaks.

What Causes Paint Sagging?

  • High-gloss surface: If not properly primed, the paint won't stick to the wall.
  • Poor application: Applying paint too thickly or thinly causes it to run.
  • Unfavorable weather: Hot climates can cause paint to drip.

Paint Running Prevention & Solutions

How to fix running paint:

  • Use a brush or roller to evenly spread the excess paint if you notice sagging while the paint is still wet.
  • For dry paint, sand down the uneven area and apply a new coat.
  • If the surface is glossy, sand it down to create a "tooth" to ensure the paint will adhere better, or use a primer before applying the paint.
  • Be sure not to overload your paintbrush and to use proper painting techniques.

#9 Rust

Rust appears as a reddish-brown discoloration on the walls and can be difficult to remove. Paint can rust when exposed to moisture, oxygen, and some chemicals in the environment.

What Causes Paint to Rust?

  • Moisture: Rust forms when moisture reacts with iron and oxygen
  • Chemical Exposure: Certain chemicals, such as acids and alkalis, can damage the paint and lead to rusting.

Paint Rust Prevention & Solutions

How to prevent rust formation:

  • Use rust-resistant Paint.
  • Clean your walls regularly to remove any dirt or debris that can lead to rust.
  • Applying a protective coating such as a sealant or wax to your walls can help protect them from rust and corrosion.

How to fix rust on walls:

  • Remove any loose rust with a wire brush.
  • Apply a rust-inhibiting primer and rust-resistant paint.
  • Allow paint to dry before applying a sealant.

#10 Foaming and Cratering

how to fix bubbled paint

Pinholes are tiny holes in the paint coating. Craters are larger holes. Both create weak points where corrosion can begin. They make the paint look bad, compromise corrosion protection, and require a complete project redo.

What Causes Paint Foaming?

  • Contamination: Grease, dirt, oil, or dust on the surface of the metal alters its surface tension, resulting in the paint pulling away from that spot and forming a gap in the coating.
  • Air bubbles: Air bubbles that don't pop until the paint has dried
  • Excessive mixing: Stirring paint too much can create too much foam.

Paint Cratering Prevention & Solutions

How to prevent catering and foaming:

  • Mix paint slowly.
  • Use the correct ratio of paint to thinner.
  • Ensure the surface is clean and free from contaminants.

How to fix catering and foaming:

  • Use the correct paint and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application.
  • Clean the surface thoroughly. Apply a primer before painting.
  • Stir the paint before and during application to avoid air bubbles.
  • Avoid using a sprayer unless experienced. If you use a sprayer, thin the paint with water to reduce the risk of foaming.

#11 Burnishing

Paint burnishing or "marring" refers to a change in a paint's sheen and gloss. Darker colors become shinier, while lighter colors may develop a dull paint film.

What Causes Paint Burnishing?

  • Mix of paints: Use of deep, dark, or vibrant colors in conjunction with flat or matt sheen level paints, especially in high-traffic areas.
  • Low-sheen paints: These paints cannot withstand abrasion or abuse when applied to broad-wall surfaces in high-traffic areas.
  • Frequent washing and spot cleaning: Abrasive cleaning agents or tools (scourers) to wash or scrub painted surfaces.

Paint Burnishing Prevention & Solutions

Tips to avoid burnishing:

  • Clean walls with a soft damp cloth and non-abrasive cleaners.
  • Avoid using flat and dark-colored paints altogether.
  • Apply a wear-resistant clear coating.

How to fix burnishing (honestly, it's best to start fresh):

  • Wash and remove all paint before priming.
  • Use the right kind of high-quality paint.

#12 Fading or Poor Color Retention

why does paint peel

Fading color is the loss of color of one or more color pigments within the paint film. While it's a natural and expected form of paint degradation, it can be exacerbated by other issues.

What Causes Fading or Poor Color Retention?

  • (UV) radiation: UV may absorb the pigments within the coating.
  • Darker-colored paint: Darker colors tend to absorb more heat and UV radiation, thereby putting greater stress on pigments.
  • Coastal environments: Salt and atmospheric moisture create a corrosive environment.
  • Over-tinting: Adding tinters to a white paint that is not intended for tinting or over-tinting a light or deep base can trigger fading.

Fading Prevention & Solutions

How to prevent fading paint:

  • Use quality exterior paint that's UV-resistant paint.
  • Select lighter colors as they tend to absorb less heat & UV radiation.
  • Choose colors based on inorganic pigments and/or oxides, which are generally more UV resistant.
  • Maintain your property's exterior by regularly washing walls and repainting when needed.

How to fix faded paint:

  • The “fading” effect is irreversible once it begins to occur, and the color can often become irregular or patchy.
  • Pressure wash and/or scrub the wall with a nonmetallic scouring pad to remove all surface contaminants and chalking before repainting with an approved coating system.

#13 Frosting

Frosted paint has a white, powdery coating and looks lightly dusted with a layer of sugar or snow. This issue is unsightly and can also be damaging if left to progress for too long.

What Causes Paint to Frost?

  • Dirt accumulation: Under eaves and on porch ceilings don't receive the cleansing action of rain, dew, or other moisture.
  • Dark color paints: Those with calcium carbonate extender.
  • Excessive moisture: Paint exposed to humidity or cool temperatures during the application and drying processes.

Paint Frosting Prevention & Solutions

To prevent frosting:

  • Preclude internal moisture accumulation by protecting unpainted surfaces with hydrophobic sealants.
  • Avoid using paints that contain high levels of calcium carbonate.
  • Seal any wood surfaces that have unprotected end-caps or joints.

How to fix frosting issues:

  • To fix mild frosting issues, wash the affected surfaces with warm water to test if the crystals dissolve. If they do, repeat the process until the flaws disappear.
  • For stubborn cases, use a soft brush to remove heavy deposits.
  • After that, apply alkyd primer to the exposed surfaces like bare wood, and let it cure. Finally, retouch the damaged areas with paint that matches the original.

#14 Surfactant Leaching

how to fix paint bubbles on wall

Surfactant leaching, which can appear as an oily or sticky, sap-like substance, is an aesthetic concern but not harmful to the paint or the surface it covers. This phenomenon occurs when newly applied exterior latex paint is exposed to high moisture or humidity while drying.

What Causes Surfactant Leaching?

  • Paint drying in cool, humid conditions: Especially during early fall.
  • Condensed moisture: Common on outdoor surfaces and in bathrooms.
  • Deeper tints: Deeper color paints tinted with universal colorants contain extra surfactants.

Surfactant Leaching Prevention & Solutions

To prevent surfactant leaching:

  • Incorporate surfactant-stabilizing agents such as polymers, polysaccharides, or other organic compounds into the paint.
  • Use a primer coat before applying the paint helps to create a better bond between the substrate and the topcoat.
  • Once the paint has dried, consider applying a sealant to the surface.

To fix surfactant leaching:

  • Do not paint over stains.
  • Rinse the surface with water or wipe with a damp cloth as soon as you notice stains.
  • On exterior surfaces, normal weathering will usually remove surfactant stains naturally.

#15 Lapping

Lapping is the appearance of a denser color or increased gloss where wet and dry layers overlap during paint application.

What Causes Pant Lapping?

  • Very hot weather or too much wind: This causes paint to dry too quickly.
  • Porous surface: Coating a porous surface that also makes the paint dry too quickly.
  • Not maintaining a ‘wet edge’ while painting: Wet edges are created by painting in a “wet-on-wet” technique, where the new paint is applied over wet paint. This technique is used to create a smooth, even finish.

Paint Lapping Prevention & Solutions

How to prevent lapping:

  • Seal the surface with a primer and ensure uniform porosity when working with porous substrates.
  • Brush and roll the paint from wet to dry for a smooth, even finish.
  • Use enough paint, maintain a consistent technique, and keep a steady pace to ensure even coverage.
  • Divide your area into manageable sections to ensure a “wet edge” is always maintained.

How to fix lapping:

  • Sand down uneven areas until smooth.
  • Wipe walls to remove all dust.
  • Start over. Make sure to maintain a wet edge when painting.

#16 Paint Incompatibility

fix bubbled paint

Paint incompatibility is a phenomenon that occurs when two different types of paint are mixed and react, causing them to separate and form an unattractive finish.

What Causes Paint Incompatibility?

  • Incorrect application: Applying paint where a stain or pigmented stain is more suitable or without first using the proper primer over a stained surface.
  • Wrong paint type: Use of water-based paint over slick, usually multi-layered, old, oil-based alkyd paint, or using interior paint outdoors.
  • Primer: Use a primer as a top-coat.
  • Contamination: Varnish, shellac, or lacquer with moisture/water.

Paint Incompatibility Prevention & Solutions

How to prevent paint incompatibility:

  • Use the same brand of high-quality exterior paint for each coat.
  • Ensure your primer is compatible with the paint you are using.
  • Clean and sand the surface before painting.
  • Apply a thin layer of paint at a time and allow it to dry before applying subsequent layers.

The solution:

  • Repaint using another coat of alkyd or oil-based paint.
  • Or, completely remove the existing paint and prepare the surface - cleaning, sanding, and spot-priming where necessary - before repainting with top-quality latex exterior paint.

#17 Poor Alkali Resistance

Patchy discoloration that's bright orange, yellow, red, and sometimes even blue and green colors tinted with organic colorants are signs of poor alkali resistance. This normally occurs on fresh or patched-up plastered walls.

What Causes Poor Alkali Resistance?

  • Uncured masonry: Fresh masonry contains lime, which is very alkaline. Until the lime has a chance to react with carbon dioxide from the air, the alkalinity of the masonry remains so high that it can attack the integrity of the paint film.

Poor Alkali Resistance Prevention & Solutions

How to prevent it:

  • Allow masonry surfaces to cure for at least 30 days, ideally for a whole year, before painting.
  • If this is not possible, apply a quality, alkali-resistant sealer or water-based primer, followed by a top-quality 100% acrylic exterior paint.

How to fix it:

  • Remove or seal the source of moisture ingress if this was the cause.
  • Apply a quality solvent-based masonry primer after the wall has dried out sufficiently.
  • Recoat with good-quality exterior acrylic paint.

#18 Galvanized Metal Adhesion Failure

how to fix paint cracks

Galvanized metal adhesion failure is when paint loses its adhesion to metal which leads to bubbling and flaking.

What Causes Galvanized Metal Adhesion Failure?

  • Inadequate preparation:  Insufficient cleaning, rust removal, and priming.
  • Damp or wet surface:  Exposure to water before the paint has dried may cause the paint to fail because it will not form a strong bond with the metal.  
  • Incompatible paint systems: Paint may not adhere properly, resulting in paint failure.

Galvanized Metal Adhesion Failure Prevention & Solutions

How to prevent adhesion failure:

  • Use a degreaser to remove oil, dirt, and other contaminants.
  • Utilize a wire brush or sandpaper to remove any loose paint and rust.
  • Be sure to use a paint that is specifically designed for galvanized metal.

How to fix metal adhesion paint failure:

  • Sand the area to remove loose particles and create a smooth surface.
  • Clean with a degreaser to remove any grease and dirt.
  • Apply a primer specifically designed for metal before painting.
  • Use high-quality metal paint for the final coat.
  • Allow the paint to dry completely before applying a clear topcoat.
  • Finally, apply a second coat of paint to ensure better adhesion and coverage.

#19 Tannin Staining

A brownish or tan color discoloration is caused by tannins migrating from the substrate through the paint film. This is especially common on "staining timbers" like redwood, cedar, mahogany, and over-painted knots in some other types of wood.

What Causes Tannin Staining?

  • Inadequate priming: Failure to prime and seal the surface before painting.
  • Incorrect primer: Using a primer that isn't stain-resistant.
  • Moisture: Moisture escaping through exterior walls can carry the stain to the paint's surface.

Tannin Staining Prevention & Solutions

How to prevent tannin stains:

  • Get rid of any possible sources of excess moisture.
  • Use high-quality paint products.
  • Prime and seal wood surfaces properly.

How to fix tannin stains:

  • Eliminate loose paint with a scraper or wire brush.
  • Remove the stains with oxalic acid or an oxalic-based solution.
  • Rinse with a pressure washer.
  • Allow the surface to dry thoroughly for at least 48 hours.
  • Prime and paint with the correct methods and products.

#20 Vinyl Cladding Paint Issues

what causes paint to crack

Unlike wood, which is well-suited for paint, vinyl absorbs more heat, leading to issues with warping and melting.

What Causes Vinyl Warping, Melting, and Peeling?

  • Incompatible paint: Paint may contain solvents or other chemicals that interact with vinyl and cause it to warp and melt.

Vinyl Warping and Melting Prevention & Solutions

To prevent paint issues:

  • While paint type and color are important factors to consider, the application process is equally as crucial to the success of your finished product.
  • The paint will peel if the siding is not properly prepared, cleaned, primed, and painted with an even coat.

The fix vinyl cladding issues:

  • A repair contractor should assess buckled or warped siding to determine the best remedy. The siding may have to be replaced.
  • Otherwise, sand paints off and repaint using the appropriate primer and paint.

#21 Wax Bleed

Wax bleed is the discoloration of paint film that occurs due to additives in reconstituted hardboard siding that bleed through low-quality primers and paint.

What Causes Wax Bleed?

  • Incorrect primer: Not applying proper primer to the hardboard before the topcoat.
  • Weather sideboard: Allowing hardboard siding to weather before being painted.
  • Dark paint colors: These absorb heat and can accelerate wax bleed.
  • Too little paint: Wax bleeding is more likely with thin paint films.

Wax Bleed Prevention & Solutions

You can prevent wax bleed by:

  • Priming unprimed boards within 30 days.
  • Applying the recommended primer and two topcoats.
  • Following the recommended film thickness application on the label.
  • Selecting top-quality, oxidative primers and topcoats.

We recommend the following to get rid of wax bleed:

  • Clean the affected area with a detergent solution if the wax is light or moderate. If severer, clean thoroughly with mineral spirits.
  • Allow the surface to dry thoroughly before priming. Prime the surface with a high-quality primer and finish.

#22 Wrinkling

why is my paint peeling

Wrinkling is a rough, crinkled paint surface that occurs when an uncured paint coating forms a dry 'skin'. The paint will look like the paint has been crinkled up or bunched up in some areas.

What Causes Wrinkling?

  • Improper application: Thick paint or painting too quickly.
  • Inadequate ventilation: Too much moisture or heat causes paint to wrinkle.
  • Poor preparation: Dirty surfaces and incorrect priming.

Wrinkling Prevention & Solutions

Some tips to prevent wrinkling:

  • Buy the correct type of paint; some are designed for outdoor use and are more resistant to wrinkling.  
  • Thin the paint with a quality thinner to reduce the risk of wrinkling.
  • Use a heat gun or blow dryer to smooth any wrinkles that may form.

How to fix paint wrinkles:

  • Clean the area and scrape off any loose paint.
  • Apply a primer and two coats of paint (letting each coat dry properly).
  • Use medium-grit and fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the area and remove any remaining wrinkles.

Summary

Exterior house painting can be challenging, but with thorough preparation and consistent maintenance, you can confidently ensure a smooth uniform appearance. It's crucial to understand the potential issues that can occur and take the necessary steps to mitigate them.

Regular maintenance and timely touchups will ensure that your home's exterior remains in excellent condition for years to come. Alternatively, you can hire high-quality exterior house painters. Why not schedule a complimentary estimate with Oahu Pro Painters?

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

22 Common Exterior Paint Problems and Solutions
Written By:
Karl Van Zadnt

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