Painting Primers: Mess Basics - Common Paint Problems and Solutions

When it comes right down to it, having minor issues during one project or another is more common than most people expect. Depending on the issue the solutions are usually pretty easy. Just like with any modern day problem, the real key is proper diagnosis.

In this post we will discuss the four most common paint project problems; how to spot them, and most importantly of all, how to fix them


Peeling is just like it sounds. This is when paint is literally coming back off the wall. Sometimes this may come as cracking/curling around edges or what some uppities call ‘Craquelure’. Craquelure is actually an art term that refers to small cracks in paintings. In fine art this occurs because of the materials each individual painter used to form each color and how those powders mixed with oil or whatever other solvent they preferred. On the positive side this means that each painting is especially unique and it makes forgeries easier to spot. On your wall, craquelure or curling is less desirable. Art history lesson dismissed.

Most commonly peeling is the result of what paint people call ‘Substrate Issues’ which basically means to the rest of us that the paint isn’t adhering to the wall like it should.

Your best move in this case is to clean the wall really well. Most paint stores are going to have some kind of surface cleaner or pre-paint cleanser in whatever name brand they prefer. If your paint is already peeling be sure to scrape around the edges of the peeling sections to make sure the paint won’t continue peeling. Once the wall is clean, prime the wall (the whole wall all the way to the nearest corner so there aren’t any edges to your color) your best bet is a primer specifically targeted for adhesion.

Note: if ALL of your new paint is peeling, ask your local paint professional to come take a look. This may be a result of the paint you are using not being up-to-par, or maybe having expired (paint does that.)


Again, blistering is just like it sounds. Blistering is kind of like peeling except the peeling sections don’t have edges so they just look like bubbles on the wall. Same basic procedure. Scrape the edges, prime it up and repaint. On the bright side Blistering is a good indication the ‘Substrate Issue’ is localized to small areas. Less primer, less paint, less time.

Doesn’t Cover

Sometime in the future we will go over a bunch of paint vocabulary but today let’s just go with one more: Viscosity.

Viscosity is a term that relates to the level of thickness of a liquid. For instance, water has a low viscosity, meringue – not so much. Coverage has many things to it, at the top of the list is Viscosity, and directly under it is paint quality.

Basic rule of thumb, the thinner the paint, the worse the coverage. Though the paint may actually stretch further than the thicker brands, it will require more coats. Usually, paint is fairly straight-forward in the way that you get what you pay for. If you take paint from your local supercenter and from your specialty store like Sherwin Williams, or Hallman-Lindsay the difference in viscosity is actually quite extreme. So even though the price difference may cause some sticker shock at first, it may be worth it in the long run because you won’t have to repaint as often.


Messes. We’ve all made them. Just like we said before, the key to making the mess disappear is figuring out exactly what kind of mess it is. Mostly this isn’t a huge problem because we made the mess… we know how it got there but sometimes it really can be an issue. Latex paint spills aren’t usually a huge problem, if you catch it while it’s still wet, dish soap and warm water will take it out of most anything with some persistence. If the unfortunate happens and the paint is allowed to dry, use a product like OOPS ™ paint remover (which is carpet and clothes safe) and a soft bristled scrub brush. Just apply a little bit of the remover at a time and scrub gently but firmly. Be careful not to over scrub or you might loosen the weave of the carpet. If the paint is dried on to a hard surface, it should be able to peel right off if you let it cure. Oil based paint or clear-coats like varnish or lacquers will take a bit more imagination. Whatever you do NEVER use chemical solvents on carpet or clothing unless the solvent specifically says it’s okay. Most home improvement stores or specialty stores carry products for this type of thing like Goof-Off™. Be sure to read the directions and wear protective gloves and eyewear. If it’s tough enough to take lacquer out of something; it’s tough enough to cause real damage to your skin and may ruin your weekend if it gets in your eyes. Always wash your hands and arms afterward, gloves or no gloves. Don’t be scared, just be smart.

So, if a something doesn’t seem right. Just take a step back, diagnose, and take care of it. As always, don’t be afraid to ask your friendly neighborhood experts at the specialty stores. They are trained to answer questions and have answers many people may not at the local big box stores.


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