Common Paint Failures and Their Solutions

Exterior paint fails for a large variety of reasons. Listed below are some of the most common paint failures and solutions. As always, we strongly suggest you contact us if your paint fails for the most professional solution and application.

Alligatoring Patterned cracking in the surface of the paint film resembling the regular scales of an alligator.

Possible Causes:

  • Application of an extremely hard, rigid coating, like an alkyd enamel, over a more flexible coating like a latex primer.

  • Application of a top coat before the undercoat is dry.

  • Natural aging of oil-based paints as temperature fluctuates. The constant expansion and contraction results in a loss of paint film elasticity.

Solution: Old paint should be completely removed by scraping and sanding the surface; a heat gun can be used to speed work up on a large surface but take care to avoid igniting the paint or substrate. The surface should be primed with high quality latex or oil-based primer, then painted with a top quality exterior latex paint.


Discoloration of the surface of the refinish color.

Possible Causes:

  • Old Finish releasing dye that comes to the surface.


Remove all previous color coats. Prepare the surface for a sealing primer followed by a two coat finish. If previous coatings are difficult to remove; prepare the surface and follow with a blocking agent primer before applying a two coat finish.

Blistering Bubbles resulting from localized loss of adhesion and lifting of the paint film from the underlying surface.

Possible Causes:

  • Painting a warm surface in direct sunlight.

  • Application of oil-based or alkyd paint over a damp or wet surface.

  • Moisture escaping through the exterior walls (less likely with latex paint than with oil-based or alkyd paint).

  • Exposure of latex paint film to dew, high humidity or rain shortly after paint has dried, especially if there was inadequate surface preparation.

Solution: If blisters go down to the substrate, try to remove the source of the moisture. Repair loose caulking, consider installing vents or exhaust fans. Remove blisters. If blisters do not go all the way down to the substrate, remove them by scraping, then sanding; prime bare wood and repaint with a quality latex exterior paint.


The finish turns milky immediately or shortly after application.

Possible causes:

  • Application in high humidity where moisture gets trapped in finish.

  • Unbalanced reducer in paint product.

  • Condensation on old surface.


If this occurs, the surface will need to be sanded and refinished. Add retarder to the paint and re-coat surface. To prevent this in the future, use a good quality retarder, avoid application during high humidity, ensure surface is clean and dry, and keep paint a surface room temperature.

Chalking Formation of fine powder on the surface of the paint film during weathering which can cause color fading. Although some degree of chalking is a normal, desirable way for a paint film to wear, excessive film erosion can result from heavy chalking.

Possible Causes:

  • Use of low-grade, highly pigmented paint.

  • Use of an interior paint for an outdoor application.

Solution: First, remove as much of the chalk residue as possible, scrubbing with a stiff bristle (or wire brush on masonry)and then rinse thoroughly; or use power-washing equipment. Check for any remaining chalk by running a hand over the surface after i dries. If noticeable chalk is still present, apply a quality oil-based or acrylic latex primer (or comparable sealer for masonry), then repaint with a quality exterior coating. If little to no chalk remains and the old paint is sound, no priming is necessary.

Checking/Cracking The splitting of a dry paint film through at least one coat of paint, which will lead to complete failure of the paint. Early on, the problem appears as hairline cracks; later, flaking of paint chips occur.

Possible Causes:

  • Use of a lower quality paint that has inadequate adhesion and flexibility.

  • Over thinning the paint or spreading it too thin. Poor surface prep