Painting Problems


Television makeovers and lifestyle magazines rarely show decorating 'disasters' and consequently most of us simply go to paint stores, choose a colour, go home and start painting - without any thought for preparation or understanding of the materials we are using.

You should always take your time not only to select colours, but also to choose the right type of paint finish. Always read the labels and ask for advice. Your paint finish - the topcoat - must be compatible with the primer, so double check to make sure.

While most people can easily handle painting a wall, the novice decorator may experience one or two common paint problems such as cissing, sagging, drips and visible brush marks. Some of these are caused by the painting technique and with practice these faults will disappear. Other common problems are due to inadequate preparation. If you want a truly professional finish, then you have to start in a professional manner. Cutting corners at the preparation stage will show up and affect the finish.


This is a common problem: it's the 'see through' effect where newly applied paint has not completely covered the underlying surface. This often happens if you try to paint over gloss with an emulsion without keying the gloss surface correctly beforehand. Surprisingly, though, the most common cause of cissing is simply that the paint has not been stirred sufficiently.

Don't stir paint with the paint brush - you'll get paint all over it - and you. Use a long, flat stick and make sure you get right to the bottom of the can and mix it well. Cissing will also be likely if you dilute paint too much: paint that is too thin won't cover evenly and while you may have saved some money by extending the paint, you'll make up for it in the time needed to add subsequent coats.

Drips and Sags

Even professional decorators make the occasional drip, but their skill lies in knowing how to rectify errors. Drips are most common in oil-based paints, which can be a little difficult to handle. The most common causes are simply an overloaded brush, or not laying off evenly. Dip the brush into the paint so that only one third of the length of the bristles are covered. More paint on the brush will dribble into the ferrule and down the handle. Make sure you spread out the paint evenly as you brush to avoid sags or streaks in the paint.

Cracks, Flakes, Blisters and Wrinkles

While drips, cissing and sagging are the result of a faulty painting technique, most other common paint defects are caused by inadequate preparation of the surface to be painted. Most often it is dirt, fluff, or animal - even human - hairs that get stuck to the paint and spoil it. Dirt and grit mixed into the paint will get covered and create little 'pimples', which spoil a smooth surface finish. Dust and thoroughly clean the surfaces and all the surrounding areas immediately prior to painting.

Cracking or flaking of newly applied emulsion paint is an indication that the surface was dusty and this has stopped the paint from adhering properly. The same effect but on new oil-based paints, however, is a sign of underlying moisture - either damp or rotten wood, or the previous coat was not completely dry. Painting on top of a still-wet surface can also cause wrinkles and blisters in paint: you must allow each coat to dry completely before you add a subsequent coat.

Avoiding Problems

  • Use tester pots: not only do they help you select colours but they will also guide you regarding the quality of the paint coverage.
  • Thoroughly clean surfaces and surrounding areas immediately before painting to remove dust, dirt and animal hairs.
  • Make sure all surfaces are appropriately sealed and primed and that the topcoat is compatible.
  • Use clean brushes and tools to avoid shedding bristles or contaminating paint with streaks of colours. Don't overload brushes with paint.
  • Use the appropriate thinners in the correct quantities to avoid over-thinning paint.
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