April 30, 2017 Miriam Rothman

Problems with Paint

There are various problems that can occur with painted surfaces. Fading, yellowing, peeling, cracking, sagging and wrinkling are the most common issues and all can be easily fixed.


Fading is described as premature and/or excessive lightening of the paint color, which can occur on surfaces with sunny exposures. This is relatively easy to see because hidden areas such as eaves will not usually fade. Fading/poor color retention can also be a result of chalking of the coating (e.g. primer, paint or stain).


Possible Cause

• Colors will fade slightly when exposed to intense sunlight. As the coating ages, the fading can become more noticeable. Slight fading is acceptable, provided it is gradual and uniform so as not to be noticeable. Excessive chalking of the paint film will cause colors to appear lighter.

• Interior-grade colorants used outside will fade.

• Adding more tint to the coating than is recommended.

• Interior coatings may also fade if they are near windows and there is significant sunlight exposure.



If the substrate is in good condition except for fading, clean as needed and repaint using a paint that is fade-resistant. Follow label and data page directions for surface preparation for the coating.





Yellowing is defined as the development of a yellow cast in aging paint, most noticeable in the dried films of white paints or clear varnishes.


Possible Cause

• Alkyd/oil based paints, because of their curing mechanism; tend to yellow, particularly in areas that are not exposed to sunlight.

• Oil-based varnishes start with an amber cast and will darken with age.

• Heat from stoves, radiators, and heating ducts.

• Lack of light, for example, behind pictures or appliances and inside closets.

• Tobacco staining or other environmental contaminants.

• Moisture.



If there are no other problems and the yellowing is not offensive, repainting is not necessary. Repainting using a latex paint will reduce the amount of yellowing, but if the environmental conditions that caused the previous coating to yellow continue, any new coating will likely yellow as well.


You might be interested in this article on how to fix white paint that has gone yellow.



Peeling is the loss of adhesion of a coating to the substrate (e.g. the surface that was painted) or an earlier coating. Where there is a primer and topcoat or multiple coats of paint, peeling may involve some or all of the coats.


Possible Cause

• Seepage of moisture through uncaulked joints or worn caulk.

• Leaks in roof or walls, or excess moisture escaping through the walls from the interior.

• Painting over a dirty, wet, or glossy surface.

• Painting over a coating that already has marginal adhesion.



Remove old, loose, cracked caulk; prime as needed; and caulk with the appropriate product

Find and repair any source of water.

Follow label and data page directions for proper surface preparation methods for the coating.

Test the coating in a 6″ to 12″ radius around any peeled areas to be sure its adhesion is adequate.


Here is a nice step-by-step guide (with pictures) on how to fix peeling paint. Check it out here.



Cracking is the splitting of a dry paint film through at least one coat. In its early stages, the problem appears as hairline cracks; in its later stages, flaking occurs.


Possible Cause

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

• Over-thinning or over-spreading the paint.

• Inadequate surface preparation, or applying the paint to bare wood without first applying a primer.

• Excessive hardening and embrittlement of paint as it ages, the coating loses the ability to expand and contract with temperature and humidity changes.



Remove loose and flaking paint with a scraper or wire brush, sanding the surface and feathering the edges.

If the flaking occurs in multiple layers of paint, use of a spackling compound may be necessary to make a uniform surface. Test the coating surrounding any peeled areas out about 6″ to 12″ to be sure the adhesion is adequate.

Prime bare wood or plaster before repainting.

Apply the coatings at the recommended spreading rate (e.g. the recommended total area that can be painted) and using the recommended thinning rate (e.g. the recommended percentage that a coating may be diluted).


Check out this video on how to fix cracked walls.



Sagging is downward “drooping” of the paint film immediately after application, resulting in an uneven coating.


Possible Cause

• Application of too heavy a coat of paint.

• Application in excessively humid and/or cool conditions.

• Application of over thinned paint.

• Painting over a glossy surface, which does not provide enough of a profile to which the coating to adhere to.

• Painting over a surface contaminant.



If paint is still wet, immediately brush out or re-roll to redistribute the excess evenly. If the paint has dried, sand and reapply a new coat of paint.

Do not thin the paint unless recommended on the label or data page.

Follow label and data page directions for the appropriate environmental conditions for the coating.

Sand glossy surfaces dull to provide a profile for the coating to adhere to.

Follow label and data page directions for the appropriate spreading rate (e.g., the recommended total area that can be painted) for the product. Two coats of paint at the recommended spread rate are better than one heavy coat.




Wrinkling is a rough, crinkled paint surface, which occurs when uncured paint forms a “skin.”


Possible Cause

• Paint applied too heavily.

• Painting under extremely hot conditions or cool damp conditions, which causes the paint film to dry faster on top than on the bottom.

• Exposure of uncured paint to rain, dew, fog, or high humidity levels.

• Applying topcoat of paint to insufficiently cured primer or first coat of paint.

• Painting over contaminated surface (e.g., dirt or wax).



Scrape or sand to remove the wrinkled coating; sand the surface smooth to blend it in to the surrounding coating. Make sure the surface is thoroughly clean. If needed, prime bare areas with the appropriate primer, allowing it to dry completely. Reapply the coating following the label and data page instructions for spreading rate and environmental conditions.



Don’t know what paint finish to use after picking the color? Check out our article on how to choose your paint finish here.




  1. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/ask-sherwin-williams/problem-solver/dirt-stain-discoloration/fading
  2. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/home-builders/products/resources/sw-article-pro-yellowing
  3. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/ask-sherwin-williams/problem-solver/peeling-cracking/SW-ARTICLE-DIR-EXTPEELDUEMOIST
  4. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/ask-sherwin-williams/problem-solver/peeling-cracking/SW-ARTICLE-DIR-CRACKING
  5. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/ask-sherwin-williams/problem-solver/sagging-wrinkling/SW-ARTICLE-DIR-SAGGING
  6. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/ask-sherwin-williams/problem-solver/sagging-wrinkling/SW-ARTICLE-DIR-WRINKLING