Home, Home Care, Home Improvement

Common Paint Problems in Your Home

Understanding & Prevention of Blistering, Burnishing & Flashing

Getting the right advice with the wrong product can be just as problematic as getting the wrong advice with the right one. The prevention of common household paint problems can be achieved by following two simple rules: buy the best quality products that can be afforded and ask plenty of questions to ensure all the information is in place to do the job right the first time.

Paint Problems Can Be Avoided When You Start With Quality Products

There are many inexpensive products available but, when their lack of performance is taken into account, they’re really not that at all. Spending twenty-five dollars for a product that is guaranteed five years is not only more cost effective than buying an eight dollar product annually, it will save an enormous amount of time in the long run; that’s called prevention.

The common problems listed will not address re-doing the job with a top quality paint or that the problem resulted from using a poor quality paint. Those facts are going to be assumed unless otherwise noted.


paint quality products


Identified by bubbles forming on the surface due to lack/loss of adhesion from the underlying surface.

Possible Reasons:

  • surface was painted in direct sunlight or was still too warm from being in direct line of the sun or some other heat source
  • paint was oil-based and was applied to a wet/damp surface or possibly on a porous surface in extremely humid conditions
  • paint was water-based but was exposed to dew or rain shortly after it appeared dry


If blisters go down to the original surface, the moisture must be stopped at the source. If the blistering appears on deck or fence boards, ensure all cut edges of the boards are painted and sealed before any sanding of the blistering for repainting.

If blisters are on a window sill, check for splits or cracks in the caulking around the pane. If very aged, it’s best to remove the old caulking and replace with new material. Sand or scrape the blistered areas. If bare surfaces occur, primed with a surface compatible product and wait the time necessary before top-coating. Rushing will just bring the blisters back again.

Understanding & Prevention:

Heat within a surface is trapped by a fresh coat of paint. Like moisture, it will try to escape. Water-based paint on a hot surface can’t bond because the water will evaporate before the coating has time to penetrate. Oil-based paint on a hot surface can’t bond because the mineral spirits (a.k.a. solvent, varsol) will “cook” the paint causing it to dry too quickly before it can penetrate.

The rule of thumb is to follow the sun; paint only where the sun has already been and the surface has sufficiently cooled. On very hot days, painting just isn’t a good idea, unless it’s appealing to redo the job again in a few months.


burnishing paint problem


Identified by an increase in gloss or sheen on the paint surface when exposed to excessive rubbing, scrubbing or the regular contact of objects against it.

Possible Reasons:

  • application of a flat finish (low or no shine) paint in a high traffic area
  • frequent washing and/or spot cleaning
  • objects (such as furniture) constantly moving against it


Heavy traffic areas are best suited to paint products with a degree of sheen wherein flat paints do not qualify. Eggshell finishes are often recommended but even they aren’t overly washable. Consider a pearl or semi-gloss finish for childrens’ bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, rumpus rooms and busy hallways. Never wash painted surfaces with abrasive sponges and cleaners. Paint that expects to be washed regularly requires no more than mild detergent and warm water.

Understanding & Prevention:

Glossy paints are very smooth so excessive washing will have very little effect on the surface. Dull or flat finish paints are very coarse; washing will break down the peaks and valleys on the surface resulting in smooth or “burnished” spots. The smoother the spot, the more light reflectance, making it appear glossy when it’s really just being worn away.



Identified by an uneven gloss on a freshly painted surface, resulting in shiny or dull spots.

Possible Reasons:

  • paint has been spread (rolled or brushed) unevenly
  • patched spots or nail holes weren’t properly primed before painting
  • paint with two different sheens were mixed together


If the paint type on the surface is unknown, it is always a good idea to prime first to obtain an evenly porous surface. Patched areas should always be spot-primed before a topcoat is applied. If a large amount of patching was required, it may be necessary to apply an additional coat to even out the gloss.

Different paint finishes should never be mixed together to achieve an “in between” gloss. This is rarely effective and generally results in undispersed bits of paint showing up on the surface in its original sheen. The only way to fix this is to repaint the wall with a single product to even out the surface.

Understanding & Prevention:

Patching compounds are extremely porous. Without primer, these spots will soak up paint like a sponge leaving only the color on the patched area. The surface characteristics of the paint will have soaked in below the surface where they will stay.

Try this trick: if mixing compound from a powder, add a little of the water-based primer to the mix instead of straight water. This will strengthen the compound for the topcoat. Remember to wait the longer drying time of the two, whether the compound or the primer, before continuing to paint.

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