Interior Paint Problems and Solutions – I

Common Interior Paint Problems and Their Fixes (Part 1 of 5)

Have you ever encountered some paint problems or issues and wondered what they were or how to fix them?  Have no fear,  most problems have a solution and in this five part series we’re going to list the most common paint problems and their fixes.

Listed below are some of the most common interior paint problems:

  • Alligatoring
  • Cracking
  • Darkening & Decaying
  • Flaking
  • Mildew & Algae
  • Peeling
  • Rust
  • Staining, Water, Smoke
  • Surfacant Leaching
  • Tanning/Staining

In today’s article we will cover, Alligatoring, Cracking and Darkening & Decaying.



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

Possible Causes:

  1. Application of an extremely hard, rigid coating, like an oil enamel, over a more flexible coating, like a latex primer or topcoat.
  2. Application of a topcoat before the primer or basecoat is dry.
  3. Natural aging of oil-based paints due to temperature fluctuation. The constant expansion and contraction results in a loss of paint film elasticity.


Before removing or sanding old paint, check to determine whether it contains lead. Lead may be harmful. Do not remove or sand paint without contacting local health officials for information on lead paint testing and safety precautions. Old paint should be completely removed by scraping and sanding the surface. A heat gun can be used to speed work on large surfaces, but take extreme care to avoid igniting paint or substrate. Follow all manufacturer instructions before using a heat gun. The surface should be primed with a high quality latex or oil-based primer, then painted with a quality exterior latex paint.


The splitting of a dry paint film through at least one coat as a result of aging, which ultimately will lead to complete failure of the paint. In its early stages, the problem appears as hairline cracks;in its later stages, flaking occurs.

Possible Causes:

Use of a paint that has lower adhesion and flexibility performance.

Overthinning or overspreading the paint.

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

Excessive hardening and embrittlement of oil paint as the paint ages.

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. Prime bare wood or plaster areas before repainting. Use of a top quality Sherwin-Williams primer and topcoat should prevent a reoccurrence of the problem.

darkening &decayingDarkening & Decaying

Has the appearance of severe mildew but will not react to the “bleach test” listed in the Mildew section. Whereas mildew generally has a spotty appearance, darkening and decaying wood generally has a more solid, consistent appearance.

Possible Causes:
Darkening of wood is caused by ultraviolet radiation. This can take place on wood that has never been coated with a protective coating. It also can occur under clear varnishes and lightly pigmented stains. Different degrees of darkening can occur on different woods. If moisture penetrates into the wood, varnish coatings will peel due to wood decomposition under the coating. Woods that are exposed to weather are not protected against wood-destroying organisms. Eventually the wood ceases to be a coatable surface.

New woods must not be exposed to harmful sun rays for extended time periods. If heavily exposed for more that 10 days, the wood should be sanded to a fresh surface before priming. Paint and stain adhesion performance is enhanced when the new wood is painted or stained immediately after installation. Wood that has been allowed to darken (decompose) must be sanded to fresh wood. Wood that cannot be sanded to fresh wood must be replaced.

Coatings can be applied to treated woods after the moisture content has dropped to a paintable level usually 15% or below. Paints, semi-transparent and solid color stains can be used on vertical surfaces or horizontal surfaces.

Stay tuned for part II where we’ll be discussing Flaking and Mildew & Algae.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

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