Top 8 Signs of a Bad Exterior Paint Job

As a property owner, knowing the basics of applying paint and the warning signs of bad paint jobs is helpful.

If you have noticed the paint has deteriorated over the past few years, it can be tempting to cut corners.

However, using the right steps—like applying a primer, using a professional painter, and analyzing the house’s foundation—is crucial to keeping your paint color in top-tier condition.

Look for the following signs that your home may need a fresh coat of paint.

Signs of a Bad Exterior Paint Job

There are a few telltale signs of a bad exterior paint job to keep an eye out for as a homeowner.

1) Peeling

Peeling is a very common issue on the exterior of house walls due to a lack of adhesion, excess moisture, and low-quality paint. Peeling is a warning sign if it occurs within the first few years of a new paint job.

_An important note to make here is that we expect to see some signs of peeling if the home was painted about 12 years or more. However with that said, if we do see peeling issues within the first few years then that points to signs of problematic paint job.

The most common causes of separation include:

  • Oil-based paint used over a non-dry layer
  • Low-quality paint (or a paint thinned by adding water to save money or get more coverage)
  • Blistering paint that was not fixed
  • Poor paint preparation—the underside surface was not primed

Homeowners can avoid peeling paint or fixing damaged areas by taking these four actions:

  1. Remove old peeling paint via scraping
  2. Spot prime all areas that are scraped
  3. Caulk as required
  4. Repaint with a high quality exterior grade latex paint applied to the manufacturer’s specified mil thickness

2) Blistering

Blistering occurs because a painter painted over a substrate that contained excess moisture. Painting over a moist surface causes the bond between the substrate and the paint to break and form a blister.

Most commonly, wood exteriors, siding, and trim get blisters under the surface. These blisters are typically small or medium bubbles under the paint that can ruin the aesthetic.

The most common causes of a blistering paint job include:

  • Coat of paint that dried too quickly in extreme heat or humidity
  • High humidity levels after the latex paint layer
  • Painting over damp wood, causing moisture to gather and the wood to expand
  • House moisture that penetrated through the walls due to inadequate interior ventilation

The best repair solutions for this issue are:

  • Only use high-end latex paint
  • Fix ventilation problems in the home by inspecting the home’s eaves, bathrooms, window caulking, doors, and roof
  • Only add paint in non-direct sunlight
  • Remove blistered paint before adding a fresh coat of paint to the exterior of the home

Note - With our exterior painting services, you don’t have to worry because we have a two-year warranty that covers any blistering issues due to painting over wood that was not 100% dry.

3) Checking

A second problem that your house has a poor paint job is checking, or “alligatoring.” This issue with paint film is characterized by large cracks in the film and deep ravines.

The most common causes of alligatoring are:

  • Oil paint that lost its elasticity over time
  • The second layer of paint was incompatible with the base layer

Depending on how severe the checking is it is possible to remedy it by sanding, priming, and repainting in the best case. In the worst case it requires replacement of the siding or trim material.

4) Chalking

Chalking can occur after a layer of paint is exposed to the elements, such as excessive UV rays, for a long time (ie. a few years). No paint lasts forever — and will eventually chalk once it reaches its lifespan, typically four to 12 years after the project is completed.

Extra paint pigment can be destroyed by weather, leading to a layer of chalky powder gathering on the film.

The most common causes of chalking are:

  • Cheap exterior paint
  • Improper painting
  • Aluminum siding
  • Over-thinned paint

Homeowners can fix chalking on their walls by doing the following:

  1. Use a power washer or cleaning solution to remove chalking
  2. Let the water dry
  3. Paint over with latex paints
  4. Ensure the area is properly cleaned with masonry solution

5) Sagging

Another common telltale sign of a poor paint job is a dripping appearance, also known as sagging.

The most well-known causes of sagging, or running, are typically:

  • Heavy or excessive paint layer
  • Overly-thin paint
  • Extreme temperature (excessive moisture or high humidity levels)
  • The paint was applied to a non-primed surface
  • The paint surface was not clean

Homeowners can prevent this from happening, and repair any damage, you’ll want to:

  • Spread out excessive paint in a thin layer to avoid clumping and sagging
  • Use two light coats (not one heavy, dripping coat)
  • Use the proper paint brush technique

6) Mildew and mold

Mildew and mold are common problems that can occur on exterior paint, which is noticeable by splotches, dark coloring, and spots.

The most frequent cause of mildew or mold on the wall are:

  • Excess moisture
  • Poor ventilation
  • Lack of direct sunlight
  • A base coat/surface that already had mildew
  • Low-quality paint
  • Unprimed bare wood

Additionally, we can fix any mildew and mold issues by adding bleach to our pressure washer. Then, we can use the 1800 PSI pressure washer to fix the issue in no time at all. However it’s worth noting this is an extreme case, it’s not very common.

7) Rust and Discoloration

Rust is characterized by a lighter color on the wall, black stains, and uneven texture. It typically happens due to:

  • Non-rust-resistant nails
  • Steel nails appeared from below the surface
  • Excessive weathering
  • Moist or wet wood produced tannic acid, which led to black spots and corrosion

Property owners can help prevent and repair these issues by doing the following:

  • Use stainless steel nails instead of steel nails
  • Remove rust by using a rust-inhibiting primer
  • Caulk the sunken nail heads

8) Excess moisture

Excessive moisture outside your home can lead to peeling and exposed wood. It’s usually the product of several factors:

  • Outside elements (rain, snow, or moisture)
  • Faulty ventilation
  • Broken gutter system
  • Missing or failing caulk
  • Wall system leaks and air holes
  • Proximity to the ground

Homeowners can fix this with their upcoming painting project by doing the following:

  • Facilitate the correct gutter drainage
  • Ensure the exhaust fans, siding vents, and dehumidifiers are properly flashed to provide moisture resistance
  • Replace caulk
  • Remove old layers and dirt

How To Fix a Poor Paint Job

The best way to fix a shoddy paint job is to first identify the cause of the fading paint, cracking paint, or paint peeling. Often, you will see that air holes, water stains, and peeling are common signs of the real cause of the problem.

In this case, we recommend getting professional painters to come and look at your home. It may cost more money, but this fix can increase curb appeal, fix your home’s exterior, and make your entire property aesthetically pleasing.

A contractor from a painting company might cost more money upfront, but they will have a satisfaction guarantee that makes the price worth it. Painters can help redo parts of the home that have already been painted.

Do I Need To Fix My Exterior Paint Job?

Suppose you need to fix your exterior paint job. In that case, the best idea is to have a professional painting contractor come and analyze your home’s exterior. Although you can save money doing the fixes by yourself, doing a new paint job can be best left to the professionals.

The professional will add a fresh coat, check the structure of the exterior walls, let the new coats completely dry, and continue with the second coat. A reputable painter can be the difference between a long-lasting house and poor results.

Contact Great Plains Painting KC to get a free estimate for your painting project1