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8 Common Painting Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Don't get tripped up by these rookie errors the next time you break out the brushes for an interior or exterior paint job.

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Empty Paint Can Gettyimages 925791792Ranjeet Mandal / EyeEm

Not Buying Enough Paint

One of the most common mistakes DIYers run into when tackling a painting job is underestimating how much paint to purchase. Sloppy measurements or simply “guesstimating” can cause you to miscalculate the amount of paint you need to thoroughly cover the surface area.

In addition to the hassle of an emergency paint run midway through your project, purchasing paint in two batches may result in mismatched colors. Take careful measurements of the space you are painting and double-check your calculations with the experts at the paint or hardware store. Always buy a bit of extra paint for touch-ups.

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Bad Paint Tools Gettyimages 1261197667tommaso79/Getty Images

Skimping on Tools

It’s tempting to opt for budget brushes and rollers to save money, but the quality of your paint job in large part rests on the quality of your tools. “Cheap roller covers or brushes will cause top-quality finishes to not hide as well, show tracking, fuzz, streaks and brush marks,” warns Rick Watson, director of product information and technical services at Sherwin-Williams.

You also need to match your roller cover with the surface you’re painting to avoid bubbling or blistering paint. Foam or short-nap roller covers are suitable for smooth surfaces, medium-nap roller covers for rough surfaces and long-nap roller covers for textured surfaces. “Using the paint manufacturer’s recommended brush and roller will give you the ideal finish and you will see a difference,” says Watson.

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Prep by washing Walls Gettyimages 80284072JGI/Getty Images

Skipping the Prep

Many DIY painters jump right into painting without taking time to prepare the underlying surface first. When that surface is dirty, damp or not properly primed, the drying paint can begin to detach and form unsightly bubbles or blisters. “A perfect paint job relies heavily on the condition of the surface you are painting,” says Mike Mundwiller, field implementation manager at Benjamin Moore.

Wash the surface with soapy water, rinse and dry. Patch and sand any holes or indentations and remove the resulting dust with a clean, damp rag. Apply a primer where needed to cover stains or increase adherence on bare drywall or plaster. Only once this prep is completed is the surface ready to paint.

Pro Tip: When prepping a surface covered in old paint, take the proper precautions against lead exposure. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator and ensure proper containment and cleanup. For more information, call the National Lead Information Center (1-800-424-LEAD) or visit epa.gov/lead.

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Paint brushes in a Rainy window Gettyimages 511103570amiloslava/Getty Images

Painting Interiors on a Rainy Day

Weather is a surprisingly important factor for interior paint jobs. “Interior painting might seem like a good project for a rainy day, but you need to consider ventilation and the effects of potential humidity if windows are open,” says Watson. Excess moisture can make paint take longer to dry and result in bubbles or blisters ruining the look of the fresh paint.

Even when painting indoors, choose a day with clear skies and little wind. Keep humidity in check while paint is drying by using a dehumidifier or fans to circulate the air.

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Paint when it's Hot Out Gettyimages 141469247Granefelt, Lena/Getty Images

Painting Exteriors on a Hot Day

For exterior painting projects, choosing optimal weather conditions is even more critical. “Remember that extremes are our enemy when painting outside,” says Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting.

In high heat or direct sunlight, paint sometimes lifts away from its underlying surface, resulting in bubbles or blisters. Choose a day with temperatures below 85 degrees F. Follow the shade when painting outdoors, as surface temperatures in direct sunlight can be much higher than the air temperature.

“Dark colors can exacerbate this condition because they absorb heat rather than reflect it,” says Kunz. “A good tip is to pay attention to the LRV, or light reflective value, on the back of the paint chip and be aware these colors need to be painted carefully.”

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Peeling Paint Gettyimages 936429974Flavio Coelho/Getty Images

Choosing a Low-Quality Exterior Paint

Exterior paint needs to stand up to anything Mother Nature throws at it. Low-cost paints often fade, peel or develop mildew or other flaws.

“With exterior paints, durability is key,” notes Watson. “The best exterior paints hold color longer and resist peeling and blistering. Look for paints formulated to resist chalking, mildew and dirt to save you money and time in maintenance.”

If you have exteriors that need particularly high-performing paint — a tricky surface or moisture issues, for example — take the time to research the best product for your situation. “Know what you are buying and ask lots of questions concerning your exterior painting projects,” advises Kunz.

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Paint primer FH10APR_PRIMER_05Family Handyman

Forgetting the Primer

Because exterior paint jobs need extra lasting power to stand up to the elements, using a suitable primer is particularly important. To save time, many DIYers skip this fundamental step. But painting directly onto some surfaces, like wood, can lead to cracking and peeling. Others, like stucco, tend to develop bubbles and blisters.

You also need to use primer when covering stains or switching from a dark color to a light color, to make sure the darker base doesn’t affect the final hue. As is the case with exterior paint, there are multiple factors to take into consideration when choosing the right primer. Do your homework and ask for recommendations from the experts at your paint or hardware store.

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Caulk window shutterstock_686328526 caulk a window to keep your home warmAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Not Guarding Against Moisture

Eager to get right to painting, homeowners often don’t take adequate precautions against future moisture seepage starting. Over time, water infiltration from behind can cause exterior paint to blister or peel and significantly shorten the lifespan of the paint job.

As part of surface prep, Kunz says to “apply a good quality acrylic latex caulk around doors and windows or other imperfections such as cracks and holes on the surfaces.” Careful caulking adds an extra step but will block water from ruining the finished product.

Rebecca Winke
Rebecca Winke moved to Italy from Chicago in 1993 and shortly thereafter took a deep dive into country living by renovating a sprawling medieval stone farmhouse and running it as a B&B for 20 years. Today, she spends her time writing about travel, culture, and food (it's Italy, after all!) for publications like The Telegraph and Italy Magazine, as well as pondering the strange winds that blew an urban vegetarian to a farm in Umbria.

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