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Alligatoring Paint: What It Is and How to Fix It

Alligatoring paint can make your walls look like they have the texture of alligator scales—not the most attractive aesthetic. It is a common painting problem that emerges in interior and exterior surfaces.

Alligatoring paint that is very noticable

If you want to get rid of alligatored paint in your house, I’m here for you!

In this guide, I’ll discuss all you need to know about alligatoring paint to help you fix this problem.

What Is Alligatoring Paint?

Alligatoring paint is the formation of a patterned cracking in the paint film that resembles alligator hide. It is also referred to as crocodiling or chip cracking.

It is easy to identify because the cracking typically only appears on the surface layer and does not expose the substrate. However, left unchecked, the cracked paint will spread to other layers of paint and across the entire surface.

Another danger of alligator cracking is that it leaves your walls completely exposed to the elements. Dirt, water, and corrosive substances can penetrate the substrate and reach your wiring, insulation, framing materials, etc.

Needless to say, the potential damage is alarming.

Alligatoring paint on a wall

What Causes Alligatoring?

There are a few reasons why alligatoring paint might occur:

  • Improper or insufficient surface preparation
  • The topccoat didn’t bond smoothly with a glossy finish
  • Application of a hard, rigid coating such as oil enamel over a softer, flexible coating
  • Natural aging of oil-based paint
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Premature application of topcoat on an undried coat
  • Excessive application of paint per coat
  • Load-related deterioration on bitumen or asphalt
  • Not following the manufacturer’s instructions on thinning and mixing paint
  • Structural defects
  • Paint application in inappropriate conditions
  • The wrong type of paint used
  • Excessive moisture trapped in the walls

Solutions to Fix Alligatoring Paint

Regardless of the size of the area affected by alligator cracking, you must remove all of the paint from the surface to fix the issue. Or else, similar issues will emerge on different parts of the wall.

Removing old paint can expose you to harmful lead dust, so taking all the safety precautions is necessary. Before you get started, cover your face with dust masks or respirators and use eye protection. It’s best to wear a long-sleeved top and gloves.

Wearing a mask while fixing alligatoring paint

Interior and Exterior Surfaces

  • Remove old and loose paint using a paint scraper, wire brush, sander, chemical remover, or a heat gun
  • Use an appropriate cleaner to remove surface contamination and rinse thoroughly
  • Let the surface dry completely once washed (follow the instructions given on the cleaner for appropriate dry time)
  • If you have a glossy surface, sand it dull.
  • Prime the surface with a high-quality latex primer and allow it to dry completely
  • Apply a high-quality paint in your choice of finish

If You’re Applying Another Coat of Paint

  • Wait for the previous coat to dry and then sand it
  • Fill in cracks using spackling compound and sand the surface again
  • Apply a layer of primer or undercoat
  • Apply the finish coat

How to Prevent Alligatoring Paint in the Future?

  • Apply a primer and finish coat from the same manufacturer.
  • If you’re mixing different brands of paint, make sure they are compatible.
  • Dull a glossy surface before applying paint over it.
  • Do not paint on a dusty, waxy, oily, or dirty surface.
  • Do not apply a rigid substance over a flexible one.
  • If you have thick paint that’s hard to spread, add thinner.
  • Make sure joints and seams are weather-tight, and the caulking and putty are sound before painting the exterior surfaces.
  • Prime rust stains, knots, and sap streaks using a stain-killing primer-sealer to prevent the stains from bleeding through.
  • Consider weather conditions before applying paint.
  • Choose the appropriate paint type for the surface.

If you’re tackling a large interior paint project, I can understand your stress. Of course, you’re looking to avoid errors or signs of an unprofessional paint job. Here’s a guide that will teach you how to tape properly for a clean paint project.

Taping before starting a new paint job

Recommended Products for Fixing Alligatoring

Check out the best paints and primers that can help you fix your interior and exterior alligatored surface:

Interior Paints for Fixing Alligatoring


  1. Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer
  2. KILZ Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer and Sealer
  3. Sherwin-Williams Premium Wall & Wood Primer
  4. Benjamin Moore Fresh Start Acrylic Latex Primer
  5. KILZ Original Multi-Surface Stain Blocking Interior Oil-Based Primer/Sealer
  6. Stix Waterborne Bonding Primer


  1. Sherwin-Williams Cashmere Interior Acrylic Latex
  2. Behr Marquee One Coat Hide Matte Interior Paint & Primer
  3. Behr Premium Plus Paint and Primer
  4. PPG Diamond Interior Paint and Primer
  5. Valspar High-Gloss Interior/Exterior Paint and Primer
  6. Glidden Interior Paint

Here’s a guide if you’re looking for a list of the best one-coat interior paints.

Wire brush for removing alligatoring paint before applying new paint

Exterior Paints for Fixing Alligatoring


  1. KILZ Premium 3
  2. KILZ General Purpose Exterior Latex Primer
  3. INSL-X Aqua Lock Plus 100% Acrylic Water-Based Sealer Primer
  4. KILZ KLEAR Multi-Surface Stain Blocking Latex Primer/Sealer
  5. Rust-Oleum 1980502 Painter’s Touch
  6. Krylon ColorMaster Paint + Primer


  1. Sherwin-Williams Duration Exterior Acrylic Latex
  2. Kilz 10211 Primer Paint
  3. Rust-Oleum Zinsser PermaWhite Exterior Semi-Gloss
  4. Diamond Brite Oil Based Enamel
  5. BEHR Premium Plus Exterior Paint and Primer in One
  6. Prestige ‎E500-9 Exterior Paint And Primer

You can use different brands for your interior and exterior walls. However, it is advisable to choose a single brand of paint and primer when working on a single wall. This will ensure maximum compatibility to avoid aesthetic and structural issues later on.

Better yet, you can look for the best paint and primer in one, so you won’t have to worry about compatibility. There are even all-in-one products that work for both interiors and exteriors!

Wrapping up How to Fix Your Alligatoring Paint

When dealing with alligatoring paint, you must take action as quickly as possible. A delay could lead to more damage and ballooning expenses, not to mention the potential harm it can cause to your home due to exposure.

Fortunately, the process is relatively simple and essentially the same regardless of the scale and type of wall affected.

If you’re looking for solutions to similar paint problems, head over to my Common Paint Problems and Solutions page for all the professional advice you will need!