It’s hard to think of anything more frustrating than applying a beautiful coat of paint, and finding cracks in it less than a year later. The worst part is that if cracks appear on one part of the painted surface, chances are you’ll soon be spotting cracking paint elsewhere, too, and find that the cracks are bigger every time you check! Read on to learn how to fix cracking paint and prevent it in the future.
Cracking paint is an example of what is professionally called “paint failure”, even though most times it’s not the paint’s fault at all, but rather the way it was applied. But don’t panic just yet! Instead, read on to learn how to fix cracking paint without resorting to expensive professional services.
What Causes Cracking Paint?
Why does paint cracking happen?
Though unlikely, your gut reaction to blame the quality of your paint for the cracking might be true on some occasions. If the paint is expired at the time of application, or very cheap quality, it will crack much faster. Unfortunately, in the case of paint supplies, the more expensive products usually guarantee better durability and quality.
It might be worth spending a little extra money in the moment to avoid having to learn how to fix cracking paint and spending even more money on damage control down the line. Don’t just go for the paint with the highest price tag, however—do some research before clicking check-out, especially what previous customers said in reviews.
While prepping for the paint job, make sure you’re not applying too much thinner to your paint, as well.
Poor Paint Application
The likelier cause for needing to learn how to fix cracking paint is making amateur mistakes while painting. The secret to getting a long-lasting paint job (besides buying good quality paint, as outlined above) is surface prep, surface prep, and more surface prep. Make sure your surface is clean, sanded, dry, and doesn’t have cracks to begin with (this could happen with wood or brick surfaces). Remember to use the correct kind of paint primer appropriate to whether you’re painting indoors or outside.
It’s also important to apply the right quantity of paint, and give it enough time to dry between coats. A too-thick layer of paint could lead to what’s called mud-cracking, and conversely, a too-thin layer can also result in premature paint cracking. It needs to be just right!
The humidity—not just of the material you are painting, but of the climate you live in, too—could be the reason for your current need to learn how to fix cracking paint. Materials like wood will expand and contract with the temperature and humidity, which as you can imagine, makes it very easy for paint to stretch and crack. Intense water and heat in the air could also cause bubbling, which would result in further cracks.
Unfortunately, just like humans age and accumulate wrinkles, so too does paint become brittle and less durable over time. This means the paint is less flexible and unable to expand and decompress with the humidity and temperature fluctuations of its environment, leading to cracks. Additionally, different types of paint have different life spans—this is something you should keep an eye out for when doing that research we mentioned previously.
How to Fix Cracking Paint
So you’ve understood why your paint is cracking (and maybe you’re even more frustrated now!) and the last thing you want to do is spend money on a professional to get the job done. The good news is that chances are you can fix the situation yourself, and you should do it as soon as possible.
The most important rule when it comes to how to fix cracking paint is: never ever paint over cracked paint. This might seem like the logical, quick-and-dirty solution, but trust us on this one. It will just create more problems for you later on. It’s worth taking the time to follow the guideline we outline below, because the fixing process is relatively simple, whether you’ve got small cracks or big cracks. The latter might just take more time and patience.
The first step to how to fix cracking paint is removing the paint itself. This can be done in a variety of methods: with a scraper, sander, wire brush, or if you need a more aggressive method, even a heat gun, abrasive blasting, mechanical sander, or chemical paint remover. Whatever method you use, finish up with a good sanding to remove any remaining bits of paint here and there.
If you’re working on a small area, feather the contours of the afflicted zone to help with blending later on. You could also consider applying a layer of patching material to fill the shallow dip you have surely rubbed into the wall with all your sanding. Let it dry, and sand its surface once more with a fine sandpaper to make sure it’s perfectly smooth.
Unfortunately, though, if one part of the paint is cracking, chances are that same paint will crack elsewhere, which could result in your needing another refresher on how to fix cracking paint in the future. So it might be worth your time to simply remove the paint completely from the surface, and repaint it from scratch.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure the surface is clean and smooth, and then apply a primer. Next, repaint the surface, applying thin and even layers, and making sure each layer dries completely before applying the next one. Check that you’re loading your brush or roller just enough—not too heavy, but not too dry, either. If you don’t, it might get messy, and you’ll be forced to start over a second time.
How to Prevent Cracking Paint
Preventing cracking paint is the best way to avoid having to learn how to fix cracking paint later on. The best prevention for cracking paint is painting correctly in the first place, and then keeping an eye on your paint job over time. If you repair those small, hair-line fractures as soon as they appear, you might be able to contain the damage and save yourself a bigger hassle and more expensive repair job later on.
To summarize: make sure your surface is clean, dry, and perfectly smooth. Apply a high-quality primer, and then paint by applying several thin layers of high-quality paint. Remember to let the individual layers dry before applying the next coat!
Recommended Products for Fixing and Preventing Cracking Paint
Overwhelmed by the amount of products and information online? We’ve got your back! Here we recommend some quality products for how to fix cracking paint and prevent it in the future:
Wrapping Up How to Fix Cracking Paint
Cracking paint isn’t just annoying, it’s a downright disappointment! Though our instinct is to blame the quality of the paint (and sometimes rightfully so) oftentimes it is the application of the paint that causes the problems, whether it was done a year ago, or five. Hopefully, this article has helped you nail down the reason behind your cracking paint, and given you clear steps for how to fix cracking paint, and avoid it in the future.
Perhaps, though, you’ve realized that cracking isn’t exactly what’s going on with your paint. In that case, head on over to our website where we outline other painting problems (with a solution guide, of course!) and review popular DIY painting products to empower you to shop the best materials for all your painting needs.
I’ve been a professional painter since 2001 and spent the last 12 years specializing in kitchen cabinet refinishing. I started the DIY Painting Tips blog in 2015 to start sharing everything I’ve learned over the years and help all the people who’d rather tackle their painting projects themselves. In 2019 I started the DIY Painting Tips Youtube channel where I publish in depth videos all about kitchen cabinet painting, painting gear reviews, and interior/exterior tutorials.