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How To Fix and Prevent Paint Wrinkling

One of the most frustrating things that can happen during or after renovations is wrapping up the project to find your fresh paint wrinkling as you prop your feet up on the couch. Chances are, though, that with a little patience, you can fix the problem yourself, and learn a thing or two about what to avoid next time you’re painting a surface.

How to fix and prevent paint wrinkling

Read on to learn more about how to fix and prevent wrinkled paint!

What Is Paint Wrinkling?

First off, let’s get one thing straight: what is paint wrinkling?

Paint wrinkling is when the top paint coat crinkles and develops ridges, which bunch into a rough skin. This is both visible to the naked eye, and also obvious to the touch.

What Causes Paint Wrinkling?

If the paint is applied too tickly—even if it is just one thick layer—you run the risk of the paint curing at different speeds. The paint in contact with the air will dry faster than the paint in direct contact with the wall. This can cause problems when the painted material and the paint itself expands and contracts as a result of temperature and humidity changes: the dryer, external layer will start too wrinkle. This is a mistake that often happens when using oil-based paint, which is easy to apply thickly. Oil-paint users, beware!

This same phenomenon can happen on a surface with multiple coats of paint. If a bottom layer (even the primer!) is uncured before you apply the final coat, don’t be surprised when you start to spot wrinkles on your beautiful surface.

As you can imagine, the environment plays a huge factor in how quickly or slowly paint dries. If you paint when it is extremely hot, it is more likely for the outer layer of paint to dry faster than the paint beneath it. What’s more, once the outer coat has effectively cured, it further blocks the paint beneath it from drying at all. This is exacerbated when, in addition to hot weather, it is also very dry: the water in water-based paint will evaporate and expediate the drying process.

Keep in mind, however, that extremely humid weather, including rain, mist, and fog, is also not good for the paint, because it could cause water to seep back into the drying layer of paint. In other words, the temperature and weather should be as temperate as possible!

Humidity can cause paint wrinkling

These environmental impacts usually affect water-based paints more than oil-based pain, because the latter isn’t as vulnerable to water in the air.

Another cause of wrinkling paint could be if you’ve painted a surface without properly cleaning and or priming it, or a glossy surface without sanding it. Painting over a dirty, dusty, oily, or waxy surface can cause paint to wrinkle where it comes into contact with the contaminants.

How to Fix Paint Wrinkling

Luckily for all of us, there’s a rather simple solution for all of your paint wrinkling needs. The good news is that if you painted the surface yourself previously, you probably even have all the necessary tools and products already at hand!

The first step in fixing wrinkled paint is to get rid of the layers of wrinkles. Never ever paint on top of the wrinkling—or any paint failings for that matter—because it will only make things harder for you down the line.

Prepare for the operation by covering any nearby furniture or surface with a plastic sheet, and pinning it in place with artist’s tape (which adheres to surfaces without ripping paint or varnish in the removal process). Remember not to wear any clothes you particularly care about—you’ll probably be dusty by the end of your work!

You’ll use different tools to remove the paint depending on how soft or cured the paint coats are. If the point of intervention has cured completely, you may have to resort to aggressive means, such as a power sander or chemical pain removers. Remember to read the tools’ instructions carefully. If the layers below the dried skin are still soft, however, you might be able to get away by scraping or sanding by hand.

Scraping off wrinkled paint

Once the paint is completely removed, sand the surface to make is as smooth as possible, and remember to feather the paint surrounding the problematic area so that it will be easier to blend it in when you repaint later on. Then, thoroughly clean the surface of any dust that might have stuck around from the abrasion.

Once that is finished, you’re ready to apply your primer. Hopefully by now you’ve learned how important it is to let the primer, and all subsequent coats of paint, dry completely before layering on any other paint. You could even wait a couple of days, as long as you ensure that the temperature and humidity won’t turn on you in the meantime.

Most paint comes with an instruction manual, or guidelines on its label, which give you important information about the spreading rate and environmental conditions advised for using the paint. It goes without saying that you should follow these guidelines very carefully.

How to Prevent Paint Wrinkling

Since the best way to solve wrinkling paint is removing the wrinkles and repainting that section of the surface, the secret in fact is to prevent the wrinkling to begin with. Let’s take a moment to review:

  1. Don’t paint in extremely hot, humid, dry, or wet conditions, and make sure those conditions aren’t in the forecast in the near future.
  2. Thoroughly prep the surface you wish to paint by sanding and cleaning it.
  3. Take note of the spreading rate and environmental conditions advised on the label or in the instruction manual.
  4. Allow each layer, including the primer, to dry completely before applying the next coat.
Allow each layer of paint to dry thoroughly before applying a new layer

Recommended Products for Fixing and Preventing Paint Wrinkling

Here are some products I recommend for fixing and preventing wrinkling paint:

Wrap Up On How to Avoid Paint Wrinkling

Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about paint wrinkling, how to solve it, and how to prevent it. If you’re interested in learning more about common painting problems and how to fix them, head over to my Painting Problems page for more great painting articles.