CLIFF NOTES: Your Go-To Guide

Signs of a Bad Paint Job

Flaws in painting can be obvious, such as overspray or a poor color choice. Sometimes, though, signs of a bad paint job are subtle and, more often than not, it can be difficult to identify the source of the poor effect.

When you’re looking at an entire surface, it might be easy to miss small streaks, runs, or poor edge work.  Similarly, paint often takes several weeks to entirely cure, during which time the sheen and brush strokes will often change, softening and “laying out” smoothly if the paint was applied correctly. If not, those inconsistencies in sheen and brush marks will linger permanently.

Other mistakes can rear their heads as well; knowing what to look for can help determine the quality of the work and, often, the methods used. Below are a few signs to help you figure out if you’ve been the recipient of a bad paint job.

Runs and Sags

Two of the most common errors are runs and sags.  In the world of professional painting, dried streaks, sags and drips covering walls are inexcusable.

These marks are usually given away by the shadows that form around and under them and indicate poor brush (or roller) technique.

Paint Splatter and Dripping

Look at the floor, furniture, trim and walls adjacent to painted surfaces.  Paint on any of these surfaces indicates improper (or nonexistent) use of drop clothes, painters tape, and correct “cutting in” technique.

Too Much Stipple (or Texture)

Stipple is the texture or pattern that paint rollers leave behind.  If the stipple is heavy rather than light and even, there’s a chance the wrong roller was used (learn about choosing the right roller here).  Keep in mind that the texture of the surface can affect the even appearance of the paint, even with the right roller cover.


Overspray occurs when paint is applied improperly using a paint sprayer. Factors such as the spray tip (which determines the “fan size” of the paint as it releases from the gun), weather conditions and use of spray shields will determine whether or not paint is applied accurately during this process.

Improper or Incomplete Repair of the Substrate

In our recent case study, we talked about the negative effects of improper substrate work.  Poor interior or exterior substrate work can result in paint chalking, staining, peeling, and inconsistent texture or sheen.

Stains Not Primed with Stain Primer

When stains is are not properly masked by a primer, stain bleeding (showing through the finish coat) is typically a result.  For more information on what primers to use and when to use them, click here.

Poor Coloring

Uneven color or blotching could be a result of poor application.  If the color doesn’t turn out correctly, it could be a result of insufficient coats or improper priming (see above).  In some cases, it could simply be due to poor color choice.

Adhesion Issues and More

Improper treatment of the substrate, such as cleaning and washing, can cause a number of adhesion issues.  In addition, adhesion may fail as a result of the wrong product choice.  Different paints have different bonding characteristics and require specific substrates, weather conditions and application methods to be properly used.

It’s best to address a bad paint job as soon as you spot one.

Contact the person who did the work. Hopefully, as part of the vetting process during project approval, a clearly established warranty was included with this person’s estimate. Don’t be afraid to give him or her opportunity to fix the issue. Future City, and any other contractor worth their salt, will go back as many times as needed to ensure the finished product meets the project scope initially identified and agreed upon.

What signs of bad paint jobs have you spotted?  Were you able to reach a satisfactory solution with the person who performed the work?

Posted by Andrea | in Our Process [why it matters]