How to Fix a Bad Paint Job

It happens to more people than you’d think. You walk into the room as the new paint is slowly drying, only to discover a patch, or paint bubbles, or drip stains flowing down the walls. Some of these mistakes can also happen when painting something that isn’t a wall, like painting light fixtures.

These need fixing, fast. Thankfully, most painting errors have an easier fix than repainting the entire area. In this article, you can learn how to fix:

You can also learn how to fix a water damaged ceiling >>

How to fix a bad paint job

Painting Tips For These Problems

  • To find out if you have oil or latex paint:
    • Use clear window cleaner or nail polish to try and remove a spot. Latex paint will start coming off, oil paint will not
  • Keep a damp rag nearby to quickly clean any spilled paint
  • Priming is always a good option because it seals the old paint and helps you maintain a wet edge for your roller
  • Every now and then, press the paint out of the edges of the roller to prevent thick edge lines
  • Sanding on latex is very hard
    • If sanding doesn’t work, and your walls are really messed up, skim the wall with drywall compound or patching material before sanding
A paint roller is needed to fix a bad paint job

How To Correct Common Painting Problems

If your paint problems go beyond what you read here, it may be best to consider hiring a professional paint contractor.

How to Fix Uneven Paint

“Patch-work quilt” isn’t the first description most people want to give their walls. If your walls look patchy with some of the old finish showing through, there aren’t enough coats of paint on the wall. All you need to do is:

  • Wait until the paint is dry
  • Follow up with another coat
    • Make sure the roller always has a wet edge
  • Repeat until you get your desired result

Wall painting is easier with a commercial (18″) roller as you can cover more area more quickly. It may cost more but you will get a more professional looking paint job as a result.

Fixing uneven paint

How to Fix Dried Paint Drips

Does your wall look like a map for running trails? If so, you have drip trails, also known as runs. These usually occur when your brush has too much paint on it, causing the paint to overflow and drip down your walls.

To fix this, you can:

  • Scrape the drips off with a paint scraper and/or sand the area until smooth
    • Patching may be necessary afterward, be careful as it may take off underlying paint
    • If severe enough, it may be easier to patch the whole area
  • Clean the area with a damp cloth
  • Repaint it

If these drips reach the trim or floor, use a razor blade to remove them if they’re dry. The best way to avoid this is to immediately wipe fresh drips or spills and to use drop cloths.

You can learn about other house painting tools and equipment >>

How to fix paint drips

How to Fix Roller Marks

If your walls look like lap lanes in a pool, you have roller marks. These occur when a brush or roller doesn’t maintain a wet edge while painting. To remedy this:

  • Start by sanding down the uneven areas until smooth
    • Patching may be necessary afterward, be careful as it may take off underlying paint
    • If severe enough, it may be easier to patch the whole area
  • Clean the dust off of the walls
  • Prime the area
  • Put a sufficient, uniform coat of paint on the wall

Make sure to roll the paint out of the sides of the roller to prevent thicker edge lines.

How to fix roller marks

How to Remove Ceiling Spots

Do you spot a dab of paint on the ceiling? No worries, it’s an easy fix:

  • If it’s still wet, spray clear window cleaner (yes, window cleaner) on a clean brush and gently wipe the paint off
    • Window cleaner can remove more paint than you want so use carefully
  • Dry spots will need touching up with a small brush
  • Don’t forget to feather the edges so it blends in with the rest of the ceiling

Feathering the edges is when you paint from thick to thin, the start being the heaviest paint with lighter brush strokes the further out you go.

How to Remove Brush Marks

Brush marks on the walls aren't usually there for an artistic purpose. They mostly happen when people don't cut-in correctly. Cutting in is using a paintbrush for areas where rollers aren't effective, such as corners and along the trim.  If they've been left behind, here's how to deal with them:

  • Sand down the area
    • Patching may be necessary afterward, be careful as it may take off underlying paint
    • If severe enough, it may be easier to patch the whole area
  • Clean it
  • Repaint it
How to fix a bad paint job that has brush marks

How to Remove Paint from Windows

Don't let paint spoil your view! Let the paint dry before doing anything, wiping it may end up spreading it out and making it harder to remove. Here's the best way to go about it:

  • Take a razor blade and gently scrape off the offending paint at an angle (don't want to gouge into the glass)
  • Clean off the razor blade before you use it each turn

If the paint is on the edge of a wood window and the glass, leave a 16th of an inch of paint to seal the glass

How to Fix Paint Bubbles on Walls

When wall paint bubbles, it's no trouble. The first step is to identify the cause, usually moisture or heat, which can cause paint to improperly stick to the undercoat. Once you fix the underlying cause:

  • Scrape those bubbles off
  • Sand the area smooth
    • Patching may be necessary afterward, be careful as it may take off underlying paint
    • If severe enough, it may be easier to patch the whole area
  • Clean it
  • Prime it
  • Repaint it
Fix paint bubbles on walls

How to Remove Paint from Trim

Paint gets onto places it shouldn't more often than you'd expect, including the trim. Keeping a damp cloth with you for accidents is the best way to prevent some painting errors. In case this does happen:

  • Sand the paint off
    • Patching may be necessary afterward, be careful as it may take off underlying paint
    • If severe enough, it may be easier to patch the whole area
  • Clean the area
  • Touch it up with trim paint

How to Fix Wrinkled Paint

Your walls shouldn't look like a Bordeaux mastiff's face (see below). Wrinkles are cute on dogs but not on walls. Paint wrinkling usually occurs when someone went too heavy on paint application, didn't leave enough drying time between coats, or was working in extreme hot or cold temperatures. To fix this:

  • Sand the area down
    • Patching may be necessary afterward, be careful as it may take off underlying paint
    • If severe enough, it may be easier to patch the whole area
  • Clean it
  • Prime it
  • Repaint it
How to fix a bad paint job when the paints as wrinkly as this Bordeaux mastiffs face

How to Remove Paint Stains from Carpet

Paint in the carpet seems is a pain in the neck to get out unless you act fast. If the patch is still wet, do not scrub it as this will only grind it into the fibers.

For wet latex paint:

  • Take a sponge or wet cloth and dab the paint until it comes up.
    • You may need to repeat this step multiple times
  • Then dry the area by placing a cloth on it so it soaks up the rest of the paint
    • Repeat this step as well.
  • After the stain is gone, use warm water and dishwasher detergent to clean the area.

For wet oil paint:

  • Take a sponge or wet cloth and dab the paint with mineral spirits
  • Consult a carpet cleaner (thinners in the paint can break down the carpet glue)

If the paint is dry:

  • Pour a small serving of hot water and dish detergent onto the area
  • Wait until the paint is soft
  • Scrape out the paint chips with a table knife
    • May not clean all the paint out

How to Remove Tape Lines

Did some of your wall paint come off with the tape? Chances are it was on the wall for too long. It's best to wait around an hour after the paint job is done to remove it. If you haven't taken the tape off yet:

  • Use a razor blade and cut off the tape and any raised paint
  • Smooth the area with a sanding block
  • Clean it
  • Prime it
  • Paint it
painters tape

Painting Over a Hole Patch

Why is the wall patch showing through the paint!? If this is happening on your walls

  • Apply some primer to the area
    • It's best to use a small roller instead of a brush but either will work
  • Let the primer dry
  • Paint it

Multiple coats may be necessary to match the texture and thickness of the paint around it.

Fixing Your Bad Paint Problems

It's easy to DIY when the problem is only a small patch and you've got the time. But what if it's a whole wall, an entire room, or there are multiple paint problems in need of fixing? If you're going to hire a paint contractor, it's good to know how to spot a bad painting contractor. If you bring in the wrong person, you may have to hire another one to fix the problems the first guy leaves behind.

You can find out what goes into the cost of interior painting >>