Why is my Paint Bubbling?

Picture of Chris Heerdegen
Chris Heerdegen

Paint bubbling and blistering can be a real headache, ruining the smooth, flawless finish you worked so hard to achieve. Whether it’s on your walls, ceiling, or exterior surfaces, these unsightly bubbles can appear long after the paint has dried. Understanding why this happens and how to fix it is key to maintaining beautiful, smooth walls. Here are the main causes of paint bubbling and the steps you can take to prevent and fix it.

Key Takeaways

  • Proper surface preparation is crucial to prevent paint bubbles and blisters.
  • Moisture trapped under wet paint is a leading cause of paint bubbling.
  • Avoid painting in extreme heat to prevent blistered paint and ensure a smooth finish.
  • Use compatible paints, like latex paint over latex, to prevent adhesion problems.
  • Allow each coat to dry completely to avoid air bubbles and ensure a durable surface.
  • Address underlying issues such as moisture and repair loose caulking to maintain flawless paintwork.

What Causes Paint Bubbling?

Paint bubbling, also known as blistering, occurs when the paint film lifts from the underlying surface. This loss of adhesion between the paint film and the surface is usually caused by heat, moisture, or a combination of both. Here are the most common culprits:

Improper Surface Preparation

 Before painting, surfaces must be clean and dry. Dirt, grease, or residue can prevent paint from adhering properly, leading to bubbles. Always ensure the area is thoroughly cleaned before you start painting.

Moisture Issues

 Moisture trapped beneath the paint layer is a leading cause of paint bubbling. This can happen if you paint a damp surface or if there’s excessive humidity in the room. Moisture can also seep in through leaks or from high humidity areas like bathrooms and kitchens.

Extreme Heat

Painting in hot conditions can cause the paint to dry too quickly, trapping air or moisture under the surface. It’s best to avoid painting in direct sunlight or when temperatures are excessively high.

Incompatible Paints

Applying oil-based paint over latex paint, or vice versa, can cause adhesion problems. The different types of paint don’t bond well, leading to bubbles. Always use compatible paints for your projects.

Other Factors

Poor painting techniques, such as over-thinning the paint or using the wrong roller cover, can introduce bubbles. Proper techniques and tools are essential for a smooth finish.

How to Prevent Paint from Bubbling

Prevention is always better than cure, especially when it comes to paint bubbling. Here are some effective steps to ensure a bubble-free finish:

Clean and Dry Surface: Make sure the surface is completely clean and dry before painting. This helps the paint adhere properly and prevents bubbles from forming.

Use a Primer-Sealer: Apply a primer-sealer over any stains and allow it to dry completely. This creates a uniform surface for the paint to adhere to.

Avoid Extreme Conditions: Try not to paint in very hot or humid conditions. These can cause the paint to dry unevenly and trap moisture underneath.

Allow Proper Drying Time: Always allow each coat of paint to dry completely before applying the next one. This prevents moisture from getting trapped between layers.

Improve Ventilation: In humid areas, consider installing vents or exhaust fans to help control moisture levels. Proper ventilation can make a significant difference in preventing paint bubbling.

How to Fix Paint Bubbles

If you already have paint bubbles, don’t worry. They can be fixed with some effort and the right approach:

Remove the Damaged Paint: Use a putty knife to scrape away the bubbled paint. Sand the area to create a smooth surface for repainting.

Prepare the Surface: After removing the damaged paint, clean the surface thoroughly. Apply a suitable primer to ensure good adhesion of the new paint.

Repaint Correctly: Once the primer has dried, repaint the area using the appropriate techniques. Use multiple thin coats instead of one thick coat and allow proper drying time between coats.

Address Underlying Issues: If the bubbles go down to the substrate, you might need to address the source of moisture. This could involve repairing loose caulking, fixing leaks, or installing vents to lower humidity.

Contractor Tips & Solutions

For more complex issues or large-scale projects, consider seeking professional help. Here are some tips from the pros:

High-Quality Materials: Using high-quality paint and materials can make a significant difference in preventing and fixing paint bubbles.

Professional Help: Hiring professionals ensures that the job is done right the first time. They have the expertise to handle tricky situations and provide a flawless finish.

Educational Resources: Professionals often have access to a wealth of resources and product information that can help you choose the best solutions for your painting needs.

Rewards Programs: Some professional services offer rewards programs that provide benefits and special offers, making it worth considering their help.


Paint bubbling can be a frustrating problem, but with the right knowledge and approach, it can be prevented and fixed. Proper surface preparation, using the right materials, and understanding the causes of paint bubbling are crucial steps to achieving a smooth, flawless finish. If you’re ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to seek professional help to ensure your painting project is a success. Remember, a little effort upfront can save a lot of trouble down the line, keeping your walls looking their best for years to come.


What causes paint bubbles to appear on the surface?

Paint bubbles, or paint blisters, occur when the paint film lifts from the underlying surface due to heat, moisture, or improper surface preparation.

How can I prevent paint bubbling on my walls?

To prevent paint bubbling, ensure the surface is clean and dry before painting, use a primer-sealer over stains, avoid painting in hot or humid conditions, and allow each coat to dry completely.

Can I apply alkyd paint over existing latex paint?

No, applying alkyd paint over latex paint can cause adhesion problems and lead to paint blisters. It’s best to use compatible paints, like latex over latex.

What should I do if bubbles occur after painting the entire surface?

If bubbles occur, remove the damaged paint by scraping and sanding, prepare the underlying surface, apply a suitable primer, and repaint the area with proper techniques.

How important is surface preparation in preventing paint blisters?

Surface preparation is crucial. Cleaning and drying the underlying surface thoroughly before painting can significantly reduce the risk of paint blisters and ensure a smooth finish.

Why do paint bubbles form on the underlying surface after painting?

Paint bubbles can form if there’s moisture trapped under the paint layer, if the surface wasn’t properly prepared, or if the paint dried too quickly due to extreme heat. Ensuring proper conditions and preparation can help avoid this issue.