Bubbling or blistering in a drying coat of paint means there is a problem with the way the paint is bonding to the surface. This occurs more frequently in latex paints than in oil-based paints, especially shiny latex paint types such as semigloss. A contaminant such as moisture, dirt or oil may be the problem.
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Preventing Paint Bubbling
Prepare and clean the surface thoroughly before you paint. Wipe off any stains or dirt. You may also try washing the surface with soap and water or white spirit, then rinse off the surface and allow it to dry. Any other stains should be primed with primer sealer; exposed joint compound should be primed with flat latex paint or latex primer. Always gently remove any sanding dust with a damp sponge or rag.
Repairing Paint Bubbles
Wait for the paint to dry fully, then use a putty knife to scrape or peel away the bubbles and any other loose material on the wall. Seal the surface with a primer sealer. Stir new paint and make sure it is mixed thoroughly. Apply a thick coat over the whole area with a brush and let it dry for about 30 minutes. A second coat may be necessary if the surface has been wet or if you are repairing bubbling in newly applied paint. The final coat of primer should be allowed to dry for about an hour.
Skim Coat the Damage
If the surface has a chronic bubbling problem, skim coat it with settling-type joint compound. Ready-mixed compound tends to add too much moisture to the surface. Use a joint knife to apply 1/8 inch of joint compound to the damaged area, holding the joint knife at an angle and using back and forth strokes. Immediately scrape over the damaged area again, using parallel strokes and leaving only a thin layer of joint compound over the damaged area. Clean the excess joint compound off the joint knife after each stroke. Skim the perimeter of the patch with the joint knife to help it blend in with the rest of the wall. Allow it to set for about 30 minutes.
Apply a Second Skim Coat
When the first coat of joint compound has dried, scrape off any ridges with the joint knife and gently sand the area with medium-grit sandpaper to smooth out any other bumps. Wipe the sanding dust off with a damp rag and apply a second coat of joint compound. This time, apply it in strokes that are the opposite or perpendicular to the strokes you used on the first coat. For example, if you used horizontal strokes for the first coat, the second coat should have vertical strokes. Allow it to dry and apply another coat if necessary, using the same methods, to build up the patch over the damaged surface.
Sand and Repaint the Patch
Lightly sand the area with medium-grit sand paper so that the surface looks flat and even. Sand harder at the edges of the patch to help them blend in better with the rest of the wall. Wipe off the sanding dust with a damp rag and allow the area to dry completely. If you are repairing a new coat of paint or a surface with water damage, prime the surface with primer sealer to ensure that the problem does not happen again. If not, then simply apply flat latex paint or latex primer. Allow the primer to dry for an hour and touch up with the finish paint.
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