Why Does Paint Crack?

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

Paint may look great, but it can still crack and deteriorate. This isn’t pleasant, so it’s important to know why it happens. Cracks in walls can be just for looks, or they could mean something else. Find out the causes of paint cracking and how to stop it. This article talks about why paint cracks and what you can do to prevent it.

Causes of Paint Cracking

Paint Cracks
Paint cracks

Paint cracking can alarm homeowners. What’s the cause and how can it be prevented? Reasons vary – from bad application to bad weather, or wrong surface prep to curing conditions. Let’s study the causes of cracking paint more closely.

Poor Surface Preparation

Poor surface preparation is a common cause of paint cracking. Clean the surface of dirt, oil, and other contaminants before painting. If dust and dirt are not removed, the paint can crack and flake over time. Sand all areas for a smooth base before painting. Rough spots can cause cracks and peeling.

Use primer for better adhesion and to prevent moisture damage. Primer also blocks oils and contaminants that may lead to peeling.

Improper Application

Applying paint incorrectly can lead to cracking. Paint needs to be thinly applied to form a protective shield against water and sun damage. If not done properly, it will become fragile and start to crack when exposed to external factors.


Cracking may appear as thin lines across the wall or in circles around door or window frames. It could be caused by painting in direct sunlight, using the wrong nap length roller, failing to use primer, or choosing a unsuitable sheen.

For successful results, follow manufacturer instructions for painting. Prep surfaces beforehand by sanding and filling any holes or cracks with spackling paste or putty. Also use primer on porous surfaces like drywall before applying topcoat finishes. Outdoors, use sheen no higher than satin to avoid layers of dried emulsion film that crack with changing temperatures and weather.

Temperature Extremes

Temperature fluctuations can be one of the main causes for paint cracking. In the summer, high temperatures make water in the paint evaporate, leading to an uneven coating. This may cause peeling and blistering. In cold climates, freezing temperatures can cause paint to crack.

Moreover, rapid changes in temperature create air pockets between the walls and paint layer. This causes air bubbles and insulation leading to a faster expansion of cracked paint with increasing temperatures. Interior painting is particularly vulnerable to expanding quickly with temperature shifts, causing cracking and damage.

Poor Quality Paint

Poor quality paint is usually the root of all cracking. Its chemistry is often unstable if mixed with other ingredients, making it less durable than when used alone. Stress and heat can cause paint to crack and flake.

Applying too much paint, not prepping correctly and a lack of curing time between coats can also cause cracking. Painting over old, peeling paint is a frequent culprit too. Lastly, too much pressure while painting can cause thinner paints to separate and crack.


Cracking paint is common, especially in older buildings or homes with old paint jobs. But, it can be prevented! Invest in good materials, prepare surfaces properly and give it a good paint job.

Let us explore the prevention methods and how they can help save your paint job from cracking:

Ensure Proper Surface Preparation

To avoid paint cracking, start by preparing the surface. Cleaning is essential. Even dust and dirt particles can cause paint to crack and peel. Use a degreasing cleaner to remove oils, waxes, or other substances. Apply an appropriate primer to protect walls and provide adhesion.

Inspect walls for cracks or holes. Fill smaller visible cracks with patching material. For larger cracks, use spackling before painting. Allow each layer of product to dry for up to 48 hours. Use high-quality paint designed to limit cracking.

Use High Quality Paint

High quality paint is a must for a well-painted surface and to avoid cracking. Low quality or cheaper paint can lead to these problems. Apply the right amount of coats and thin it correctly. Preparing the surface before painting can also help prevent cracking. Cleaning and using proper primers are important. Humidity, heat, etc. can make high quality paint dry too quickly and lead to cracking. Research the best paint for certain materials. Allow enough drying time between coats. Too soon and the paint won’t bond with the material, leading to slipping and peeling. Give paint enough time to cure for perfect results.

Here are some tips for painting to prevent cracking:

  • Apply the right amount of coats.
  • Thin it correctly.
  • Prepare the surface before painting.
  • Clean and use proper primers.
  • Research the best paint for certain materials.
  • Allow enough drying time between coats.
  • Give paint enough time to cure.

Monitor Temperature Extremes


For top-notch paint, the temp should be kept between 68-85° F (20-30°C). If it’s colder, paint cracks. If it’s hotter, it may soften, blister or deform. Monitor temp extremes and try to stay close to ideal.

Fire and heat detectors can detect abnormalities before damage happens. Invest in air conditioners with adjustable thermostats to maintain consistent temperatures. Taking these measures will help your walls stay intact for years.

Use Proper Application Techniques

Stir paint thoroughly before use to mix pigments and resins. Avoid over-painting, it results in a surface that’s too thick and weak.

When brushing, use perpendicular strokes. Rolling? Start close to the edging brush with a ‘W‘ pattern and quickly pull away. Spray cans should be kept at 15cm distance with overlap for even coverage. Wait for proper curing time between coats – at least 24 hours. These are key components for successful paint projects.


Paint can expand or contract when exposed to changes in temperature, humidity, weathering, or physical contact. This can lead to cracks over time. One of the most common causes is moisture trapped between paint layers. Poor painting techniques and water retention in the substrate can also cause cracking.

Cracking can make a surface look less attractive, but it may be unavoidable. Homeowners and contractors should use the right products for each surface, and select quality paints for areas prone to cracking. Proper preparation and preventive measures are key for a successful painting job that lasts!

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes paint crack?

Paint can crack due to moisture, temperature changes, and age. If the paint is applied to a surface which is not properly prepared or not compatible with the paint, it can cause the paint to crack.

How can I prevent paint from cracking?

To prevent paint from cracking, it is important to prepare the surface properly before painting and to use a paint that is compatible with the surface. Additionally, it is important to apply the paint in thin, even layers and to allow enough drying time between each coat.

How can I fix cracked paint?

To fix cracked paint, you should first remove the cracked paint and then prepare the surface before applying a new coat of paint. Be sure to use a paint that is compatible with the surface and apply it in thin, even layers with enough drying time in between each coat.

Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years of experience in the painting industry, Randy has become an expert in the field and is passionate about helping others learn more about painting. He has written numerous articles on the subject and is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information to his readers.

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