Warning signs of a bad interior and exterior paint job (and how to deal with a bad painter)

Eivydas “David” Phillips Eivydas “David” Phillips
Founder/President at Painters Inc.

You’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories about bad painters and all the things that had to be fixed after they “completed” the job with poor results. A bad paint job is disappointing on a variety of levels.

First, it looks terrible and is a constant reminder that you paid for one thing and got something entirely different. Second, a horrible paint job doesn’t protect your surfaces, your paint is not going to act as the layer of protection it was meant to be. Finally, bad paint doesn’t have staying power, which means you’re going to have to shell out more money sooner than you had hoped for another paint job.

There are many signs that point to a bad interior and exterior painting contractor and the more you know what to look for, the better off you’ll be when selecting a contractor.

The major causes of a bad interior and exterior paint job

One of the most common mistakes that occur with exterior and interior paint jobs is that the painter simply chooses to skip important steps. They’re trying to get the job finished fast so they can move on to the next one. A quality painter cares more about results than rushing through a job just to get it out of the way. The results of these rushed jobs are plain to see and require costly rework.

Painters don’t prepare the surfaces properly

Whether it’s lack of experience or just skipping steps, some painters don’t properly prepare surfaces for primer or paint. There are a variety of steps professional painters take in preparing interior and exterior surfaces. The following information details the differences:

Building preparation for interior painting

After furniture, wall hangings, fixtures and anything else that can get in the way of a paint job is removed, professional painters will thoroughly clean the surfaces of dirt, grime and dust. Anything left behind will cause the paint to not securely adhere to the surface, which means it will bubble, crack or chip..

Building preparation for exterior painting

Exteriors have a variety of different material types, from siding to wood, stucco to brick and just about everything in between, so the process for preparing these surfaces will differ depending on the property. However, one commonality is that they must all be clear of any kind of debris before they are primed or painted. In many cases, pressure washing the surfaces ensures that all debris is removed. The surfaces must also be allowed to dry completely.

Unfortunately, unskilled painters will rush from one project to the next, failing to properly prepare surfaces. Only choose a contractor that takes the time to carry out each and every important step prior to painting.

Painters don’t use the right paint types in the right areas

What happens if you use bad paint? Good question, because some painting contractors (the bad ones) skimp on paints so they can make more money, or charge way less than competitors. The problem is, if your painter uses inferior paint products, you’ll end up paying more in the end. In some cases, the paint is thinned down so it will last longer. While thinning paint has its purposes, bad painters will only do it to save money and the end result is poor quality.

Painters perform work in bad weather conditions

Quality painters follow a strict set of guidelines that tell them when they can paint and when they cannot. For example, most oil-based paint is made to be applied at temperatures between 40 and 90 degrees, whereas latex paint is best applied between 50 and 85 degrees. When these rules aren’t followed, the result is poorly cured paint, which means it doesn’t adhere correctly. Paint is also not to be applied when the air is too humid or too dry.

A lack of high-quality finishes and the unskilled painter

A high-quality finish is the result of a number of variables. Unskilled painters fail to recognize these variables, or they ignore them, which leads to lackluster results. From cleaning the surface before applying paint to priming the surface to allowing paint to dry between coats to simply using the right finish, the unskilled painter doesn’t follow through on these important steps and the results speak for themselves.

To avoid having your property poorly painted, only hire a contractor with a proven track record. Bring in a painting professional that has plenty of examples of their interior and exterior work and references that can speak to their level of quality and focus on details.

The initial signs of a badly finished interior paint job

interior paint job

When an interior painter lacks skills, you’ll know it pretty quickly, because you’ll see the telltale signs, such as streaks and smudges. Eventually, signs of a bad interior paint job will include cracking or fading paint. A bad paint job on walls will be evident in the finish, which will not match the lighting, but interior paint jobs from an inexperienced painter often include several undesirable outcomes.

Did your painting contractor take the time to discuss colors with you, or how a color in one room might play off the color in an adjoining hallway? This is another sign that you’ve hired the wrong contractor – they fail to effectively communicate or even check in with you on color preferences. A high-quality painting contractor will explain your options and give you information you need to choose the best possibilities for your interiors.

Don’t risk interior painting problems. Draw up a list of questions and only work with an interior painting contractor that is interested in explaining all of your options to you.

How can you tell if an interior paint job is bad?

In some cases, the completed paint job looks fine immediately after it is finished. The problems don’t make themselves known for weeks or perhaps a few months later. There might be subtle problems that eventually show themselves and clue you in to the fact that the painting contractor you chose lacked the necessary skills.

Color and finish type don’t fit the room

The best painters put a lot of focus on the paint color and finish type. They know that the end results of their work hinge on these two important elements. They want their work to last a long, long time, which is why they choose a washable semi-gloss in high traffic areas where messes will need to be cleaned up. In other areas, a smooth matte finish is the most appropriate look for a room.

Painters that don’t guide you toward the right color and finish are simply not doing their jobs correctly.

Improper technique reveals flaws under new paint

A lot of work needs to go into prepping a surface before it is painted. Bad painters fail to do the right amount of prep work. For example, some surfaces have flaws that need to be spackled and sanded before paint is applied. When surfaces have a dark paint color on them, an unskilled painter will fail to put a primer on that surface, which means when a lighter color is applied on top, it will look really bad.

Another sign that the painter doesn’t have the right techniques is that they neglect to treat water stains on surfaces, which will continue to be an issue after new paint is applied.

It’s new paint, but ages poorly

Paint doesn’t last forever, but it’s not unreasonable for someone to think that their new paint job should look outstanding and maintain its aesthetic appeal for a few years. When a bad painter does the job, they’ll often only use one coat, which almost immediately looks bad but will appear even worse with time.

Professional painters will use quality paint and put down two or three coats. The layered paint not only hides minor surface flaws, it also helps the paint look vibrant for a long time and is more durable.

Blistered, streaky and mottled paint

An unskilled painter will rush to get the new paint down, which means they’ll skip the all-important step of washing down walls of dust, dirt and grime. When new paint is applied to a dirty or wet wall, the paint doesn’t adhere correctly, which means it will blister, peel, look streaky or mottled.

Wrinkled, smudge and cracked paint

The first coat of paint needs to dry before the second coat is applied. The same is true of the second coat before the third coat is applied. When a painter rushes the process, it’s not uncommon to see the paint quickly wrinkle, smudge or crack.

Skilled painters know that each different kind of paint will require a specific amount of drying time. They also know that the level of humidity in a room will impact drying time. For example, on rainy days, the humidity indoors will be higher than normal, which will require extra time. Also, temperature will impact how fast or slow paint dries. Unskilled painters fail to take these variables into account.

Chalky paint

As paint ages, its components will begin to break down. It will appear powdery and white, thus the term “chalky.” Exposure to the sun is one cause of chalking. However, unskilled painters often make the mistake of painting over high-gloss paint without sanding it down first, which can lead to chalking.

Also, painters that have thinned their paint down will also leave behind paint that will quickly break down and chalk.

Knowing what to look for in a good vs. bad paint job can help you identify a quality painting contractor and avoid the bad ones. You want your interior painting project to go smoothly, look great and last a long time. When you partner with the right painting contractor, you get quality results.

The initial signs a bad finished exterior paint job

high-rise apartament painting

A bad painting job on your exteriors might be immediately noticeable, or it could take weeks or months to become evident. In either situation, you’ll realize you should have done more research on your painting contractor before you brought them in for the project..

It’s unfortunate, but there are quite a few painting contractors out there who hire inexperienced help or fail to provide the right training. The result is many, many exterior paint jobs that look bad and fail to protect exterior surfaces.

How can you tell if an exterior paint job is bad?

Some paint jobs are so bad that you can immediately tell the painters didn’t know what they were doing. But it is also the case that the signs of an inexperienced painter don’t become visible for weeks or months later. The following are some of the most common signs of poor painting techniques.

Air holes

Painters with poor technique will sometimes apply only one coat of paint, which leads to air holes that pop up. The problem is that while the air holes are not aesthetically pleasing, they leave surfaces exposed, which can lead to damage.

Always make sure your painters are applying multiple coats to exterior surfaces.

Cracking or peeling

Cracking and peeling will usually begin to occur about a month or more following a bad paint job. The “bad” aspect of the job is that the painter probably mixed the paint with too much water, which is what leads to cracking and peeling.

A professional painter will not try to get more out of their paints than they know is good for the results of the job. However, too many unskilled painters will try to save money by stretching their paint too thin.

Blisters on the walls

When a surface isn’t properly cleaned or if paint is applied over moisture, the result will be blisters, often immediately after the paint is applied, but can also present the day after the paint is applied. Most blisters will crack open, exposing the surface below.

Whether it’s blisters, chalking, peeling or cracking, unskilled exterior painters leave behind evidence of their poor skills. Always ask for references so you get an idea of their level of skill.

Bad paint job examples

Cheap paint jobs get that way because the painter skipped important steps. Cheap painters will skimp on paint, only purchasing the most affordable and often the products that are the lowest quality. They don’t bring in a power washer to get rid of stubborn grime and they won’t take the time to grind and sand surfaces that need it.

In order for paint to adhere properly, the surfaces must be prepped.In the photos below, you see a bad painting job example when paint is peeling/falling off. This situation was caused by the use of low quality paint.

example of poorly done paint job


If you are seeing issues like these at your property, make sure your painting contractor includes restoration services, as they will be required if the new paint is going to properly adhere and last.

How to fix a bad paint job?

High-quality and trusted painters will guarantee their work. So, the best way to fix a bad paint job is to only hire a contractor with such guarantees. Unfortunately, if you’ve inked an agreement with your contractor that doesn’t include a warranty on their work and things need to be fixed, it’s unlikely that they will make things right, which means you’ll have to pay for another contractor to come in and do it.

Aside from hiring a contractor that insures their work, you can also take these measures to ensure your project goes off without a hitch:

  • Hire smart: Research the reputation of all of your painting contractor finalists. Ensure that they have plenty of references and that they are quality communicators who explain every phase of the project from the cleaning and prep work to the final walk through.
  • Quality materials and skills: The best painters only work with the best paints. Furthermore, they know which types of paints will work best on specific surfaces. They use the right tools for the job and have the necessary techniques to handle any type of job.

How much does it cost to fix a bad building paint job?

Saving money on a paint job usually entails hiring a contractor offering cut-rate fees for their services. The problem is, those services aren’t even worth the low fees they’re charging and will end up costing you more in the long run.

Within weeks of finishing the job, sometimes sooner, you’ll notice huge flaws that need fixing. From chalking to blistering, cracking to bubbling, you’ll see the telltale signs that your contractor didn’t know what they were doing or didn’t care enough to do the job correctly. This is why it pays to choose a trusted, qualified painting contractor that charges a competitive price.

To fix a bad paint job, your contractor will have to scrape off old paint before applying new coats. Quality paint costs between $25 and $40 per gallon. At 2,500 square feet (the average surface area of a whole-house paint job) it takes around seven gallons per coat. That means you’re paying between $175 and $280 per coat.

The cost can be far more than just the paint supply. Consider jobs where the first contractor failed to address surface flaws, such as rotting wood or rusted metal. Washing surfaces, sanding them, power washing and grinding are services that can also add more labor charges to the final cost.

How to deal with your painting contractor if you have a bad paint job

3 painters interior project

The best painting contractors are concerned about their customers, which means if anything goes wrong, they will do everything in their power to make it right. Unfortunately, there are painting contractors out there who don’t care about anything but making money, so they only do as much as it takes to get paid and nothing more.

The best problem management strategy is to prevent bad contractors in the first place, which is why it’s important to do your research on painting contractors before you bring one in for the project.

But let’s say you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where the job is completed, but it’s done poorly, and now you need to fix the problem. Where do you begin?

Friendly first options for dealing with a bad painter

Once you notice that the painting project is not going well, seek out the leader in the painting company and express concern. A polite approach is always best, but be firm in your demand that the problems be addressed.

If your initial request isn’t met with any response from the company, visit their offices and follow up on your initial concerns. In-person requests will prove that you’re serious about the issue and that you have no intention of letting them do a job that doesn’t have high-quality results.

Negative feedback in reviews for dealing with a bad painter

Nothing scares a painting contractor more than bad reviews, because too many of them will cause them to lose business. If you’re not happy with the outcome of a painting project, have made those concerns known to your contractor and they have done nothing to fix the problem, let them know that you will be posting about their lack of services on the Internet.

Let them know you will be posting on their personal social media pages, but will also report them to the Better Business Bureau and then jump on Yelp and Angie’s List to let others know they can expect substandard services from them.

If your requests are met with no response, feel free to write the reviews, but in a tactful manner. Just state the facts and provide the necessary details without undo drama.

Getting the law involved with a bad painter problem

In the worst-case-scenario, you’ll need to go to the authorities about a bad painter experience. These are situations where the contractor took your deposit, but never showed up to do the work. Or, they showed up but caused a bunch of property damage and never fixed it. Perhaps they started the work, but never finished it and conveniently disappeared – these are all cases that could involve calling in local law enforcement.

Warning signs of bad painting contractors and how to avoid them

exterior painting guide 2017

The best commercial painting contractors provide quality finishes, on time and at the right price. Unfortunately, not all contractors are as committed to quality. To avoid wasting your time and money, look out for the following signs commonly found in bad painters. From a lack of licensing, certification and insurance to using the wrong tools to under bidding other contractors by a long shot, there are several red flags to be wary of.

Painting contractor doesn’t have a license or insurance

All quality contractors are up to date on their licenses and insurance. If you’re researching a contractor and can’t find evidence that they have either, there is a good chance they are not worthy of your business. Should an uninsured contractor damage your property, you’ll be responsible for paying for the damages.

The contract with a painting contractor is nonexistent or weak

Bad contractors are not cognisant of contracts. They either don’t have one or the one they do have you sign is extremely weak and basically useless. Not only is a non-existing contract a sign of a bad painting company, it could also be a sign that they are just trying to scam you out of your money.

If they do have a contract, make sure it contains specific details, from the basics like their address and other contact information, to bigger issues, such as costs, payment schedule and the warranty on their work.

Also, you should be able to negotiate what’s in the contract, whether it’s including something that’s important to you or deleting something that you’re not comfortable with. If the contractor tries to quickly skim over it and rushes you to sign it, they could be trying to hide items that could be trouble for you later.

Also, oral promises have zero value. If a contractor tries to convince you that their word is their bond, discontinue pursuing them and find a professional that has a solid contract.

Painting contractor provides vague estimates

Vague estimates are a sure sign that you’re going to get hit with hidden fees later. Quality painting contractors are never wishy washy on what you will pay for their services. The bad ones sometimes won’t even come to your property to make the estimate, which is another sign that you’re not communicating with a quality contractor.

Painting contractor doesn't have appropriate equipment

Top-notch painting contractors come equipped with the latest, most modern tools of the trade. From ladders to scaffolds, climbing equipment to rollers and brushes, they have the equipment that makes quick work of some of the most complex surfaces to paint. The bad ones are clearly under equipped.

Painting contractor doesn’t have portfolio and referrals

Referrals are extremely important to most property owners looking for the best painting contractor. Only choose a painting company with a minimum of three referrals from former customers that can vouch for their work.

Painting contractor uses high-pressure tactics

Pushy contractors get work by forcing themselves onto property owners, but don’t fall for it. If a contractor is too forceful, they’re probably unable to get work through their reputation because they don’t provide quality services.

Painting contractor is inconsistent or unpredictable

A sense of professionalism must be evident in everything your contractor does. For example, if they say they’ll be at your property to make an estimate but fail to keep the date, they’re probably going to be unreliable when they’re actually on the job. Quality contractors are extremely reliable in everything they do, from returning your calls to being punctual when keeping to a schedule.

Painting contractor wants a large upfront payment

A worst-case-scenario situation is when a customer pays a large amount of money upfront for work, but the contractor never shows up to do it. Quality contractors will negotiate with you on the down payment. Most contractors will not ask for more than a 30 percent down payment.

When a contractor asks for more than 30 percent and does not negotiate a lower down payment, there is a chance they don’t have enough resources to purchase paint and equipment for the job, which is not a good sign. In the best case scenario, your contractor will expect no down payment and will only bill you once the job is completed to your satisfaction.

Painting contractor offers very low rates

If the estimate from a contractor seems too good to be true, it probably is. Significantly lower estimates can mean a number of things, but most likely, the contractor is using cheap, unskilled labor, they’re inexperienced or they’re desperate for work and are basically charging what they’re worth.

When they charge far less than other professionals, there’s a good chance they’re skimping on paint by using inferior products from bargain brands. They might also be using off brand brushes and rollers. Cheap contractors might cut costs by not paying for other important things, such as insurance.

Keep in mind that if you partner with a painting company that underbids the others by an unusually large amount, you’ll end up paying more in the long run because the work they do will be inferior and need to be redone/fixed.

Should you find a contractor that only accepts cash, that should be a red flag alerting you that you need to look elsewhere, because quality contractors want to have a paper trail for all the work they do. If you pay someone in cash because they want to keep the work off the books, they are probably not honest and you won’t be able to hold them responsible if something goes wrong with the job.

Solve all paint problems by hiring a reputable painting contractor

high-rise building balconies painting chicago

If you have chosen a painting contractor without doing your due diligence and they provide less than desirable finishes, a quality contractor can come in and make the fixes. A reputable painting compnay will know all about how to prep every type of surface, choose the right type of paint, know how long it needs to dry between coats and much, much more.

Furthermore, a quality painting contractor is respectful of the jobsite, which means they keep everyone’s safety in mind while also remaining committed to doing a quality job. They take into account the needs of the property, such as using antifungal and antimicrobial paints in areas prone to moisture, or using no- to low-VOC paints in areas where fumes cannot be tolerated.

Reputable painters will take into account the productivity of a property, particularly commercial properties where the daily tasks must be carried out at the same time as the painting is being done.

What to expect from professional painters?

Professional painters can tackle all types of jobs, interior and exterior, in a variety of structures. They are good communicators, offering advice on what paints will work best in specific areas, and can even offer tips on colors and finishes. Furthermore, they are flexible and will work around the dates and times that work best for your property. If you know what to expect from your professional painters, you’ll have an easier time identifying the right one for you.

Expert color advice

While quality painting contractors are highly skilled at applying paint, they also know about the various colors and how one will work with another in the same environment. They are aware of how various shades can alter the feeling of a room, which colors are trending and which ones have fallen out of favor.

Painting skill and expertise

After years and years of painting professionally, painting contractors pick up skills that are highly prized. They know what kind of tools to use, from brushes for specific types of paint to ladders and other gear used to reach every surface that needs painting. They know how to deal with hazards, such as old lead paint. They also have the expertise required to protect furniture and flooring from paint spatter.

Superior surface preparation

Surface preparation is a major component to high-quality painting jobs. Using the best paints won’t matter if the surfaces aren’t perfectly prepped. This can include everything from cleaning to making repairs to laying down the right kind of primer. Quality painting contractors have the tools necessary for filling holes and cracks and are also able to sand surfaces.

Quality materials and great process

Bargain paints simply don’t have the lasting power of quality paints. They also never look as good as the best primer and paint, such as those made by Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams. The best painting contractors are committed to quality finishes, which is why they never skimp on paint.

The best equipment

From brushes to rollers, drop cloths to ladders, scaffolds to safety gear – quality painting contractors bring in the best equipment to every job. No matter the size of the property, quality painters approach every job with an eye for details and that requires using the finest quality equipment.

Cleanup after the job is done

The job is not completed until every scrap of debris is cleaned up. Quality painters are focused on leaving the job site completely clean of any remnants common in painting jobs, from painters tape to towels, drop cloths to plastic covering.

Satisfaction guarantee

Never sign on with a painting contractor that can’t guarantee their work. Should you not be satisfied with the work, the contractor should stand by their guarantee to finish the work to your liking. Mistakes happen, even with the best contractors, which is why when you choose correctly, your contractor will redo work that isn’t up to their standards.

Contact Painters Inc to fix a bad paint job in the Chicago area

If your goal is for your painting project to go smoothly, finish on time, on budget and last a long, long time, you need a quality painting contractor on your side. At Painters Inc., we’re customer-centric in everything we do, from consultation to final walkthrough. We focus on safety and training our painters in the latest techniques, using the most modern equipment and quality paints.

As an A+ rated contractor with the Better Business Bureau, we have proven our value to our customers time and again. You can read what customers have to say about us in our reviews. As a licensed, bonded, insured and certified painting contractor, we bring all the assurances our clients need to feel secure that they are in good hands. Contact us and let’s discuss your upcoming painting project.

Eivydas “David” Phillips
Eivydas “David” Phillips
Eivydas “David” Phillips is the founder and president of Painters Inc. He and his team have built a solid reputation as the preferred painting contractor in the Chicago area, capable of handling variety of complex commercial jobs, completing them on time and surpassing expectations. With a customer-centric focus, Painters Inc guarantees reliability on every job, large or small.