5 Most Common Paint Primer Problems (& Fixes)

DIYers and professional painters sometimes encounter problems while applying primer paint, especially on rough surfaces. However, that’s a thing of the past because today, we would look at common paint primer mistakes, why they occur, and how to fix them.

So, let’s dive in.

1. Paint Primer is Smelling Foul or Bad

The first mistake on the list is smelly paint primer. This is when the primer coating smells foul or rotten and this is usually obvious before, during, and after applying the primer paint.

The odor from the primer coating will smell like rotten eggs and as time passes, the smell will become stronger and can linger around the home for several days. So why does this happen? Let’s find out.

Why Does Paint Primer Smell Bad?

The main reason for primer paint to smell bad is if the primer has gone bad or expired. Usually, the smell of primer paint is similar to the smell of chemicals or solvents. This shows you that the primer is still in good condition as the chemicals in the primer are still active.

However, when the primer paint starts to smell foul, it’s an indication that the chemicals have gone dormant. When this happens, Paint-eating bacteria will grow on the primer and release gasses that will cause the foul odor.

Paint primer can also go bad if the primer wasn’t sealed properly after it was opened. If you don’t seal the primer container properly after opening it, germs and contaminants can get in the primer causing it to smell really bad.

How To Fix Smelly Paint Primer?

Sadly, there is no fix to smelly paint primer. If the primer smells foul, it’s best not to even use it. Just toss it in the trash or hand it to the garbage man for proper disposal.

If you have already applied the primer, you need to scrape it off the surface. Then wipe the surface with mineral spirits to remove any residue or odor.

2. Paint Primer is Cracking

Another common problem with paint primers is cracking or splitting. This is when the primer coating starts to develop cracks. The problem occurs a few days or weeks after the primer was applied. So what causes this? Let’s find out.

Why Does Paint Primer Crack?

The main reason for cracking primer paint is bad surface preparation. Before the primer is applied, manufacturers always require the user to clean and sand the surface.

If you don’t clean and sand the surface, the surface will be filthy and rough making it difficult for the primer to stick properly. Due to poor adhesion between the surface and the primer, the primer coating will begin to crack and peel off after a few days.

Here are other reasons for cracking primer paint:

You Over-thinned the Primer Paint

Normally, primer paint is usually thin and doesn’t require to be thinned before application. So if you add too much paint thinner to the primer, the coat will get so light that it will easily crack when it dries.

Primer Coating Dried Too Fast

Primer paint is already designed to dry quickly. So if you try to make the primer dry quicker by using a heater or hairdryer, the primer coating will dry too fast and will crack eventually.

How To Fix Cracking Paint Primer?

The only way to fix cracking primer is to peel off the entire primer coating and reapply the paint primer. Here is a guide for that:

  1. Use a trowel or scraper to remove the cracked primer coating from the surface
  2. Sand the surface to remove filth and primer residue
  3. Repair gouges and imperfections in the surface
  4. Sand again with fine-grit sandpaper to smoothen the surface
  5. Reapply two coats of paint primer and leave to dry.

3. Paint Primer is Forming Bubbles

Bubbles are usually fun to blow or pop but not with your primer coating. If you have bubbles forming in the primer, it’s a problem. This occurs immediately after applying the primer coating. So why are bubbles forming in the primer? Let’s find out.

Why are Bubbles In Paint Primer Coating?

The reason for bubbles in primer is that there are air pockets trapped inside the primer coating. Sometimes, these bubbles will pop splurging out the wet primer and making the coating sticky.

Here are reasons for bubbles in the primer:

You Stirred the Primer Too Hard

When you stir the primer paint too hard or too fast, you trap small air pockets in the primer coating. So when you apply the primer, the air pockets will form bubbles.

You Applied the Primer Paint on a Porous Surface

Porous surfaces like oak wood are riddled with tiny holes known as pores. Trapped inside these pores are air pockets that can easily cause bubbles in the primer coating. To prevent this, painters always advise sealing porous surfaces before applying primer or any type of paint.

Next, let’s check out how to fix the bubbles.

How To Fix Bubbles In Paint Primer?

The best way to fix bubbles in paint primer is to get rid of the bubbles and reapply the primer.

Here is a guide for this:

  1. Pop the bubbles in the primer coating by using a razor or needle
  2. Scrape off as much primer coating as you can of of the surface
  3. Sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper
  4. Apply a coat of sanding sealer on the surface
  5. Sand the sealer coating
  6. Reapply two coats of the paint primer and leave to dry.

How this method works is that the bubbles in the primer would be removed leaving gaps and tiny tears in the primer. Then you need to remove the primer coating to get rid of those tears and gaps. After, the sealer will cover the entire surface so the new primer coating can sit properly and smoothly.

4. Clumps in Paint Primer

Another problem you might encounter when applying paint primer is clumpy primer coating. This occurs when there are clumps in the primer paint and it’s usually noticeable before, during, and after applying the primer coating.

These clumps are usually solid particles inside the primer. If you open the primer paint and see solid or stone-like particles in the primer, those are clumps.

Why Does Primer Paint Clump Up?

The main reason that primer paint clumps up is exposure to air. When the primer paint isn’t sealed properly, air can get into the container. When this happens, the air (or oxygen) will cause the particles in the primer to clog or clump up.

Here are other reasons why primer paint clogs up:

Cold Temperature

Cold or temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit can cause primer coating to clog up. In this case, the low temperature caused the primer coating to solidify and if the weather is cold enough, the primer coating can even freeze.

Leaving the Primer Too Long

If you leave the primer coating sitting too long, the primer can develop clumps due to exposure to dry air.

How To Fix Clumps In Paint Primer?

The best way to fix clumps in the paint primer is to thin the primer. How this works is a thinning medium (or paint thinner) is added to the clumped-up paint primer. The paint thinner will dissolve the clumps in the primer and you can loosen the primer fully by stirring the mixture for a few minutes.

Here is a guide for this:

  1. Pour the primer paint into a clean paint bucket
  2. Add the paint thinner. You should use water for water-based primer and mineral spirits for oil-based primer paint.
  3. Stir the mixture for a few minutes
  4. Stir again till you can’t see any clumps or lumps in the primer.
  5. Apply the primer coating.

5. Paint Primer is Still Sticky

Paint primer gets sticky when applied but this is normal because the primer is still wet. What isn’t normal and is a problem is when the primer coating remains sticky after a few hours.

This means that the paint primer isn’t drying as it should. When the primer is sticky, it will feel gummy when touched and it would easily attract dust and filth.

Why Is Primer Paint Sticky?

The main reason for sticky primer paint is that the primer coat isn’t drying. When the primer isn’t drying as it should, the coating will remain wet and will turn sticky.

Here are possible reasons why your primer coating isn’t drying as it should:

The temperature is too cold. When the temperature gets below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, primer paint will not dry as it should and would turn sticky.

You Recoated Too Soon

If you apply a second coat of primer paint too soon, then the entire layer might not dry. This is because there will be solvents trapped between the coats of primer paint. The trapped solvent will cause the primer to remain wet and gradually turn sticky.

The Surface is Wet

If you prime a wet surface, then the primer will not dry because the moisture in the surface will keep the primer coating wet and sticky.

How To Fix Sticky Primer Paint?

The best way to make the primer paint less sticky is to make the primer coating dry quicker. You can use a hairdryer or heater for this. You can also expose the primer coating to better airflow and sunlight so it can dry even faster.

If you have tried this and the primer paint is still not drying, it means that the cause of the sticky primer is beneath the primer coating. In this case, you have to remove the primer coating, cover the surface with a sealer and then reapply the primer coating.

Final Words

In summary, it’s very common to run into problems while applying primer paint due to the nature of the primer coating. However, you can always find a fix to any problem you encounter while applying primer paint in this article.

Also, remember to allow enough dry time between coats of primer paint and ensure the surface is clean and dry before applying primer paint.

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