DIY: Fixing spray-paint fails

By Julia Dilworth, 24 hours Vancouver


“The great thing about spray paint is that everything is fixable” — Fiona Wilson, Home Depot

If I had spoken to Home Depot’s paint guru Fiona Wilson before I had started my bike makeover, I would have saved myself so much time and so many cans of spray paint.

Before you begin your next project, here is a list of my spray-painting blunders where Wilson helped me pinpoint what went wrong and how to fix it.

Splotchy spray

Instead of a fine mist, you’re getting spurty splotches. Usually when this happens, Wilson said it’s because the paint has been sitting on the shelf for a while, or it hasn’t been shaken enough.

The fix: Anything you’re questioning the age of, instead of shaking it the recommended two minutes, shake it for five, said Wilson.

Sometimes, Wilson said, the nozzle is the problem.

“But the other thing you can do, if you’ve been using the Tremclad or the Rust-Oleum and really like it, swap the nozzle. A lot of the time it’s the nozzle. Every manufacturer makes them differently. And if you’ve got smaller hands, I find the Rust-Oleum nozzles work a little better.”

Pooling or drips

You’ve blasted your surface for too long at a close distance and now a puddle has formed with a darker colour around its edges, almost as if the paint is separating.

The fix: “At that point you’ve got to let it dry, sand it a little bit and then just do it again,” advised Wilson. (Try light coats this time.)

Crackling or bubbling

“Crackling can also occur if there was anything on the metal,” said Wilson. For example, if it wasn’t perfectly clean, or even if it had cleaning supply residue on it. “It gets kind of like an alligator skin, where it crusts apart,” she said. “It’s because (the paint) is trying to get away from something.”

The fix: For my bike’s chain cover, oil or degreaser residue caused instant crackling. “It would have to be degreased again, sand it down and then paint it again,” Wilson advised.

“Fish eyes” explained: “It looks like the paint is bubbling, but when you actually look close you’ll see there will be a little speck of something and you get this crater around it,” said Wilson. “And it’s the paint shooting away from it.”

The fix: Treat this the same way you would crackling.


After sanding my bike’s rusty spots and covering it with a Tremclad Rust Reformer coat, I spray painted it with my topcoat and suddenly every spot where the underlying paint was removed, the paint peeled up!

To avoid: “You’ve either got to get all the paint off or throw a primer on underneath. When you’re working with metal I would usually recommend a primer,” said Wilson. “Especially if it’s been rusty.

“Primers are made to fix things. They’re meant to be a happy surface for paint to adhere to — just to make it easier and to take out some of the problems you run into.”

The fix: “Where it’s peeling, get off as much as you can, and take that right back and then take a fine sandpaper and then just bevel the spray paint down there into it. You can kind of create a false smoothness and then just hit that area with primer again. And it will naturally feather out into the area that’s already painted and then you just top coat it with the paint again. So you can do a patch job, but you need to get those edges nice and smooth, so you’re going with a really fine sandpaper at that point. Like you’d be up around a 400. Makes it butter smooth.”


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