Avoiding Summer Paint Failures

by Brian Sodoma

heatDebbie Zimmer is always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to get things done. But when the spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute saw a housing blogger suggest putting a paint can on ice in the summer heat, she was at a loss for words.

“To be honest, when I hear something like that it gives me great pause,” she said with a laugh. “Really? I have never heard anything like that in my life.”

Let’s be clear. Zimmer is no slouch when it comes to paint. She’s been in the industry for three decades and has consulted with hundreds, if not thousands, of paint professionals.

When it comes to hot-weather painting, Zimmer uses common sense. She offered a few, sometimes overlooked, tips for us here—and none of them involved ice cubes.

Surface temps

It’s a rare cool summer day where the temperature is below 90 degrees. All goes well until you come upon a metal door that has been baking in the sun all day. Put your hand on it, and it’s blistering hot. Even later on, in the shade, the door could still be too hot to paint. Avoid early paint failure by checking surface temps in these situations, said Zimmer.


Every professional hates seeing a film develop at the top of their paint can in the summer heat. A latex paint extender may help you get through this, particularly when using a compressor. But on brush and roll applications, extenders could compromise film quality and color.

“There’s a lot of testing and evaluating to get the best balance of properties in a can of paint. When you pour something into that can, what’s changing? I wouldn’t start playing with that,” Zimmer added.


Heat is one problem, but humidity can also wreak havoc on paint. Too high of humidity doesn’t allow paint to level off well in the pores of a surface. Bubbles can form and create an early failure, explained Zimmer. Check the manufacturer’s specifications to make sure outdoor humidity levels aren’t compromising the job.

Remember winter

If you’ve cut corners in the heat by painting in direct sun, thinning paints with extenders, and not paying attention to manufacturer’s specifications, count on Old Man Winter to expose you. Your job may look just fine in July, but when the mercury drops, that’s where the bad summer application methods really show up. Paint contracts in cooler temperatures, but it may not be able to do so if improperly applied in the summer, Zimmer said.

“A compromised film just might not be strong enough to handle the freeze,” she added.

For more information about painting in the summertime heat, visit or read the feature article in the new inPAINTTM magazine, available June 2014.

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