If you've done any painting in your home over 2013, don't worry if things didn't quite go to plan - there are ways to make it all better.

You had your turkey dinner, you slumped on the sofa to recover, you had the TV on - but you weren’t watching the screen, you were watching in horror as the paint in the corner of the room peels off...

Yup, relaxing at home over the Christmas period is lovely in one way, but it can also mean you finally have time to spot flaws from failed DIY attempts across the last year.

Don't despair though, while painting in particular can be a minefield for novices, most common painting problems are easily averted or remedied if you follow these simple tips.

Flaking and peeling

Paint often flakes and peels over time or because of poor preparation, but there can be other causes. If you live in a period property that hasn't been decorated for many years, flaking paint may be caused by distemper, an old-fashioned paint. To test for distemper, wet the wall with water and wait to see if the paint peels - distemper will. Get as much of it off as you can with water and a scraper, then seal the rest with a couple of coats of plaster sealer.

Paint will also peel and bubble if you apply it to new plaster that hasn't dried properly, or that has an underlying damp problem. A plaster sealer, such as an alkali-resistant primer-sealer, is a good solution because it seals the plaster like glass, but if there's a damp problem, remedy that first.

Dull gloss

If your gloss isn't glossy enough, it may be down to being over-brushed or thinned. Alternatively, it may be because you haven't allowed the gloss to dry properly between coats - it can take a very long time - or that you've painted in a room that's too cold, which will slow down the drying process (paint generally shouldn't be applied below 10C).

Runs and drips

These happen when the paint (usually oil-based) is applied too thickly and isn't brushed out properly. To solve the problem, wait until the paint is completely dry, then sand smooth and start again.

Specs on paintwork

These are caused by dust and debris getting into the paint can or tray, onto the surface you're painting or the brush/roller you're using. You have to be vigilant when painting, and remove bits from the wet paint as you go - it's easy to pick up dust from the floor when painting skirting boards, for example. Contaminated paint is particularly a problem when painting outside, as the wind whips up all sorts of debris. Get round this by putting a small amount of paint into a paint kettle and just working from that, so all the paint isn't ruined if the kettle becomes contaminated. You can also sieve paint to remove debris - either with paint strainers or, more resourcefully, an old pair of tights.


Yellow stains occur when you've painted over bare wood but haven't sealed the knots, allowing the resin in them to bleed through. Knot sealing is quick and easy to do and shouldn't be overlooked.

Yellowing can also happen with white oil-based paints, as they tend to discolour over time, especially on radiators because of the heat. If you want your whites to stay white, the safest option is to use water-based wood and metal paints, and special heat-resistant radiator paints for radiators. Clear varnishes can also yellow - look for ones that specify they are non-yellowing.

Product of the week

Paints that can be used on different surfaces are great time-savers, and versatile Crown Ultimate in Pure Brilliant White (£21.98 for 2.5ltr, B&Q) can be used on walls, ceilings, wood and metal. It has the consistency of emulsion, meaning is nice to work with and dries quickly, but also contains core-shell technology, so it's designed to be powerful and long lasting - the best of both worlds. The matt finish is great for a unified, contemporary look, but if all-white is too stark for you, try creating a feature wall. The Ultimate range includes some lovely colours, like Beige Dark, a delicious taupey chocolate for a dramatic statement.

How-to tip

If you're using a paint tray, keep it filled with paint even if you're between coats (as long as it's covered), or wash it out as soon as you've finished painting. If you allow the paint to dry, you won't be able to clean it all off and it will eventually flake and contaminate the paint in it. Alternatively, use a plastic tray liner, which can be thrown away when the job's done - sadly not very eco, but it does make life easier.