Use the Right Applicator for the Job
When starting a new paint project, sometimes the traditional paintbrush might not be the right tool for the job. Depending on what and where you're painting, a brush, roller, pad applicator or sprayer might be the ideal method of covering a surface with paint. Know which applicators are right for the job and when it's best to use each type. Keep reading to find out how.
Your local True Value hardware store has the tools, products and expert advice you need to start right on all of your painting projects.
Paintbrushes are the go-to paint applicator, as they have been used for eons. They are easy to use and easy to clean (especially so with latex paint). Most jobs can be accomplished with a large brush (4”+) and a small brush (2”), making paintbrushes a good general-purpose choice for applying paint on both interior and exterior surfaces.
Paintbrushes come in a variety of sizes, styles and bristle types and each plays a part in the end result of your paint job. Small-sized brushes are ideal for working in smaller areas and for detail work, whereas large brushes are better when painting a larger surface. Use square or flat-tipped brushes for general painting projects because they can cover a large area in less time. Angular, or chiseled, brushes are ideal for cutting into corners and painting trim, molding and windows.
Paintbrushes are made with either natural bristles or synthetic bristles, and each type works better with particular paint types and on particular surfaces. Choose wisely for the project at hand. Use natural-bristle brushes with oil-based, alkyd paints, stains and varnishes. They don't work well with water-based paints because the bristles get wet the same way hair does, and so become limp and less effective. Natural-bristle brushes also don't work well on rough surfaces, which can break the bristles' flagged ends. Artificial-filament brushes, made from nylon or polyester or both, work well on rough surfaces and with any kind of paint. Nylon-filament brushes are durable and generally less expensive than natural bristle brushes. Polyester filaments are popular with do-it-yourselfers because of their low price. They retain their stiffness better than any other kind of brush. The drawback is that because they are a stiffer-type brush they have less flex and leave more brush marks on surfaces. Also, they are not as easy to clean as nylon. Nylon/polyester blends are the most popular synthetic paintbrushes since they combine the best qualities of both for great performance.
Roller applicators are ideal for painting most walls and ceilings. They provide speedy and efficient application of paint over a large area, covering a surface much quicker than even the largest brush and often with a smoother finish. Roller frames come in many sizes, generally anywhere from around 3” to 18” in width. Rollers for specific tasks can come in sizes, anywhere from 1” to 18”, and some are designed for painting into small spaces such as corners and around objects, such as light fixtures.
When selecting a roller cover, choose a shorter nap (3/16" or 3/8") for painting smooth indoor surfaces, such as plaster, wood or metal. Longer naps (3/4" or 1-1/4") should be used for rougher surfaces including textured walls, masonry and stucco because they provide the ability to get into cracks and crevices. When using higher-gloss finishes use a cover with a shorter nap. Also consider the roller material. Natural fibers, such as lambs’ wool or mohair, work most effectively with oil-based paints. Synthetic roller materials, such as nylon or polyester, work optimally with latex paints.
- Buy high-quality roller frames. They are set apart by their steel frame, a metal cage and a threaded handle that can hold an extension pole.
When applying paint with a roller, start at the top and paint in a “W”, “X” or “N” pattern and then fill in the spaces. Continue this until you are at the bottom of the wall. Once you reach the bottom load your roller with paint and starting at the top roll all the way to the bottom then go back next to where you just rolled and roll to the bottom again. This should be done until all of the area you had just painted has been rolled in the same direction. This ensures good hide and durability from your paint job.
Foam-pad applicators consist of an absorbent pad with a handle and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Providing a convenient alternative to brushes, foam pads are ideal for edging, cutting in and painting flat trim. Because they're flat, they leave less surface texture in the paint and they tend not to drip or spatter. Their flexibility makes them ideal for reaching inside tight areas (like vents or heat registers).
Sprayer applicators are a perfect choice for exterior painting of large surfaces, as they apply paint much faster than a brush or roller. Ideal for painting siding, decks, and fencing, sprayers also provide a more even coating with fewer drips and no brush marks. They can be used with paint, stains and other coatings, such as waterproofing sealants.
Most consumer-model sprayers are airless, meaning that they don’t use air to expel paint onto a surface. Professional painters often use compressed-air sprayers. You can find a number of different sprayer models to suit your needs. Just ask someone at your local True Value hardware store which one has the power you need and which one will work best with the kind of finish you’re using (paint or stain, etc.).
- A sprayer’s stream can be powerful enough to inject into your skin. Be careful that you don’t spray any part of your body, and wear gloves and safety glasses when you’re using one.
Sprayers are not ideal for small jobs where more precision painting is in order. As sprayers can cover a lot of area quickly, overspray can be an unwanted consequence if there are surfaces that you don’t want painted. For this reason, sprayers are not the best choice for interior painting projects unless you’re painting a large area without numerous fixtures or other items that could be adversely affected by errant paint spray.
- When using a sprayer, either indoors or out, be sure to remove or cover with painter’s tape any light fixtures, shutters and other items to keep them safe from over-spraying.
- If you do use a sprayer indoors, be sure to seal off the area from the rest of the house with plastic sheeting and masking tape so that paint doesn’t find its way into other rooms.
- Hold the sprayer parallel to the surface you’re painting for the best results.
Congratulations! Knowing which applicators to use and when to use them is a surefire way to ensure a successful paint project. For the rest of your painting needs, stop by your local True Value hardware store for the tools, products and expert advice you need to start right.
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