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The Right Painting Tools

For most home improvement projects, choosing the right tools for the job is half the battle. Fainting is no different. So before you grab the first brush or roller cover you spot on the store shelf, bone up on some basics. Because of the abundance of quality, specialized painting products on the market today, you’ll have no trouble finding the right tools for your job. With this information, you’ll know how to make the best choices.


A good roller can be invaluable to your painting project. Inexpensive and efficient, this simple tool can save you time and energy. Rollers are commonly used for painting large wall areas, ceilings, and floors. Two simple components make up the roller: the frame and the cover. Covers are easily changeable, according to the job at hand.


Choose a standard 9” (23 cm) roller with wire frame and nylon bearings. Check the handle to make sure the molded grip is comfortable in your hand. The handle should also have a threaded end so you can attach an extension handle for painting ceilings and high walls.


Roller covers, or pads, come in either synthetic or natural lamb’s wool and are available in a variety of nap thicknesses. In general, synthetic covers are used for water-based paint; while lamb’s-wool covers are used for oil-based paint. Select roller covers with longer-lasting plastic interiors, as opposed to the cheaper versions.

  • Short-nap roller covers have 1/4” to 3/8" (6 mm to 1 cm) nap. Choose short nap covers for applying glossy paints to smooth surfaces like wallboard, wood, and smooth plaster.

  • Medium-nap roller covers have 1/2” to 3/4” (1.3 to 2 cm) nap. These are com monly called all-purpose covers. They give flat surfaces a slight texture and are a good choice for walls and ceilings with small imperfections.

  • Long-nap roller covers have a 1” to 11/4” (2.5 to 3.2 cm) nap. Choose long-nap covers for painting textured surfaces including stucco and concrete block.



Paintbrushes fall into two basic categories:
natural bristle and synthetic bristle. Do not assume that natural is better, which was once the common wisdom about paint brushes. In fact, natural-bristle brushes should only be used with alkyd, or oil- based, paint. If natural-bristle brushes are used with water-based paints, the bristles will bunch together. Choose synthetic-bristle brushes for water-based latex paints.

Look for quality. A bargain brush will save you a few dollars but may well cost you more in the long run. Invest in a few quality brushes; with proper care, they should last through many paint projects. As a starting point, choose a straight-edged 3” (7.5 cm) wall brush, a 2” (5 cm) straight- edged trim brush, and a tapered sash brush.

A good brush has a strong, hardwood handle. Dense bristles should be flagged, or split, at the ends. Always check to make sure the bristles are attached securely to the handle. If some pull out when you tug, you can expect the bristles
to fall out into your paint job. The metal band, or ferrule, should be firmly attached. Inside the bristles, check that the spacer plugs are made of wood, not cardboard, which may soften when wet.

  • A 1 1/2 (3.8 cm trim brush works well for painting narrow woodwork.

  • A 2" (5 cm) trim brush works well for painting woodwork and windows.

  • Choose a 2" (5 cm) tapered sash brush for painting windows.

  • Choose a 4" (10 cm) brush for painting
    walls and ceilings.

Paint Pads


Paint pads come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate many different tasks. Use these foam pads with water- based paints. Small pads with tapered edges are helpful for painting narrow areas like window trim or louvers, while the larger sizes can be used on wall surfaces. Specialty pads are available for painting corners and hard areas. Paint pads generally apply paint in a thinner coat than a brush or roller, so additional coats may be necessary.





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