Brushes, Rollers, and When to Use Them

A large part of any paint job is selecting the proper equipment and paint to do the job you need. You can use different kinds of paint depending on whether you’re painting the exterior or the interior of your house, each with its own properties and strengths.

Just as important as the paint you use is the kind of brushes or rollers you use. Depending on the area you’re painting and the paint you’re using, your painting equipment should be matched to the situation. Let’s start with the options for paintbrushes.

Paintbrush Options

Everything matters in your paintbrush decision from the type of the bristles to its size. If you have a large area to paint, for example, you’ll need a wider, thicker paintbrush. For small sections or trim areas, you’ll need a smaller, thinner paintbrush to cover those delicate, hard-to-reach places.

Bristle composition matters a great deal. Synthetic bristles are usually used for water-based paints and don’t absorb high amounts of water, reducing the dry time for the paint. Natural bristles are typically used with solvent-based paint because they can brush paint onto the surface with minimal brush marks. Natural bristles are perfect when using solvent-based paint on skirting boards, doors, and wall surfaces.

Brush width varies in size usually from one inch to four inches and can also vary in brush end shapes. Chisel trim brushes are great for straight lines on trim or corners and edges. Square trim brushes are usually used for applying paint onto flat surfaces, and angled brushes are used for window trim.

Roller Options

Much like paintbrushes, paint rollers vary in size and composition. Another key attribute for paint rollers is the ‘nap,’ or thickness, of the roller.

Paint rollers are excellent at covering large areas quickly and more efficiently than brushes. They are also designed to hold paint and disperse it evenly on a surface, making it easy to produce thick, even coverage. However, a downside to using rollers is that when wielding so much paint absorbed in the roller’s nap, drips and mistakes can occur much more frequently.

Paint roller naps come in three primary sizes: short pile, medium pile, and long pile. The shorter the pile, the less paint the roller holds. So if you’re painting a flat, thin surface, short pile is the way to go, because you don’t need to work the paint into any nooks and crannies of the surface. For most exterior walls, medium pile rollers are used, because they can fill in paint into those uneven parts of the wall without much trouble. Long pile is for textured surfaces commonly found on house exterior, too.

Most rollers are foam rollers, but occasionally you’ll radiator rollers, which use a slightly different composition to reach difficult angles and small wall areas. Foam rollers are popular because they hold large amounts of paint and make a large paint job much more manageable because of the paint they can throw around.

Brushes vs. Rollers

In general, if you have a smaller paint job, especially indoors and you have to work around obstacles, brushes are a better choice. Rollers make the job much faster, but at the cost of getting paint on surfaces you’d rather not paint. Both brushes and rollers make sense in both exterior or interior paint jobs, depending on your situation. Exterior painters frequently use brushes to finish off trim or apply stains and varnish to outside surfaces and rollers to reach large areas that need new paint.

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