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Selecting paint brushes and rollers

The Old House Web

PaintIt's common knowledge that you can extend the life of a paint job by using atop quality paint. However, what you may not know is that you can get a moredurable and better-looking paint job by using the right type and quality ofbrushes and rollers.

Here are some helpful tips from the experts at the Paint Quality Institute onchoosing the quality painting tools that will help make your next project anunqualified success.


Brushes are available in two basic types: those made with natural bristles,and those with synthetic bristles. Natural-bristle brushes should be used onlywhen applying alkyd or oil-based paints. (If you use a natural-bristle brush toapply a latex paint, the bristles will absorb the water from the paint,rendering them limp and difficult to work with.) Synthetic-bristle brushes canbe used to apply latex paints, and many can also be used with alkyd products.

Quality brushes share the following characteristics:

  • They have split or "flagged" ends and are flexible at their tips, which helps produce a finer finish;
  • They are tapered such that the bristles in the center are slightly longer than those at the edge, which helps lay the paint down smoothly and evenly;
  • They typically are at least half-again as long as they are wide (for example, the bristles on a 2"-wide brush should be at least 3" in length).

The reason it is important to use quality brushes is that, compared toeconomy brushes, they apply paint in a thicker, smoother film, which providesmaximum hiding and sheen uniformity. Conversely, lower quality brushes oftenleave ridges in the paint where dirt can collect and mildew can grow; paint withbrushmarks in it can even fail earlier in the "thin spots."

Keep in mind that different brushes serve different purposes. A 4" brushwith tightly packed bristles in a 3/4" to I" thickness is best forgeneral exterior painting, while a 3" brush serves most general interiorpainting purposes. A 2" brush can be used to cut-in corners for interiorwork. An angled sash brush, 1" to 2 1/2" wide, is ideal for paintingboth interior and exterior trim, window frames and moldings.


Many people prefer to use rollers, rather than brushes, because they applypaint much more quickly. When working with rollers, keep in mind that, as withbrushes, only synthetic roller covers should be used to apply latex paint.

For the best results, choose high quality roller covers. Better qualityroller covers will...

  • retain their shape when squeezed;
  • have no obvious seams (these can cause noticeable streaks in the finished paint job);
  • have few loose fibers.

It is also important to select the right length of nap on the roller cover.The general rule is that the smoother the surface, the shorter the nap; therougher the surface, the longer the nap.

Experts at the Paint Quality Institute offer these guidelines:

  • On wallboard, smooth plaster, wood, or metal, use a short nap of 1/8" to 1/4";
  • On light-textured stucco, concrete, or rough wood, use a medium nap of 3/8" to 1/2";
  • On heavy-textured stucco, concrete block, or brick, use a long nap of 3/4" to 1".

Roller cage frames come in a variety of styles. U-shaped frames are generallymore sturdy. When choosing frames, be sure to select those that are sealed onthe ends to help keep the paint on the roller, where it belongs.

Paint pads

Paint pads are helpful in applying paint in hard-to-reach places - in cornersand behind radiators, for example. Most paint pads are made of plastic foam orother synthetic materials; these are suitable for both latex and alkyd paints.

This information is brought to you by The Paint Quality Institute. For more advice on home painting, talk to a knowledgeable salesperson at your local paint store, hardware store or decorating center. Or visit the Paint Quality Institute Web site at www.paintquality.com.

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