Expert Advice: Selecting Paint Applicators

Painting expert Brian Santos discusses selecting the right tools for the job. Read more in his new book, "Painting Secrets."


Enlarge Image Author Brian Santos

Q. What kind of paint applicators are the best?

Brian Santos: Here's my advice for selecting paint rollers and paint pads.

Paint Rollers: You'll be tempted to buy a cheap, throw-away fuzzy-napped roller, but save yourself the headache! A 1/2-inch foam paint roller works faster, easier, and better. You can load three or four times the amount of paint onto the roller. Such porosity means less dipping into the roller tray, which means more coverage in less time.

Another advantage is that a foam pad will roll over any surface -- texture, lap siding, stucco -- because it is designed to conform to any surface it touches. A foam roller won't splatter paint or leave fuzzies in the paint on the wall. If you purchase a roller with a nylon core, it is easier to clean, and you can use it over and over. Yellow foam covers are designed for applying water-based paint. Gray or blue foam covers are used with oil-based paint.

Find more applicator tips below.

When selecting a roller frame, choose heavy-duty plastic or stainless steel. Make sure the handle is comfortable to grip and has a threaded socket in the end so you can add an extension pole.

Or buy a frame with a telescoping handle. My favorite has a handle that can expand from 12 to 32 inches, making it easy to roll the wall from floor to ceiling. A 4-foot extension pole works best; it's long enough to help you paint from floor to ceiling, yet short enough to work in a closet.

Get a fiberglass handle, not an aluminum one. Fiberglass will not conduct electricity, so if you should happen to make contact with a live outlet or fixture, you won't get hurt. Fiberglass also bends slightly, giving you better feedback on how much pressure you're putting on the roller.

Mini rollers are my new best friends. These 4-inch-wide rollers make it easy to paint small, tight surfaces, and they apply paint as evenly as the larger versions. Plus they paint into corners. Corner rollers, which are narrow and tapered to an edge, are ideal for getting into tight corners. The beveled shape and foam material is designed to evenly roll paint on both surfaces of an inside corner.

Paint Pads: The 4-inch paint pad is a tool that has everything to offer: It's made of plastic, with a short, thick ergonomic handle. Tracking wheels set off the application pad from adjacent moldings. The bristle face of a pad is perfect for cutting in, edging, and painting flat trim.

The pad's foam core holds three times more paint than a brush, has five times more surface area than a regular brush tip, and has bristles that are only 1/4-inch long, so the paint won't dry out. It splatters and drips less than a brush. Most pads even come with a plastic paint tray and airtight snap-on lid.

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