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How to Use a Paint Roller

By Edited Jan 20, 2015 0 0

Painting is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to spruce up your home. And the job will look better and go much faster with the right kind of roller.

You may have used a paint roller before, but you probably did not give it a second thought. It looks simple enough. Just pour some paint in a roller tray and roll it in and start painting away.

But in order to get an even coat and avoid roller marks and ridges in the paint, there are some painting tips and tricks you should be aware of to paint like a pro.

Painting Tips - Roller Covers 101

How to Paint Using a Roller
Rollers are the best option to apply paint to a large wall or ceiling. If you try to brush these areas, you are in for a long day and the finish will likely show brush marks.

A quality roller cover is critical to getting a professional finish. In most cases, you should always use a synthetic roller cover with latex paint.

Do not cheap out on this step. You don’t want a disposable roller cover. Cheaper covers do not hold enough paint to produce a good finish and they tend to leave ridges. They also peel apart and leave debris on the wall stuck in the wet paint.

Most covers are made of a woven synthetic material or microfibers. If you are considering using a wool cover, prep it first because they tend to shed fibers when new. Wrap it with masking tape and peel it to remove loose fibers. Do this several times.

For any type of cover, look for ones that do not have seams because they can leave streaks on the wall. Give them a squeeze test too. Quality roller should retain their shape.

It is also important to choose the right roller frame. This is the metal attachment that the cover fits over. They are either 9 inches or 4 inches long. The longer frame is best for walls and ceilings and will make quick work of those areas.

Paint Roller Nap

The next consideration is the length of the roller nap. When using Alkyd paints (oil based), use a nap of 3/16”.

  • When using higher gloss paints, an 1/8 “ nap is best
  • On wallboard, smooth plaster, wood, or metal, use a nap length of 1/8" to 1/4"
  • For smoother finishes on walls, woods or metal, use a nap length of 1/4″ or a foam rollers
  • On ceilings and drywall, and when using Eggshell paints, use a nap length of 3/8″
  • On light-textured stucco, concrete, or rough wood, use a nap length of 3/8" to 1/2"
  • On heavy-textured stucco, concrete block, or brick, use a nap length of 3/4" to 1"

To summarize,if you want a smoother surface, choose a shorter roller nap. If you would like a rougher, textured wall, select a roller cover with a long nap roller.

The right roller cage is also important.  Look for a U-shaped frame that is sealed on both ends so that the paint does not seep out of the edges.

Finally, you will need a 48 inch extension pole with a comfortable grip especially if you are painting a lot of rooms or the entire house.

Wagner 0155206K 9-by-3/8-Inch Power Roller Cover
Amazon Price: $7.49 $1.30 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 22, 2014)

Painting Tips - Prep the Wall for Rolling Paint

Prepping a wall before you paint is crucial to getting a professional look. Scrap the walls with a paint scraper for large debris, then lightly sand the entire wall with 100-grit sandpaper. Next, apply a degreaser and wipe away any grime and grease.

If there are any holes or imperfections in the wall, patch it with joint compound and sand lightly once it dries. Then apply a tinted primer that is similar in color to the final coat.

Put painter’s tape over baseboards and window and door trim then press a putty knife along the tape to seal it tight.

If you are painting around windows, it is not necessary to tape the windows around the glass edges. Any paint that dries on the glass can be scraped off with a razor blade.

If you purchase several gallons of the same color of paint, the color between each can vary slightly. Most professional painters will "box" multiple cans of paint in a 5 gallon bucket to get consistency in the color.

Speaking of that 5 gallon bucket, it has another use. After you mix the paint in it, use that instead of a painter’s tray to dip your roller in to soak it with paint. There are metal grid strainers designed to hang on the edges of the inside of the bucket. This has several advantages over a tray.  It is easier to move around and there is little risk that you will spill any over the edge. It also holds a lot of paint, so you will not have to stop and refill the tray frequently.

Linzer RM415 Heavy Duty 5 Gallon Bucket Grid
Amazon Price: $11.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 22, 2014)

How to Paint a Ceiling or Wall

To begin, do not complete submerge the roller cover into the paint bucket. Just get the nap wet

How to Paint Using a Roller
and spin it slowly against the grid. Do this procedure every time and it will help you avoid fat ridges of paint that are common for beginners. I am actually using one of these types of paint grids right now while I stain my deck, and it works just as well in avoiding this type of situation with those types of products also.

When applying paint to a wall with a roller, technique is key.

Begin about 6 inches away from a corner with a loaded cover, then work back toward the edge as you the paint thins.

Roll the paint on the wall in up and down sweeping motions. Begin at the bottom of the wall and roll toward the top at an angle with light pressure stopping before you touch the ceiling. Remember, roll the paint on the wall with light pressure in one motion.

Continue to roll back and down toward the bottom and continue back towards the top keeping a wet edge working fast to lap newly applied paint over paint that is still wet. You want to cover as much area as possible in as little time as you can while the paint is still wet. There is where a high quality roller cover is critical because it holds more paint than cheaper versions so there is less stopping and dipping for more paint.

Roll slowly up to the inside of corner or the ceiling to cover cut-in marks. Turn the open end of the roller toward the edge of a  rolling up close to inside corners, moldings and the ceiling. When you are rolling these areas near cut-in marks, make sure you do not have a cover that is loaded with a lot of paint.

Dip the roller in the paint and move to the next area of the wall and repeat the motion. Continue to roll back and forward to blend the paint.

Once you have covered the entire wall, roll back over everything using light pressure. During this phase, you do not want to have much new paint on the cover.

Do one wall at a time. Do not go around the house getting the difficult parts of cutting in and painting around fixtures finished first. The roller will blend the paint in much better if you follow cutting in.

If you finish one wall and want to take a break, it is important to cover your paint bucket with a damp cloth to keep it from drying out and thickening.

Wooster Brush R017-9 Sherlock Roller Frame, 9-Inch
Amazon Price: $11.54 $5.74 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 22, 2014)

Cleaning and Storing a Roller

Cleaning paint rollers is important after every use. To do so, remove your roller cover from the metal frame right after you are finished painting. Do this at the end of each day, not just at the end of the project.

Use your putty knife or similar tool to scrape the excess paint off the cover and begin cleaning with soap and water to wash away any latex paint remnants.

There are tools in the paint department specifically designed for cleaning roller covers such as a scraper with a hole in the middle or a spinner tool to spin the excess water out of it.

In order to make sure all of the paint is washed out of the roller, squeeze it along its length and rinse again continuing that sequence until the water runs clear. Do not soak rollers in water.

Now your painting gear is clean and ready for your next session whether the next day, month or year. Quality painting utensils will last a lifetime if you care for them properly.

Mr. Long Arm 3212 Pro-Pole Extension Pole, 6-to-12-Feet
Amazon Price: $24.42 $19.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 22, 2014)
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