How to Choose a Paint Brush

Two groups of tools are needed for painting, one for preparing the surface and one for actually applying the paint. For a masonry wall, the minimum preparation is to wash down any previously painted surface. This calls for a bucker, sponges and cloths, strong household detergent or sugar soap (all-purpose cleaner), and rubber gloves to protect the hands.

If the washed-down surface has a high-gloss finish, or feels rough to the touch, use fine-grade sandpaper and a sanding block to smooth it down. Wet and Dry (silicon carbide) paper, used wet, is best for sanding down existing paintwork; remember to thoroughly rinse off the resulting fine slurry of paint with water afterwards. Use ordinary sandpaper for bare wood.

Defects in the surface need filling. Use a traditional cellulose filler (spackle) for small cracks, chips and other surface blemishes, and an expanding filler foam which can be shaped and sanded when hard for larger defects. To apply filler paste use a filling knife (putty knife).

To strip existing paintwork, use either a beat gun — easier to control and much safer to use than a blowtorch — or a chemical paint remover, plus scrapers of various shapes to remove the softened paint.

For removing wall coverings in order to apply a painted wall or ceiling finish, a steam wallpaper stripper will be worth the investment. The small all-in-one strippers which resemble a large steam iron are the easiest type to use.

Painting Tools

The paintbrush is still the favorite tool for applying paint to walls, ceilings, woodwork and metalwork around the house. Most are made with natural bristle, held in a metal ferrule which is attached to a wooden or plastic handle, but there are also brushes with synthetic fibre bristles which are sometimes recommended for applying water-based (latex) paints.

Brushes come in widths from 12 mm / 1/2 in. up to 15 cm / 6 in. The smallest sizes are used for fiddly jobs such as painting glazing bars (mulleins), while the widest are ideal for flat uninterrupted wall and ceiling surfaces. A wide brush can be tiring touse, especially with solvent-based (oil) paints. There are also long-handled brushes with angled heads for painting behind radiators, and narrow brushes called cutting-in (sash) brushes, which have the bristle tips cut off at an angle for painting into internal angles. For the best results, buy good-quality brushes and look after them, rather than buy cheap ones and tossing them after each job.

Paint rollers are used mainly for painting walls and ceilings with water-based paints, although they can be used with solvent-based types too. They consist of a metal roller cage mounted on a handle, plus a hollow sleeve that fits onto the cage and actually applies the paint. Some can be lined with an extension pole, which is useful if there are high ceilings or stairwells to paint. Most rollers are 18 cm/ 7 in wide; larger sizes are available, but can be harder to ‘drive.’ There are also shin mini-rollers for painting awkward-to-reach areas such as walls behind radiators. For any type, a roller tray is used to load paint onto the sleeve. Solid water-based paint is sold in its own tray.

The sleeves are waterproof tubes with a layer of foam plastic or cloth stuck to the outside. Another type maybe made from natural or synthetic fibre, and have a short, medium or long pile, to suit different types of surfaces.

Choose the pile length to match the surface being painted: short for flat surfaces, medium for those with a slight texture and long for embossed surfaces.

Paint pads are squares or rectangles of short-pile cloth stuck to a foam backing and mounted on a plastic or metal handle. The pad is dipped in a shallow container, or loaded from a special paint container with a roller feed, and then drawn across the surface. Pads come in a range of sizes.

Paint and varnish are also sold in aerosol form. This is ideal for small areas or fiddly materials such as wickerwork, but too expensive to use on large areas.

Lastly, do not forget the decorating sundries. A paint kettle is needed for decanting the paint and straining out any foreign bodies. Hand-held paint masks or masking tape are invaluable aids to getting straight edges and keeping paint off adjacent surfaces. Remember to provide dustsheets (drop cloths), which perform better than plastic sheets.