How to Choose the Right Paint and Tools

paint brushes resting on top of colorful paint cans

Painting is one of the least expensive ways to give the interior or exterior of your home a facelift. While painting your own house can be a tremendous undertaking, here are some tips to help you do the best paint job possible.

Use the Right Type of Paint

The place to start, of course, is in choosing what paint to use. Cheaper paint will give you cheaper results, period. High quality paints are durable and offer great coverage, requiring less coats and upkeep than cheaper alternatives. This doesn't mean, however, that the "big name" paint companies are necessarily better; what you want to look for are middle and high grade paints. These contain more pigments and resins as well as less water than low grade paints.

You will also want to consider the kind of job you are doing. Interiors and exteriors have different needs. Water based (latex) paint offers an easier cleanup, less odor and is more environmentally friendly. There are acceptable water based paints for both interiors and exteriors, however, oil based paints are often considered superior in durability and performance.

Interior Paint

When painting an interior room, choose your paint by the amount and kind of use the room receives. Enamel paints are sturdier and less likely to be damaged by frequent cleaning. So, high traffic areas should definitely be painted with an enamel color as they will be more likely to get dinged or need washing. Enamels come in a variety of finishes: high gloss, semi-gloss, satin or eggshell. A flat finish can be quite durable in an acrylic paint, but should be reserved for locations that may not need as much cleaning.

Exterior Paint

Exterior paint tends to be water based due to environmental regulations. However, while in the past these types of paints did not offer the same quality and durability, most paint companies offer formulators in a range of acrylic, water based resins that have similar performance as oil based paints. The added benefit is that water based paints are always easier to clean up and have very low odor.

Consult with a paint specialist about the different features of the exterior paints, but be wary of the phrase "never paint again." Especially with exterior paint, you will have to paint again, but the quality and type of paint can impact how soon you will have to.

Choose the Right Brushes and Rollers

Make sure you have brushes and rollers that are conducive to the kind of paint you plan to use and the kind of painting job you are facing. Natural bristle brushes should never be used with latex paint, but a synthetic brush or roller will be fine for latex or oil based paint.

When choosing your brush, make sure it is half as long as it is wide, and that the bristles are slightly longer toward the middle for smoother coverage. The bristles themselves should be split on the ends and be very flexible; otherwise, you will get a spotty, uneven coverage which will result in using more paint.

Smaller brushes are for cutting in and detail work. A small brush will waste paint, time and leave ridges on larger jobs. A brush that is too big, however, will make cutting in your corners and painting along woodwork difficult. With rollers, a short nap is suitable for rough texture, while a longer nap is best for smooth walls. Make sure your roller rebounds when squeezed and that there are no visible seams.

You can find specialized rollers to help with covering pipes or other unusual outcroppings. Pipe rollers come with ridges to help ensure a smooth, even coverage, and woodwork sponges are excellent for keeping the paint where it belongs. Look for varieties with good sponginess and no loose fibers.