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How To Use a Paint Roller

Rolling paint is pretty simple, but most people never learn the proper technique for using a roller. Sure, you can get the paint onto the wall, but the proper technique will improve your results. The right technique will help you to avoid drips, lap marks and uneven coverage.

The basics of how and when to use a roller are covered here. We also have articles covering more advanced techniques. Get professional results, check out our tips from the pros.

The Basics of Painting with a Roller

Rollers are the best choice when covering a large area of flat wall. It is a very fast and relatively easy way to repaint. Rollers are used in conjunction with a brush because a brush is still the proper tool for cutting in edges, painting trim and uneven surfaces.

Most rollers are synthetic and so can be used with either latex or oil-based paints. There are some natural fiber rollers and those should be used with oil-based paints only. Next is the roller nap, the coarser the surface to be painted, the longer the nap must be. Most light textured interior walls use a 3/8" nap. The most common exterior textures, like stucco or masonry require a 3/4" nap.

Before rolling, you should use a brush to paint all the edges, such as around windows, doors, the transition to the ceiling or other walls if they are not being painted. Paint the edges out to about 2 to 4 inches. This will allow you to roll paint on without getting paint where you don't want it.

Pour out enough paint into the roller tray to at least cover the bottom of the smooth portion of the roller tray. Roll the roller into the paint until you coat the entire roller. Roll off any excess paint on the bumpy or ridges part of the tray. When you lift up the roller, it should not be dripping or trailing paint.

Start on the upper half of the wall and make diagonal strokes to make a large "W". Now go back over the "W" to fill it in. Work from the top of the wall, down. Continue painting from the wet edge of the paint into the unpainted wall. If you allow a section to dry before painting the area next to it, lap marks may result. Keep painting until you reach a natural stopping point, such as a corner or a door frame.

Once the roller starts making lots of sticky noise, it is time to reload it with more paint. If you are pushing hard on the roller to spread the paint, it is also time to reload with more paint. If you use the right amount of paint and reload frequently, you can often cover a wall in just one coat. Of course coverage is also a factor of paint quality, material being painted and if you using a different color than the one being covered.

Adding an extension to the roller handle makes rolling walls and ceilings much easier. You might want to invest in an adjustable length extension or just choose an 18" and a 60" to use depending upon the task.

Read about the proper technique for using a paint brush.

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