Paint Rollers 101

Ranking right up there in importance to the paint quality and brush quality in your painting project is the roller quality.  Rollers can make easy work of large areas to be painted, as well as making ceiling work a piece of cake.  But if you skimp on paint roller covers when you’re redecorating, the end result will show.

Not only do cheap rollers shed, and you end up with little bits of it in the dried paint, but you may end up making more work for yourself by having to do a second coat.

Types of Rollers

There are two types of rollers materials, natural and synthetic.  Synthetic roller covers are made of nylon or polyester and are used for latex paints.  They hold their shape and usually give a better finish.  Natural roller covers are made from fibers such as wool or even mohair.  They’re generally used for oil-based paints.  Blended rollers of both natural and synthetic fibers are multipurpose for all types of paints.

Pile / Nap Length

Nap length of a roller is important for proper coverage.  The smoother the surface, the shorter the nap should be.  Longer nap picks up and applies more paint.

  • ¼ inch nap is best for the smoother surfaces such as metal
  • 3/8 and ½ inch nap is best for drywall;
  • ¾ inch nap is best for wood and lightly textured surfaces.
  • 1 inch nap is for rough surfaces such as a more textured ceiling;
  • 1-1/2 inch nap is generally used for concrete block.

Roller Length

Standard roller covers are nine inches in length.  There are also shorter rollers available for smaller areas, such as 3 inch and 4 inch.  I use 3 inch rollers for windows, doors and trims.  They’re easier to control and I like the smooth finish.  The only problem with the smaller rollers is that there are not as many roller cover options available to fit the frames.

Another good tip for roller covers, when you’re taking a break of longer than 10 minutes, wrap it in a plastic bag so it won’t dry out.  It will be ready, willing and able to be reused if it’s kept in plastic, even after several hours.

I personally don’t use top of the line roller covers.  I hate cleaning them, it takes forever, so I throw them away after the job is done.  I tend to buy the mid priced range of covers, usually a polyester knit, since I use primarily latex paints. 

If your budget decorating project involves painting, choosing mid priced supplies will get you the quality you need in residential painting, without spending too much.