Want To Paint Your House? Make Sure You Have the Right Brush
Any painter knows good groundwork and the right equipment are the secret to successful paint jobs.
AFTER filling, sanding and cleaning, pause before flipping open a fresh can of paint and loading up a brush or roller. What you use to apply that gorgeous new colour makes the difference between a first-rate finish and one that screams bad DIY.
Take these tips for brushing up on your painting know-how.
Start squeaky clean Using brushes with stiff, shaggy-dog bristles clogged with remnants of a previous colour, rather than buying a new tool for the job, is a false economy. Clean them up before you start, or invest in new brushes.
Resurrect synthetic brushes caked with water-based paint by soaking in very hot water with a little detergent. Rinse well, reshape by hand, wrap bristles in kitchen paper and hang to dry. Follow clean-up directions for brushes previously used with oil-based paints. Brush combs for removing paint residue and realigning bristles are sold at paint stores.
Size up the job Are you tackling a bedroom wall, a narrow trim, an entire room, or just touching up a shabby cabinet? Let the area to be painted guide you to the best brush width.
Large, flat areas such as walls: 100+ millimetres, usually called “wall” brushes.
Tip: If you’re new to painting or have small hands, an 88-100 millimetre brush on a large wall may tire your wrist and arm. Go for a brush around 75 millimetres.
Pick a bristle DIYers often ask whether natural or synthetic bristles work best:
Natural bristle brushes, mostly hog, ox or badger, are typically more expensive than synthetic ones and are used for oil-based paints, varnishes and shellacs. Don’t use for
water-based (latex) paints, as they absorb water from the paint, softening and changing shape. This also affects the composition of the paint and may cause “tramlines”.
Nylon bristles are very soft and give a smooth finish with few visible brush marks. They soften further in hot weather, which may make them hard to control.
Polyester bristles are stiffer and give better control for fine detailing. They are only suitable for water-based paints.
Nylon/polyester blends will outlast natural bristle by a long way, and are recommended for both oil- and water-based paints. They are great all-rounders, combining the softness of nylon with the stiffness of polyester for a versatile medium-flex brush.
Go for quality For silky smooth application with minimal visible brush strokes and ease of use, quality counts. Here’s what to look – or look out – for: Shedding: Do the tug test. Ruffle up the bristles and pull firmly. If any come out, don’t buy. Density: Closely packed bristles mean the brush holds more paint and you don’t need to load up as often. Taper: A good brush with better control is thicker at the ferule (the metal strip at the base of the bristles) than the tips. Flagging: Flagged bristles have split ends, which means the brush holds more paint. Natural bristles flag naturally – “flagged” tips in a synthetic brush indicate quality.
Don’t mix brushes Water-based paints are popular with home painters for their fast drying time, low odour and easy clean-up. Solvent-based (oil-based or alkyds) have excellent surface adhesion, but dry more slowly and have a stronger smell. Clean-up requires solvents and careful disposal of rags. Their different chemical properties mean it’s best to use dedicated brushes for each type.
Discard or recycle Sometimes a paint job is so messy and clean-up so arduous it’s easier and cheaper to throw a brush away, often the case when using primers, varnishes, glues and epoxies. One type of disposable brush is the “chip” brush, a square-cut natural bristle brush cheap enough to toss after use. At the price, disposables aren’t designed to last. They save time on clean up and the cost of cleaning chemicals, but don’t expect a fine, high-quality top coat result.
Tip: Foam brushes don’t last and are best for small, quick jobs and craft projects.
As responsible recyclers, we should be minimising the non-degradable material we throw out. With some time and effort, a well-maintained, medium- to high-quality brush will see you through multiple projects. Brushes truly past their prime can have useful lives as
nook-and-cranny dusters or can be donated to schools, workshops or an artist or art school in your area. Or maybe your kids would like to do a creative job like this on your front fence!