Know Thy Tools



6. The mark of a good brush
Bristles should be "flagged": tapered, —split, and arranged in multiple lengths to form a slim tip. Synthetic ones—especially a mix of nylon and polyester, like DuPont's Chinex—hold and release latex paints exceptionally well. (It's best to reserve natural bristles for oil-based finishes; water-based paints make them swell and lose their shape.) Unfinished hardwood handles are easier to grip with sweaty hands, and copper or stainless-steel ferrules won't rust after you've washed the brush. You'll want at least one 21/4-inch angled sash brush for cutting in trim, and one 3-inch brush for cutting in walls and ceilings.

Buy the best ones that you can find—a good brush will generally run you $12 to $15. "People think nothing of spending $10 to go to a movie," says John Hone, owner of Hone Painting and Restoration in Caldwell, New Jersey. "But they put themselves through torture trying to paint with cheap equipment."

7. Size matters
Your local home center or hardware store offers lots of standard 9-inch roller cages and covers for painting walls, but they're not the only size to consider. Small foam rollers are good for door panels and wainscoting, and 14- and even 18-inch rollers hold enough paint to allow you to cover a lot of area faster—handy if you have a high-ceilinged great room to get color on. "Manufacturers make larger rollers, and there are people buying them," says Chicago's Mario Guertin, president of Painting in Partnership. "But only the educated ones."



8. A better sandpaper
Look for black sandpaper coated with silicon carbide—it won't gunk up as quickly as the standard-issue brown kind, so it'll last longer. Foam sanding sponges covered with the same stuff allow you to sneak into corners and evenly wrap around rounded trim—plus, they're reusable. Just wring them out in water to clean them, then use them damp to trap more of the dust.

Which grit to pick? Use a medium grit (100 or 120) when you're prepping walls that are already in decent shape; a coarser 60 or 80 grit to take the edges off paint that is chipped or peeled. Very fine (200 or 220 grit) sandpaper is best for smoothing surfaces between coats of paint.
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