It’s not often that Sean lends his voice to the blog. He’s more of the strong and silent type when it comes to blogging… but he (well, we) learned SO much while painting our cabin recently and realized just how much this post needed to be shared! Our hope is that this guide will help you learn how to use a paint sprayer with confidence! I know it seems daunting, but it really isn’t once you know what you’re doing. Keep in mind that we are DIY home renovators who are learning as we go — definitely not professional painters. Let’s dig into all the details!
All About How (and Why) to Use a Paint Sprayer
Why we chose to spray paint instead of roll
There are quite a few benefits to spraying paint instead of using traditional painting methods. Spraying paint is a totally different mindset than rolling or using a brush because most of the time and energy goes into properly prepping the space. That means using plastic, paper, and tape to cover anything you do not want painted — and being very careful and detail oriented while doing so! For us, there were a few main reasons why we chose to spray paint instead of rolling:
Our ceiling reaches 15′ high, so using a roller would have been incredibly difficult, time consuming, and messy. Just think of all the splatter! Plus, we’d have to essentially build scaffolding in order to paint our ceiling as opposed to standing on a ladder with the extended spray nozzle. My arms are tired just thinking about it!
The amount of surface area needing to be painted
Another reason we chose to spray paint is because we were basically painting half of the house the same colors and it’s a very open space. Spraying paint allowed us to efficiently paint this big space all in one fell swoop.
An investment in future renovations
To us, this is a really big house. It’s a 4 bed, 2 bath and 2000 sqft. We have a LOT of painting to do… so investing in a paint sprayer made sense for us — especially since we also need to paint the exterior of the cabin and the exterior of our shop space/garage. I encourage you to consider how many other projects you could tackle before investing in a sprayer. It could also make sense for you to simply rent one!
Is it faster to use a paint sprayer?
Honestly… I don’t know the answer to this from our experience because we had so many debacles (a wind storm knocking down a tree, losing power and plumbing for several days, etc). My guess is that yes, it is actually faster because it only took about 30 minutes to paint the entire living room! The real time-consuming part is preparing to spray. That is where the actual investment in time is greater. It probably took us 2-3 days to get everything taped off, masked, and covered in plastic. That includes all of our windows, skylights, the upstairs walkway/catwalk, doors, and anything else we didn’t want painted.
But once you’ve done all the preparation, spraying is so much faster and way easier. I found it to be way less physical because you’re not constantly getting your paint in the roller, rolling paint over your head, etc. Considering that my sciatica was acting up during this entire project, I am really glad we chose a less-physical method of painting!
Here is a breakdown of all the paint spraying equipment, tools, and materials we used:
- Graco Magnum 257025 Project Painter Plus Paint Sprayer
- Graco 243104 Pump Armor, 1-Quart
- Graco 287019 10-Inch Extension Pole for Airless Paint Spray Guns
- Multi-position ladder
- Tyvek suit
- Full face respirator
- Dunn-Edwards Premium Masking Film 48 in. x 180 ft.
- Dunn-Edwards Premium Masking Film 72 in. x 90 ft.
- Dunn-Edwards Original Orange Premium Painter’s Masking Tape
- D-E HD Clear Plastic Sheeting 12 ft. x 400 ft. 0.31 mil
- Box of rags
- ScotchBlue Sharp Lines Multi-Surface Painter’s Tape — 1″, 1.5″ and 2″
- Easy Mask 12 IN. X 180 FT. Brown General Purpose Masking Paper
- 5 gallon buckets, at least 3
- Putty knife
- Razor blade scraper tool
How to prep for spraying paint
Patch holes and sand
As with any painting project, you have to prepare your wall surface first. Our walls were in pretty bad shape and had many dings, scratches, and damage. It took me about 2-3 days to patch all the holes, let it cure, sand it down, and then patch more etc etc. But it is SO worth it, in my opinion.
Honestly, to me this is the most important step. I am fanatical about getting a nice, smoothly painted wall. So if you don’t take the step of cleaning right before you paint, you will end up with hair, dirt, and dust stuck in the paint! I literally went over every baseboard, windowsill, and wall with a rag and all purpose cleaner right before we painted… and then also used the shop vac on all of them + the ceiling!
Once you’re happy with the way your walls look and feel, you have the option of priming. We did not prime our walls. Instead, we only primed areas where we had raw wood (check out this post to learn about the different primers we used). You can also use primer over larger patches so that they match the texture of your existing walls. To do this, I highly recommend using a roller so that the texture matches. We used the paint sprayer machine to prime our dining room ceiling, but used a brush for other smaller areas.
We went through about 12 rolls of tape all told. We taped everything. To prep our wood and timber pieces, we first put down a line of tape as close to the edge of the drywall as possible. We used 1” or 1.5” tape for this. Then we went over that with either masking paper or plastic sheeting and used another line of tape to secure that to the original tape, about .5” in from the edge. We used 1” or 1.5” tape for this, too. This layered technique helped us protect the exposed wood while also getting a clean tape line.
We did the same technique for windows and doors and specifically used masking paper for those parts since it was easier to work with than the plastic. You can use this technique for baseboards as well. As for the floor, we did the same tape/paper trick, but then taped a plastic layer on it as well. For this, I highly recommend using a thicker gauge plastic and wider, heavier duty tape (the orange one linked above). We did this to cover the entire floor.
And lastly, you want to make sure to invest in really good tape as to prevent seeping and bleeding paint. Oh, and get more rolls of tape than you anticipate needing!
Masking with paper was so easy, made clean up a breeze, and prevented wet paint from getting through. We used paper to wrap the timber beams in the dining room, for example. To do this, we cut 4’ lengths of it and taped them on one by one using the technique I just described. Then added another piece with a few inches overlapping. It was awesome for protecting the exposed wood!
To protect anything that is oddly shaped, we used plastic. The sheeting was also good for covering furniture and the upstairs banisters. Just make sure to tape the edges together so that overspray doesn’t sneak underneath.
We removed all of the doors in order to get the best coverage possible on door jambs and frames. To paint them, we ended up setting up an area in a spare room that is also under construction and painting them separately. Since we did this in the middle of winter, we did it inside but would much rather have done it outside!
How to Use a Paint Sprayer
No matter which paint sprayer you ultimately use, always read the directions for that machine ahead of time! The Graco paint sprayer we own literally came with a laminated one-page manual that we kept on hand at all times! This is an overview of the general steps you’d follow to spray paint:
- Prime the sprayer: this helps the sprayer properly suck in paint instead of an air bubble
- Submerge the suction tube in the paint: once you’ve primed, adjust your set up so that the gallon of paint is in a bucket and the suction tube is fully covered by paint. Keep an extra piece of wood in there to help tip the paint can on it’s side as you go through paint to keep it submerged.
- Test that it’s set up correctly by spraying into the waste bucket a few times
- Adjust the pressure control knob and test to ensure that the spray is even and without gaps at the edges.
- Begin spraying: our manual has a helpful illustration but basically you want to spray about 12” from the surface and aim to overlap each stroke by 50%
- Clean up: run the machine in the cleaning set up so that the excess runs back into the paint can and then run water through it to clean the machine. Dismantle the sprayer and wash each component after every use to prevent build up of old paint.
- Storage: use the pump armor to fully prepare the machine for storage. We haven’t done this step yet because we’re about to spray the bedroom next!
Helpful tips & tricks
And lastly, here are a few more tips to help you successfully spray paint in your home:
- Have a helper — it was so much easier when I helped Sean manage the paint sprayer’s tube so he could focus on spraying
- Do thin, even coats to avoid sagging and drips
- Be sure to allow the paint to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the can before taping and masking over it. Each paint product has a different dry down time.
- Remember that paint typically needs 10-14 days to fully cure
- When covering your floor, try to get the plastic as smooth as possible. Nothing is worse than tripping when you have wet paint on hand!
- Pay attention to the temperature of your space. You may notice we have a few heaters on while painting — that’s because we lost power and knew the house needed to be at least warm in order to allow the paint to spray properly and smoothly.
Did we miss anything?? If you have any additional questions, leave a comment and we’ll do our best to answer!