A common question I have been asked lately is Should I use a Paint Sprayer for my project? After using it on our latest project - with great success - our predilection has definitely swung in favour of using an Airless Spray Gun. But before you throw your rollers away and rush out and make the investment, here's a summary of the basics and a few key details to help you decide if it will be right for your project.
Why Use a Paint Sprayer
Time. Using an airless paint sprayer is extremely quick to apply paint, far quicker than using a roller or paint brush. For our last project I applied a coat of paint to the entire house in under an hour on my own!
- Finish / Quality. An even paint coat and consistent finish. When used correctly a paint sprayer will provide you with an even and consistent finish to your paintwork. Although this comes with experience and may be arguable if it is better than traditional techniques when you start out.
- Range of use. Paint sprayers can be used on a wide range of surfaces and finishes. Both on interiors and exteriors, smooth and rough materials - they are adaptable.
Why Not use a Paint Sprayer
- Cost. Additional cost to buy or hire a spray gun and materials to complete prep. Generally you go through more paint than you would rolling - this is from paint bouncing off the walls and not being applied and more paint being applied to the walls. Whilst I can't quantify this (and I would expect it to reduce with experience), I roughly estimate that we used 1/3rd more paint.
- Prep and Clean up. Whilst applying the paint is quick, you need to consider the additional time and effort required for prep and cleaning up. When you use an airless sprayer, paint will go everywhere - if using inside you will get a mist cloud of paint which settles on anything and everything. You need to be thorough in your preparation to cover and tape up everything you don't want paint on. After every use of the machine you need to give it a clean, flush out paint from within the pipes, pump, gun and spray tips so it does not dry up within the machine when you stop using it.
- Difficulty. Everyone can feel comfortable dipping a roller into a tray and putting it on a wall, not much can go wrong and what does go wrong is easily fixed. While an expensive machine with multiple parts and new application techniques required to learn can seem daunting. As with anything there is a learning curve - its steep at the start but once understood can become as comfortable as using a brush.
When to Use a Paint Sprayer
Not all projects are suitable for using a paint sprayer and you need to decide if it is best for your job. I am intending to keep using airless spray guns in the future where we are doing a complete house and have time commitments, but I would not do so for every job, here's why.
- Small spaces. Use a roller and brush. The additional time for prep may not end up saving you time.
- Occupied houses. If you're already living in your house, I would recommend sticking to traditional painting. Too much risk damaging existing finishes and time to prep to ensure you contain paint spray, and you would not get the benefits of scale as you would likely be painting one room at a time.
How to Use a Paint Sprayer
Advice on how to use a paint sprayer can be extensive and there are much more qualified people who have written 'How To' guides online so I won't try reinvent the wheel. If you make the decision to use a paint sprayer, the best way to start would be to get a lesson from someone who has experience using one; second and the more likely option, spend some time researching techniques online and watching YouTube videos, there is plenty of resource available to get you started. As well as learning how to apply the paint, its important to understand how the machine works, how it needs to be cleaned and looked after.
An informative start on understanding airless paint spraying and the machine is in a document by Graco called The Basics of Airless Spraying.
What Paint Sprayer should I Use
Our experience to date has been with commercial spray guns - units which a professional painter may use. There is a wide range of smaller and cheaper units - which have their place - but I do not consider are suitable for painting an entire house on a quick timeframe. We have found over time with a variety of products you get what you pay for, so my recommendation is to use the real deal and spend a bit extra for quality. On this project we initially shopped around and hired a cheap unit ($150 for 5 days) and while it looked adequate it didn't get through the first coat of paint and had to be returned almost immediately. To hire a professional unit is more expensive (around $250 per day from reputable hire companies) but will give you the assurance you need. We used a Graco airless sprayer while we were on The Block and proved to be a fantastic choice and have also hired from Kennard's.
To Spray or Not to Spray? I can't make up your mind for you, but trust that this will answer any initial questions to help you decide.