Best DIY Painting Tools
We’ve got a crew of dedicated DIYers here at the magazine, and we spend a lot of time painting. So we’re always on the lookout for stuff that’ll help us get the job done better and faster. We scour the shelves of paint stores, surf the net, and pick the brains of our painting pros to find the latest and greatest as well as the best classic tools and gear. Here’s this year’s collection of painting gear and supplies.
How can you go wrong spending less than a dollar for a tool that simplifies paint pouring and reduces the mess? This handy spout snaps onto the rim of a gallon or quart can and directs the paint where you want it. Plus it prevents paint from running down the side of the can and creating a mess on the floor or drop cloth. You’ll find these at home centers and paint stores.
Paint Touch-Up in a Pen
Got some dings, scratches or nail holes to touch up? Great. All you have to do is find the old paint can, pry off the lid, stir the paint, find a brush and you’re all set. That’s assuming the paint hasn’t dried out. Or you could keep a Slobproof Paint Pen in your junk drawer and be done in minutes.
When you’re finished painting a room, just load the pen with matching paint and snap on the cap. Later, when you’ve got a ding to touch up, give the pen a few shakes and go to it.
They’re a little spendy. But it’s sure hard to beat the convenience.
Speedy Roller Cleaner
The Rejuv-a-Roller is so easy to use that we don’t mind cleaning roller covers. Instead of buying cheap roller covers and throwing them away, we can buy top-quality covers and reuse them. Here’s how it works: Slip the roller cover into the tube and plug the end. Then connect the hose to a faucet and turn on the water. When the water runs clear from the bottom holes, the roller is clean. If you own a roller spinner, you can speed up drying and fluff the roller nap by giving it a quick spin. But it’s not necessary.
Mini Hand Masker
We’ve tried all kinds of masking tape dispensers. But for a simple, affordable way to speed up your masking, it’s hard to beat this little applicator from Scotch. After you get a few inches of tape stuck down, hold the dispenser against the surface you’re masking and slide it along the wall. Wheels press the tape to the surface, and a built-in cutter slices it off at the end of the run. We applied a straight, accurate line of masking tape along the moldings in this room in record time.
The 3M Scotch-Blue Painter’s Tape Applicator is available at home centers and hardware stores. It’s refillable and comes with Scotch Edge-Lock tape, a special type of masking tape that prevents paint from creeping underneath.
Super-Size Paint Tray
Sure, there are other big paint trays out there, but this one holds an entire gallon of paint. The built-in handles make it easy to move, and the extra-wide, stable base helps prevent spills. And if you hate paint cleanup?who doesn’t??you can buy tight-fitting disposable plastic liners. Look for the Handy Paint Tray at paint stores or online.
Easy-Clean Chinex Brush
The editors here love Chinex bristle paintbrushes. But it’s not just us. Our set builder doesn’t use anything else. And the pros we talked with agree that paintbrushes made with Chinex bristles are nearly perfect. They work equally well for oil-base and water-base paints. But the best feature of Chinex bristles is how easy they are to clean. Many of the new formulations of water-base paint dry quickly and stick tenaciously to other types of synthetic bristles, leaving you with a tough cleanup job. Chinex bristles solve this problem. Paint rinses out easily, giving you a brush that’s ‘like-new’ clean. Corona, Wooster and Purdy make brushes with Chinex bristles.
Sticky Drop Cloth
We like long, narrow drop cloths, or runners. They’re easy to fold and a convenient way to quickly protect the floor alongside the wall you’re painting. So, of course we were excited to see this improvement over the old standby, canvas.
The trouble with canvas drop cloths is that they don’t stay put. Sure, you can tape the edges. But with a 3M Floor Gripper anti-slip runner like this, you don’t have to. The plastic-like material has a slightly tacky surface that keeps the runners in place on wood, tile, concrete or carpet. Plus, the runner is solvent- and puncture-resistant and has a surface that makes it slip-resistant even when wet.
Until we got our hands on one of these Little Giant ladders, we thought they were just another infomercial gimmick. But now that we’ve had a chance to actually use one, we love it.
The Xtreme model 17 shown here is Little Giant’s newest ladder (as of this writing). As on the original Little Giant ladder, each side adjusts independently to give you the option of a 4- to 7-ft. stepladder. Or you can flip it open to make an extension ladder that extends to 17 ft. But one of the best features of these ladders is the ability to adjust the sides independently to different heights for use on stairs and uneven ground. You can also take the ladder apart to create two trestles that can support a work plank.
This model has several enhanced features, including extra-strong Quad-Lock Hinges, a wide Comfort Step and an Airdeck Workstation. If there’s a downside, it’s the cost. If this is beyond your budget, the company makes other less expensive ladders with some of the same features.
Custom-Color Stain Markers
You don’t have to settle for a stain touch-up marker that’s close enough. Get an exact match by loading this Perfect Match Stain Marker with the same stain you used on the project. The pen loads like a syringe. Remove the felt tip, stick the end of the pen into the stain, and pull the plunger back to suck stain into the pen. Remember to stir the stain first. Replace the felt tip and you’ve got a custom-color stain touch-up marker.
One of our pro painting consultants turned us on to this paint bucket, and we think it’s perfect for DIYers, too. We like it because it holds more paint than a tray so you don’t have to refill as often. And unlike a tray, it’s easy to move around without spilling. You’ll find the Wooster 4-gallon paint bucket at some paint stores and online.
Angle Grinder Dust Catcher
We love using our angle grinder as a paint removal tool. But man, is it dusty!
While it’s nearly impossible to catch all the dust, this attachment does a pretty good job. A brush skirt around the perimeter and a spring suspension help seal the DustBuddie to the surface. And the vacuum attachment allows you to collect the dust as it’s produced.
The collector also has a removable segment that allows you to get the grinder in close to edges. Having to drag a vacuum hose along with you as you sand is a little cumbersome. But we haven’t found a better way to catch dust from a grinder.
Lead paint caution: Houses built before 1978 may contain lead paint. Before disturbing any surface, get a lab analysis of paint chips from it. Contact your local public health department on how to collect samples and where to send them.
Two Tips in One
Here’s a great new product for all of you professional painters out there and for homeowners who own airless sprayers. The TR2 Reversible Tip is a new airless spray gun tip by Titan that lets you switch between a wide and a narrow fan spray pattern without changing the tip. Just rotate the tip 90 degrees to change the pattern. Choose the narrow setting for fascias and trim or the narrow spaces around doors and windows. Then switch to the wide pattern for large areas. It’s two tips in one. You’ll find these Titan TR2 tips at paint stores and online.
Pro Results, Nice Price
If you’ve tried other inexpensive spray guns and found them just too noisy and difficult to use, you might want to give this SmartSelect HVLP sprayer from Black & Decker a try.
Large airless sprayers and most of the little handheld sprayers pump paint through the spray tip at high pressure. This allows thick paint to be sprayed but results in a lot of overspray.
HVLP (high-volume, low-pressure) sprayers, on the other hand, use very low pressure. The lower pressure results in less messy and less wasteful overspray. The drawback is that you have to thin most paint to get it to spray. A viscosity cup and instructions are included to help you add the right amount of solvent.
We were impressed that we got flawless results on our first try painting interior trim with this sprayer. This HVLP sprayer is perfect for painting woodwork or doors and finishing furniture. You can spray paint, polyurethane and stain. It’s also great for projects like lattice, shutters or intricate fences that would be hard to paint or stain with a brush. It’s too slow to be good for painting walls or ceilings, though.
Great Little Scraper
Several of us on the TFH staff have old houses and spend a lot of time scraping paint. It isn’t fun, so anything we can do to reduce the pain is a big plus.
That’s why we love this little carbide scraper. The triangular carbide blade stays sharp and has three cutting edges, so you won’t need to replace it for a long time. It’s perfect for cleaning out corners or small areas that are hard to reach with a larger scraper. You can also buy pear-, drop- and round-shaped blades to fit the same handle.
Buy the Bahco 625 Premium Ergonomic Carbide Scraper online or look for it at hardware and woodworking stores.
Caulk in Any Color
Your kitchen wall is Colonial Green. Your new granite countertop is Arctic Blue. Which color caulk are you going to use to seal the backsplash: white, almond or brown? Don’t like those options?
Pick up Sashco’s eXact color kit and mix 1 oz. of leftover wall paint into the eXact color tube, shake it up and you’ve got yourself a tube of Colonial Green caulk.
We tried it with orange paint. It came out a little light at first but matched great once it cured. There will be an air bubble or two, which could cause a splatter, so you might want to tape off each side of the bead and plan on tooling it. You can get a kit at some hardware stores or buy one online.
Better Roller Pole
Some tools you just have to try to believe, and this paint roller pole is one. Press the button and pull back with your other hand. The pole extends in both directions like magic. We wouldn’t think of rolling paint without a pole. And this pole makes the job even easier. With practically no effort, you can adjust the pole from 30 in. to 5 ft. to dial in the perfect length. The Shur-Line Easy Reach extension pole is available at home centers and online.
Painter’s Pants Designed by a Painter
Leave it to a professional painter like Josh Banks to make painter’s pants that really work. He was fed up with pants that wore out and didn’t do anything but cover him up, so he set out to design a pair of top-quality painter’s pants that actually solve problems. And after a few years of prototypes, he succeeded.
The pants have special pockets to hold everything a painter needs, including a handy thigh pocket for your smartphone. But the real clincher is the pair of built-in knee pads. Anyone who’s spent a day filling nail holes in baseboards knows how valuable this feature is. The pads are just right. Not so thick that they’re bulky, but cushy enough to make kneeling comfortable. These pants, from Armed Work Wear, are available online in white, khaki and black.
A Better Edge-Painting Tool
If you don’t paint every day, ‘cutting-in’ a room can be frustrating. It’s no wonder there have been so many attempts over the years to make a tool that simplifies the task. The Accubrush edge-painting tool is one of the best we’ve tried. It makes cutting-in quick and easy. With just a little practice, you can paint perfectly straight lines along ceilings and moldings. You’ll still have to finish some areas with a brush, though, since the tool can’t paint right up to adjacent edges. Connect a pole to the ceiling-edging tool and you can paint along the ceiling without even getting on a ladder
Pro Masking Tool
Mask off baseboards quickly with a hand-masking tool. It applies the tape to the paper and cuts it to the right length with a twist of your wrist. The 3M Hand-Masker is popular with painting contractors because it provides a fast, affordable and convenient way to cover trim or walls with masking tape, paper and plastic to keep the paint off. But these masking machines aren’t just for pros. If you do a lot of painting and are looking for a quick way to protect woodwork, doors, windows and cabinets from paint spatters, have a look. It comes with a 6-in. blade that can be extended to 12 in. These Hand-Maskers hold a roll of masking tape and a roll of paper and apply the tape to the edge of the paper as you pull it out. You use the blade to cut the paper and tape to the desired length. You can even buy a roll of super-thin plastic sheeting and use that instead of paper to cover walls or other large areas. You’ll find 3M Hand-Maskers at paint stores, home centers and online.
Handy Paint Pail
We tried all kinds of paint containers and came to a unanimous conclusion: Nothing beats the Handy Paint Pail because it has a comfortable, stretchy rubber handle that makes the pail easy to hold with one hand. Better yet, a magnetic brush holder lets you suspend the brush in paint when it’s not in use so the bristles don’t dry out. And disposable liners are available so you can avoid the messy job of cleaning the paint pail once you’re done. You’ll find the Handy Paint Pail at home centers, hardware stores and paint stores.
Hot Paint Stripper
Remove old paint with heat instead of chemicals. Stripping paint is tough work no matter how you do it. But we like this tool because it eliminates nasty chemicals and dangerous dust. Old-timers may remember using torches to loosen paint for scraping. The Speedheater uses infrared heat to do the same thing, but at a lower, safer temperature. Then remove the paint with a sharp scraper while it’s still warm. You don’t have to worry about burning down your house or breathing dangerous fumes caused by vaporized lead in the paint. It does get hot, so make sure to follow the instructions and safety precautions carefully.
Easy-Off Roller Frame
There are a lot of roller frames on the market, but we like this one the best. Like other premium roller frames, it’s sturdy, so it doesn’t bend when you apply pressure. And it has better bearing surfaces than cheap frames for easy, squeak-free rolling. But the feature that really sets this roller frame apart is the quick-release springs that hold the roller cover firmly in place while you’re rolling and yet release easily when you want to remove the roller for cleaning. You simply rap the metal frame against the edge of a bucket or laundry tub and the roller cover pops off?no more struggling to get a slippery, paint covered roller cover off the frame. Sherlock frames also have a hexagon recess and holes in the bottom of the handle to accept a matching Sherlock extension pole. You’ll find Sherlock frames at home centers and paint stores.
Quick-Connect Paint Pole
When it’s time to paint, this is the extension pole we fight over. Clip on the roller frame, adjust the length and go. In seconds, you’re rolling walls or ceilings with a pole that’s the perfect length. The quick-connect feature allows you to easily connect and disconnect the roller frame without having to screw and unscrew the pole. In addition, the pole is hexagon-shaped to prevent it from spinning, and is super easy to extend. Just push the button to release. Then pull in or push out the top section until the spring-loaded pin drops into a hole in the pole to lock it in place. The Sherlock GT Convertible shown here (the 2-ft. to 4-ft. size) includes a screw-in adapter that stores in the handle and allows you to convert any roller frame into a quick-connect version. Find Sherlock poles at paint stores, some home centers and online.
Brush and Roller Spinner
Our Field Editors don’t like cleaning up painting gear, so it’s no surprise that this brush and roller spinner is one of their choices for best painting gear. You’ll find roller spinners at any good paint store. A few quick handle pumps is all it takes. But be sure to keep the roller in a bucket or deep sink to avoid a mess.
Most Comfortable Brush
Our Field Editors loved this little brush from Wooster because it’s so darned comfortable to hold. But they also liked being able to get into tight spots where the long handle of a conventional brush would be in the way. You’ll find Wooster ShortCut brushes at paint stores and home centers. Purdy’s XL-Cub is a similar small-handled brush.
Heat Gun Control
‘My old heat gun had just one control—me. I controlled the temp by how far I held the gun from the surface. So I love my new Wagner heat gun.
The fan has five speeds, and the heat can be adjusted from a balmy 120 to a blistering 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. And it has a digital display, so you can dial in exactly the temperature you’re after. I can stoke the heat to bubble away layers and layers of paint, or I can lower it to remove that political bumper sticker I’m now embarrassed to showcase. It can also stand up on its own, which comes in handy for heating shrink tape around wire connections.’
Mark Petersen, Associate Editor
Pro Sprayer, Homeowner Price
‘A paint sprayer can slash the time of many tedious painting projects. The Graco Project Painter Plus is a powerful pro-grade sprayer made by one of the leaders in the field, but it’s priced for homeowners. I used it last year to stain two decks, and it saved me days of work. I especially liked it for staining the underside of a second-story deck; overhead work is a terrible job with a brush.
The Painter Plus comes with a gun and a 25-ft. hose. It’s light and portable and has a flexible supply hose, so you can paint straight from a can or bucket. Cleanup is simple; just flush it with a garden hose. Excellent instructions are included, which is important because sprayers are powerful tools that should be used with care and maintained properly. If you’re in the market for a sprayer, The Project Painter Plus is a great choice.’
Ken Collier, Contributing Editor