Rollers have been around since the early 1940s and have become the standard applicator for interior painting because they can put a lot of paint on a lot of wall in a short time. You can spread about three times as much paint on a surface with a roller as with a brush in the same amount of time.
Rollers come in various widths -- 71/2 and 9 inches are standard, with the 9-inch model suitable for most interior wall and ceiling jobs. Wider rollers (14 to 18 inches) make painting go quickly in large rooms, but the extra weight can be more tiring. Smaller rollers come in handy for trim and corner work. You'll also find a variety of power rollers -- self-feeding rollers with a continuous supply of pressure-fed paint or manual-fill types for very large paint jobs.
Roller nap or pile
The cover material on a roller is called the nap or pile. Use synthetic covers (usually made of polyester) when applying latex paints, and covers with natural fibers (usually lamb's wool or mohair) for oil-base paints. When using oil-base paints, check the cover core to make sure it won't be weakened by the solvents in the paint. The wrong roller cover core could be softened significantly during the paint job.
Roller covers come with varying nap lengths.
In general, smoother surfaces require a shorter nap; rougher surfaces require a longer nap. And the higher the gloss level of the paint, the shorter the nap.
- On drywall, smooth plaster, wood, or metal, use 1/8- to 1/4-inch nap.
- On light-textured stucco, concrete, or rough wood, use 3/8- to 1/2-inch nap.
- On heavy-textured stucco, concrete block, or brick, use 3/8- to 1-inch nap.
A quality roller cover will produce the best results. As with brushes, there are several ways to identify a quality roller:
- Make sure the roller cover has no obvious seams, which can cause streaks in the applied paint.
- Pull lightly on the pile. It should have few loose fibers.
- A roller cover must hold its shape. Squeeze the roller cover (off the frame) to get an idea of how resilient it is. This will also let you know whether it has a consistency throughout or whether it has irregularities across its surface.
- With the cover on the frame, the roller should feel balanced and fit comfortably in your hand.
- The handle and frame should be stout to ensure strength and durability. Economy handles and frames often bend easily.
- Roller frames come in a variety of styles. U-shape frames are generally sturdier.
- When choosing frames, be sure to select those that are sealed on the ends to help keep the paint on the roller.
- A quality roller cage holds its shape and transfers pressure evenly across the roller cover. Cages with more spokes are stronger and provide more support than models with only a few spokes.
With many new homes featuring two-story foyers and family rooms, an extension handle is a great asset. For rolling ceilings or high walls, 18- to 25-foot extension poles are available at paint stores or home centers.
Power rollers apply paint with little effort. The paint is pumped through the roller, so there's no overspray or dripping. Power rollers offer fingertip control of the paint supply. Once you get the hang of it, you can cover a room quickly. Handle extensions allow you to paint high walls and ceilings.