Don't brush off the tools

You've invested in top-quality paint, and have painstakingly prepped and primed your home for a fantastic paint job, so this is no time to skimp on tools. "You've spent $30 or even $50 on a gallon on paint, so don't buy a 99 cent brush," said Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert at the Paint Quality Institute, an industry group based in Philadelphia.

The reasons will become obvious soon enough:

The fly in the oinment The filaments from a cheap brush will almost surely slough off in the paint. The same is true with rollers. The fuzz from a cheap cover will be part of your paint job if you take the lowest-cost route. In addition, cheap filaments do not stand the test of time. The paint gets wicked up in the fibers which tends to damage the brush even after a single use.

The cost of doing business It's also important not to short change yourself on the number or sizes of brushes for the job (and make sure your painter doesn't either if you're hiring someone else for the job.) High-end synthetic brushes can cost $20 to $25 each, while top-of the-line roller covers can run up to $12..

Stick with synthetics Softer brushes with natural hog bristles are still the tool of choice for oil-based paints, but as the majority of exterior painting are now done with Latex or acrylic paint with little or no volatile organic compounds, synthetic brushes have become the standard. These water-based paints require a stiffer brush that pushes out the paint more efficiently than natural fibers do. "Latex coatings dry more quickly so you need a brush that works the paint in easily," said Keith Cornelius, who helps develop brushes for the Wooster Brush Co., a leading paint supply manufacturer in Ohio.

Check for tapering Cornelius noted that brushes perform more effectively when the filaments are tapered but solid. "The tapering helps the paint to flow better off the end." And while the ends of natural bristles are typically flagged, or split like the ends of a human hair, this design isn't ideal for quicker-drying water-based paint because is slows down the release of the paint. Tapered ends are also good for cut-in control when you need to make a straight line where the base of a wall meets the trim.

Get some of each Most effective exterior paint jobs require a combination of rollers and brushes. Rollers allow you to get a lot more paint on the wall at a time, but it's helpful to back brush across what you just painted for a smooth finish.

Ergonomic innovations

There's no way around it. Applying paint is an arduous job, and since no robot has come along yet that can ably take over the task, consider using brushes and rollers with the virtues of ergonomic handles. The engineering has evolved to make the job more comfortable for human hands. Ergonomic handles are typically made of a rubberized material that's softer to the touch and easier to grip. Wooster's Shortcut is shorter and more flexible than conventional brushes. Cornelius says that people with arthritis have reported that such styles are more comfortable to use since the handle fits entirely within most peoples' hands rather than hanging out the back of the hand.

For more comfortable and efficient paint rolling, Purdy, a major paint tool company in Cleveland, offers a 9-inch cageless roller frame with a notably smoother rolling action since there's no "thumping" on the surface as you roll. It also features an ergonomic grip handle. Wooster's Flip Frame rolling device easily adjusts into four different positions with the touch of a button for better access to painting surfaces.

Indeed, many DIYers don't consider the fragility of their backs during a big job like house painting. It seems simple enough, but not enough amateurs remember to pour paint from the can into a smaller bucket that's lighter and easier to carry around as needed. Wooster' Pelican Pail includes a rubber grip handle and can hold both a brush and roller. Disposable liners for the pail make color changes a cinch.

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