Tuesday, February 19, 2013

10 useful house painting tools

This post is for my sister-in-law, Louise, who tells me she wants to paint some of the rooms in her house but has no idea where to start.

Three months ago I was in the same boat, so I began talking to people and taking notes (literally, in the "Notes" app in my iPhone).

We've painted more than half our house since November and I've learned some things along the way.

Today I thought I would talk about the tools I recommend you get your hands on to make painting easier and give you a better result.

1. Sugar Soap concentrate

Mix up a bucket of sugar soap diluted with warm water to wash grease, dirt and fly spots of your walls and ceilings. (Wear gloves.) I bought our sugar soap from Bunnings, but I'm sure lots of places sell it.

2. Ladder

We bought a Gorilla ladder from Bunnings that doubles as scaffolding. I found the scaffolding set-up so useful for reaching our high stud ceilings and doing a long stretch high up at once.

Do be warned, on its ladder setting the Gorilla model is not as comfortable as a regular ladder, because the rungs are thinner and harder on your feet.

My advice is to figure out what type of ladder you're likely to need and buy that. We actually borrowed a regular ladder from our neighbour and used that in combination with the Gorilla so we could have one ladder set up and one scaffolding set up while we did our marathon painting mission in the kitchen, dining room and lounge.

3. Spotlight
We paid about $20 for our spotlight at Bunnings. It was great for highlighting holes in the wall for plastering, and later imperfections in the paint work that needed fixing up. Because the rooms started out so dark, we needed all the extra light we could get to see what we were doing.

4. Plastering float, Plastering trowel and Gib Plus 4 

I found plastering so satisfying. I suddenly had the ability to fix any little hole or crack that had been bugging me for years. I went to town on all the office walls and the ceiling.

Apply a little bit of plaster with one side of the trowel and then scrape most of it off with the other side. You want light coats of plaster so it dries properly. And really, you only want to get plaster in the holes and cracks.

After the plaster has dried, sand it back to get a smooth finish on your walls before painting.

5. Electric sander
We invested in a Makita electric sander and it made fast work of sanding. It made it possible for me to sand all the office walls myself after plastering them. I can only imagine how tiring that would have been by hand.

6. Linbide Tungsten Scraper
Using a Tungsten Scraper is the quickest way to remove chipping paint from a window frame. Scrape off any paint that's coming away easily, and then sand the edges to get a smooth transition between any bare wood and remaining paint.

7. A good cutting in brush
I had mixed advice on this one. Some people told me only to use natural hair 30mm cutting in brushes, so that's what I got for the girls' bedroom - the first room we painted. It was terrible. I couldn't cut in without making a huge mess, so we ended up masking the whole room to get a neat edge on scotias, skirting and the pink feature wall.

To do the kitchen, living room and dining room I bought a 50mm angled acrylic Contour ABC brush on a whim and it was so good I went back to Bunnings for two more so Kim, Brendan and I would stop fighting over the one good one we had.

We didn't need any masking tape after getting the good brush.

8. Drop cloths
Old thermal backed curtains work well. Otherwise you can buy drop cloths from hardware stores like Bunnings.

They come in three different qualities: 1. Really thin plastic, 2. Pretty thin plastic, 3. Proper painters' canvas drop cloths. I went for eight option 2s but they ripped and got tangled under ladders so next time I would invest in a couple of the more expensive option 3s and be done with it.

9. Good rollers and extension handles
I bought my rollers from Resene because I wanted good quality. They were great.

The quality of the nap (fluffy bit) on a roller is really important. You don't want it too thick or you'll hold heaps of paint in the roller and not be able to get it all out onto your wall. Thick naps also tend to splatter more and don't give such a neat finish.

I bought rollers that could fit an extendable handle, since we have such high walls. I actually found it was easier to roll lower down using the long handle too, as I had more leverage and it wasn't as tiring on my arms.

My recommendation would be to get good rollers with extendable handles no matter what.

To clean them, take the nap off the roller and stand it up in a sink with water running slowly into it for about 15 minutes. If you're going to use the roller with the same colour paint in the next couple of hours, cover it with a plastic bag to prevent the paint drying out and save on washing up.

10. Old honey pots and a vivid
You don't want to be lugging huge tins of paint around when you're clambering on ladders.

Just half fill an old honey container with the paint you need, label it with the kind of paint it is using a vivid, and dip your cutting in brush into that instead. Much easier to cart around and you won't dry out the paint in your large tin by having it open for too long.

Since honey pots come with lids, you can seal them up when not using them and keep the paint fresh until you need it again.


  1. I have enjoyed reading this blog. It is both instructional and interesting. I'm still looking for the suggestion regarding home redesign, home painting and home decorating with the unique touch. Thanks!

  2. Some great ideas in here Emma, especially the spotlight, it can be so hard to see every flaw when painting, but I can always see them later on (and it bugs me). I will be showing this one to pete.

  3. Thanks for share this very useful post. Painting a house is no easy endeavor, but the job can be made easier if you use the proper house painting tools. Selecting what color to paint is the easiest step in the house painting process.

  4. Thanks for the pointer to the cutting-in brush for trim and skirtings.
    The Makita sander you bought (BO3710) is overlooked by many people but is v.good at dust collection and low vibration and light to use - see the many ++++ reviews on amazon.com

  5. Thanks for the great post! There's defiantly more to painting then meets the eye.... I think I've successfully talked myself into paying for a professional. Can anyone recommend a good one? I'm based in Auckland New Zealand....

  6. Thanks Emma! I'm sure Louise will have no problems if she follows your advice.

  7. Thanks for the great article but looks like a lot of work for me I might just find a painter Auckland

  8. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm doing some research on painting. What do you think about paint sprayer? I think it is very useful.

  9. Great information on painting tools. I needed to get some tools because I want to paint some of my old things. Now I guess I found them. Thanks for your useful post.

  10. Wow. I like your ideas, especially 1,4 and 9. It's very useful.

  11. I almost have enough house painting tools, except 8,10 . I will add soon.

  12. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I found a lot of useful information here.

  13. I couldn't agree more on the spotlight! Seems like a very basic tool but not everybody has it.


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