Choosing the Right Paintbrush for the Job

Painting is part of every construction professional’s work. Getting it right can really show off your work well, but getting it wrong can cause expensive callbacks and dissatisfied customers. Getting a finish that looks like it’s been sprayed on takes careful preparation and execution. Choosing the right paintbrush is the key to success.

Handle: Be sure that your brush has a comfortable handle to avoid cramps over time. If you can’t grip the brush comfortably, it will show in your brushstrokes. Perfect brushstrokes are what make a good finish, so opt for unfinished handles as they offer better grip.

Cheaper brushes with plastic handles are good for applying oils or products that aren’t easy to clean and will mean you throw out the brush afterwards.

Ferrule: This is the metal section that connects the bristles to the handle. When choosing a brush, look for one with a wooden or cardboard spacer (called a plug) in the ferrule which divides the bristles into two sections. The plug (there can be more than one) holds the paint and enables it to flow to the tips of the bristles.

Bristles: Synthetic bristles are the norm these days as natural-hair bristles swell when used with water-based finishes, rendering them unusable. You want a blend of synthetic nylon and polyester. All-nylon brushes are too flexible while all-polyester options are too stiff.

Your brush should be able to change shape to fit into difficult spaces, but should always return to the original shape. Brushes that are tipped (shaved to a sharp point) are great for spreading paint effectively.

Shape is the most important factor, and this is determined by the ferrule design. When the ferrule has square corners, the bristles hold less paint than ferrules with rounded corners. The square corner ferrule design is perfect for cutting or for small surfaces that don’t need a lot of paint.

An oval ferrule design allows for large volumes of paint so it’s great for covering large areas where precision or cutting isn’t required.

Width: Brushes are sized in 1/2-inch increments, from 1 to 4 inches. Choose the right size brush for the task at hand. If it is too big, you won’t be able to do exact cutting. Brushes that are too small will take up valuable time and leave brush streaks in your finish.

Angled-bristle brushes are better for cutting and edges while straight or flat-bristle brushes are best for painting large, flat surfaces. Straight brushes leave fewer bristle marks. Surfaces that are smooth and clean are also less likely to show brush strokes.

Painting Techniques

Dip the brush either ½ to 2/3 in the tin and gently tap on two sides of the can. Wiping the brush on the rim will put most of the paint back in the can and will mean the paint isn’t evenly distributed on the paintbrush.

Caring for your Paintbrushes

Properly cleaning your paintbrushes will mean that you get more ware out of them. If you have to buy fewer paintbrushes, you can spend more on each one and get better paint finishes. Never let paint dry on the brush. If you want to take a break while painting, get a paint tin magnet which attaches to the side of the tin and allows you to suspend the brush in the paint.

Get as much of the paint off the brush and onto your painting surface as you can in order to minimize cleanup. Fill a bucket with 3 quarts of water and press the brush down onto the bottom. Then squeeze the bristles to loosen the paint. Rinse the brush and shake excess water out. Be sure that the bristles are dry before you start painting again.

Always dispose of your paint and cleaning solutions responsibly. Do not throw them out on the jobsite or into septic tanks where they can affect the bacteria that breaks down waste. Instead, contact your local municipality for a drop off site or pick-up service to dispose of harmful or toxic materials.

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