Before choosing one or the other, know what you're getting into.

By Nancy Mattia
July 10, 2020
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In the world of painting a home's interior, the roller method reigns supreme. It's so easy, anyone could do it. There's no complicated setup: Just prime the wall, paint, let dry, paint again, let dry again, and you're done.

An alternative painting method is using a sprayer, and it takes much less time. The downside: You won't have a clue as to how to use it. Should you try it anyway? Rick Watson, director of product information and technical services at Sherwin-Williams, strongly recommends that if you have no experience using an airless sprayer, you must review and be well-versed in its safety procedures before taking on the job. Here, we explain the differences between a roller and sprayer so that you can decide which is better for you.

Equipment Needed

For roll painting a wall, you will need a nine-inch roller, an extension pole (if painting the ceiling), a paint tray, painter's tape to mask off areas you don't want to get splattered with paint, and drop cloths. This is the most affordable option. For a sprayer, you will need a sprayer (which is more costly), painter's tape, drop cloths, and a face mask.

Ease of Use

A roller is beginner-friendly, so no previous experience is needed. When it comes to a sprayer, you'll need to learn how to use the sprayer safely and effectively, which can be time-consuming.

Number of Coats

With a roller, you need to prime walls before painting and a second coat of paint is highly recommended. Comparatively, in using a sprayer, there's usually no need for a second coat. "But even with a perfect spraying technique," says Watson, "it's often recommended to back-roll to hide imperfections or to provide a smooth, attractive finish." ("Back-rolling" means to use a paint roller to press the paint just applied into the wall.)

Cautions

When using a roller, be careful if using a ladder. When using a sprayer, always wear a face mask or respirator while spraying. Be aware of dangers; for example, the high pressure generated by an airless sprayer could pierce your skin and inject toxins into the body, says Watson.

Time Required

A roller will take the better part of a day, then part of the next day. Compare this to the expediency of a sprayer—once you get the hang of it, painting may only take a few hours.

Cleanup

Painting with a roller is easy and so is the cleanup. Once you're done for the day, clean brushes with a garden hose or in sink. However, cleaning a sprayer can be time-consuming. You have to constantly clean the sprayer to prevent clogs.

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