Airless Paint Sprayer Tips for Exterior Paint Jobs
There’s no more efficient way to deliver paint onto a surface than with an airless spray painter. And the smooth, even finish that sprayers deliver just can’t be matched with a brush or roller. Here are some insider pro tips you won’t read about in the operator’s manual for your paint sprayer.
Adjust the Sprayer, Starting with Low Pressure
The thickness of the paint will determine the proper pressure setting on the sprayer. Start with the pressure on low and make a pass on a scrap piece of cardboard or rosin paper. If the pressure is too low, the spray pattern will be uneven and there'll be “fingers” on the edges. Keep upping the pressure until you get a nice, even spray pattern with a consistent edge. If the pressure is all the way up and the pattern is still weak, you may have to go up one tip size.
Keep the Sprayer Gun Perpendicular to the Wall
To achieve a consistent layer of paint, the tip of the sprayer should be held about 12 in. from the surface and the gun should always remain perpendicular to the wall. This technique is the foundation for a professional finish. It seems tricky at first, but after only a few passes you'll be painting like a pro. Practice on a low-visibility wall until you get the hang of it.
Tape off Windows and Doors
Before you crack open that first bucket of paint, tape off your windows and doors. We prefer the dispensers that roll out the tape and plastic at the same time. You can buy a high-end dispenser, like the 3M M3000K shown, online or at paint stores. More basic models can be purchased at home centers. Only the face of the trim needs to be protected.
Keep a Lid on It
Always keep the lid on the paint bucket. Just remove the small cap and stick the intake tube into the smaller hole. This will keep debris out of the paint and prevent clogs. Plus, an open bucket dries out faster, and dried clumps of paint can also clog the works. Always use a 5-gallon bucket. If your project only requires 3 gallons, pour that amount into an empty 5-gallon bucket and draw your paint from that.
Use a Shield to Get Closer
If you plan to spray your soffits, do that first. When it comes time to paint the walls, use a shield to protect the soffits from overspray. The pros use shields like this one, but you could get by with a sturdy piece of cardboard. The same trick works with the foundation, electric meters or whatever else you don't want to mess up with overspray. And the shield doesn't have to be precisely positioned; you can come back and clean up the line with your brush.
Overlap 50 Percent
Overlap the pattern by about 50 percent. Release the trigger at the end of each pass. Start the gun in motion before pulling the trigger. If you start spraying with a stationary gun, you'll get a glob of paint. When spraying under lap siding or the side of trim boards, angle the tip upward so you get enough paint on the bottom portion of the board. Always start at the top of the wall and work your way down.
Back-brush the Nooks and Crannies
If you thought you could just blast the wall with a sprayer and call it a day, we've got bad news for you. The paint sprayer is only a paint delivery system. In order to achieve a coating that will last for years, you need to push the paint into every crack and crevice and underneath every lap with a brush. It seems like a tedious extra step, but it's absolutely necessary.
Back-roll, then Recoat
After you back-brush the paint, it's time to back-roll. Don't spray an area so large that the paint dries before you can roll it out (drying times vary greatly depending on the weather). A roller with a thicker nap is better at reaching the uneven surfaces. Many pros use a roller with a 3/4-in. nap because it gets up into more of the recessed areas. And while it's tempting to roll lap siding horizontally, always roll in an up-and-down motion. It's hard to stop the paint from dripping off the bottom of the laps if you roll horizontally.
One coat may be enough if you're just freshening up the paint with a new coat of the same color. But if you're working with new siding or changing colors, a second coat will be needed. But no back-brushing or back-rolling is necessary on the final coat, so it goes fast, and the final coat hides many of the smaller brush and roller marks.
Pay Attention to the Weather
Our expert told us that one of the most common mistakes newbies make is ignoring the weather. Painting a wall in direct sunlight on a really hot day is next to impossible—the paint dries before there's time to back-brush and back-roll. If you can, pay attention to where the sun shines on the house at different times of the day. Plan your painting day so you can stay on the shady side. And make sure you don't get rained on. Most paint containers specify the length of time the paint must be dry before being exposed to water.
Spray the Edge of the Trim the Same Color as the Wall
Only tape off the face of the windows and doors, then spray the edges of the trim at the same time as the walls. After the walls are done, come back and roll on the trim color. Eliminating the laborious task of cutting in the edge of the trim around each and every lap in the siding may seem like cheating, but it's not. First, no one will ever notice. Second, the caulking between the trim and the siding is rarely perfect, and trying to cut in paint over blobs of caulk rarely results in a nice clean line.
Avoid Overspray Messes
Even a finely tuned spray pattern will create some overspray. Wind and high humidity will cause the overspray to travel farther. Make sure you cover plants, decks and walkways and move cars and any other items you don't want paint on.
Reverse the Tip to Purge Clogs
Most spray tips have an arrow on them because they're reversible. A forward pointing arrow means you're ready to paint. If you start to get an uneven spray pattern, you probably have a clog in the tip. To purge the debris, turn the tip 180 degrees and spray some paint onto a piece of cardboard or rosin paper for a couple seconds. Then turn the tip back around and continue painting. If you still aren't getting good results, you may need to clean the tip or one or more of the inline filters. These filters are located in various places depending on the sprayer.