While painting your walls, the right roller covers make a huge difference in finish quality. For great results, the roller cover should be chosen to match the surface. For example, a roller cover with a 1-inch nap that might be appropriate for very bumpy, textured surfaces will be a disaster on smooth drywall surfaces—giving you a sloppy, drippy look.
Professional painters may carry a wide range of paint roller covers, but for most homeowners, three different levels of roller covers are all you need—one for heavily textured surfaces, one for moderate textures, and one for very smooth surfaces, such as veneers and laminates.
Here are recommendations for great roller covers in each of the three categories.
Purdy 1-Inch Nap Roller Cover
A 1-inch nap roller cover is what you'll need when you are painting masonry or wood surfaces with deep texture. The long nap will allow the paint to penetrate to the bottom of crevices—but be careful, because using them can be messy. Long-nap rollers are a nuisance unless you are painting a surface with a deep, rough texture. The only wall or ceiling treatments where they are appropriate is on spray-texture ceilings with a cottage cheese or a popcorn style surface. Even here, though, you might be better off with a 3/4-inch nap, which will be less messy.
Technique is critical when using long-nap rollers. Slow, smooth strokes are the best strategy, and avoid overloading them with paint. Impatience leads to a very messy job.
This roller cover from Purdy is ideal when you need a long-nap roller cover.
The nap is made from woven polyamide that won't shed, and the core is polypropylene, which won't collapse when it gets wet, as cardboard cores do.
Wooster 1/2-Inch Nap Roller Cover
Roller covers with 1/2-inch nap are the workhorses of residential painting, the ones you'll use for most routine painting of walls and non-textured ceilings made with drywall.
This nap length is usually defined as suitable for "medium surfaces," but because few walls are perfectly smooth, this is your best choice. For painting textured plaster, some pros prefer 3/4-inch nap roller covers.
This roller cover from Wooster is a great choice, since it has 100 percent lamb's wool knitted into a synthetic backing—the fibers won't separate and ruin your paint finish. The core of this cover is a thick polypropylene that won't soften a collapse when wet. Unlike cheap roller covers with cardboard cores, this one can be cleaned and used again and again.
Wooster 1/4-Inch Nap Roller Cover
Roller covers with 1/4-inch nap are the best choice when you are painting extremely smooth surfaces, like veneer plywood, hardboard, or laminates. This nap length is very smooth and hard—almost velvet-like—and it won't work very well on most walls, which usually have some amount of texture. These are also used for applying urethane finishes to woodwork and furniture surfaces.
When you do need such a roller cover, this one from Wooster is an excellent choice. It uses a white mohair fabric blended with polyester and has Wooster's usual polypropylene core that won't collapse when washed.