Should you spray or hand-brush your home's next exterior paint? It's not a common question since paint sprayers are far more available than ever before. Commercial-grade high-velocity paint sprayers can be rented for $400 to $600 per week. Lower velocity consumer-grade sprayers can be purchased for about half of that amount.
Not only that, paint-brushing might seem like a time-consuming activity best confined to smaller areas like window trim or doors. Yet when the conditions are right, brushing your house's next color coat does make some sense.
Quick to start
Slow, once painting begins
Difficult to reach some areas
Less prep work
Very little wasted paint
Good for detailed areas
Rapid, once painting begins
Much prep work
Much wasted paint
Can miss some details
Using a Brush vs. Sprayer For Painting a House Exterior
Using a Paintbrush
Using a paintbrush to paint your house lets you get started faster each day. You don't have so many tools and materials that need to be brought out and set up.
Often, you can break up the brushing into several smaller projects throughout the day. On weekends or on weekdays when you're home, you can comfortably intersperse hand-brushing the exterior with other activities. You can even tightly wrap up the brush in plastic and reuse it for each mini-session.
Considerably less covering and masking of clean areas are required. Spraying requires a wide buffer of plastic sheeting or dropcloth. By contrast, brushing needs only a long, narrow painter's dropcloth for the area directly below the paint area. If you're a careful painter or for areas where drips don't matter, you can even dispense with the dropcloth.
When brushing, you'll have the chance to pay more attention to the details. If there is a problem area that needs fixing, you'll often see it better when brushing rather than when spraying.
Brushing, too, is a great way to conserve paint. The paint goes on thicker when brushing, yet it uses less paint. Unlike paint sprayer, no paint is lost to the air. Some water evaporation may occur, but water-based latex paint can be thinned out with more water.
Brushing is more physically demanding than spraying. You'll need to be able to reach all areas of the house exterior, even the highest spots. On an extension ladder, this can be tricky since ladder safety requires that you never reach so far that your body leaves the centerline with the ladder.
Using a Paint Sprayer
Using a paint sprayer for your home's exterior means that you can cover more areas faster–but only after the prep work is done. Difficult architectural work and textures are easy to cover with a paint sprayer.
With spraying, you'll need to cover obstructions from utilities (wires, pipes, gas meters), architectural details, plants, driveways, sidewalks, and anything else that will not be painted. Once you have everything masked and taped-up, spraying is faster than brushing.
Spraying your house each day is an all-or-nothing project. You don't move between paint spraying and other projects around the house. You're committed to the full cycle of painting: prepping, painting, and cleaning up.
This can be a tough, multi-day job: a project all by itself. Also, the weather can interfere. You'll need to be aware of upcoming rain since it can ruin your coverage work.
How Much Paint to Use
Amount of Paint to Use With a Brush
In general, you will use up to three times more paint by spraying than by brushing–plus, you risk getting a thinner coat.
One gallon of exterior acrylic-latex on a clean, painted or primed surface–a minimum of porosity–is estimated by manufacturers to cover about 400 square feet.
Dripping and laying on the paint too thick are factors that will lower this estimate.
Amount of Paint to Use With a Paint Sprayer
Spraying uses more paint because the sprayer atomizes the paint into tiny droplets. Most of the droplets end up on the surface, but many others drift away. This is inherent with paint spraying, and little can be done to control it.
Also, any paint left in the hose must be blown out. Some of the paint can be saved, but much of it goes to waste.
One gallon of paint will cover about 150 to 200 square feet of wall. It's best to estimate high when spraying on paint.
How to Conserve Paint When Spraying
Even a mild, 5 mph wind is enough to blow away sprayed paint. Very windy days can increase your paint consumption by as much as 25-percent. So, for every four gallons sprayed in windy conditions, you may lose close to one gallon to the wind.
It's difficult to block the wind, so wait until conditions are better before spraying again.
Pump Paint Back
When you are finished, it might be tempting to spray out the rest of the paint into the air. Instead, pump the paint remaining in the hose back into the container instead of disposing of it. Paint remaining in even 25 feet of the hose can add up. Plus, conserving the paint is more eco-friendly.
Stand Relatively Close to Surface
The farther away from the surface you are, the more paint drifts away as a cloud. Standing closer to the surface reduces this paint cloud.
But be careful. Spraying closer means a greater chance of drips. Also, you get more blow-back from the sprayer, which means suiting up with a paint sock over your head, coveralls, respirator, and tight goggles.