Rolling Walls Like a Pro

How To Roll A Wall Like A Pro!

How To Roll A Wall Like a PRO!

There are many ways to roll a wall and how I roll a wall is not necessarily the best way but it is how a professional painter has rolled walls for 20 years creating quality results and happy customers.  I’m going to go over some simple tips that will give you professional results painting walls that eliminate lap marks, shadowing, streaks, and uneven color.  Tips will include proper loading, unloading, keeping a wet edge, rolling direction, and what tools to use. 


To start rolling walls you will need quality tools or you will struggle getting good results.  There are three tools we will talk about, the paint roller, roller frame and extension pole.  Now of course you will never achieve good results unless you are using quality paint.  Low quality paint splatters bad, halos or hat bands, and does not cover well.  Most paint stores have a range of paint from bad to good and it is wise to choose the best paint.  We have had a lot of success using Benjamin Moore and Behr high end paints. So now we will talk about the paint roller.  A low quality roller cover will splatter bad and splatter even worse with bad paint.  A bad roller cover will also release loose fibers on your wall which will have to be sanded off when dry.  A quality roller will load up quickly and lay out paint evenly producing consistent results on your entire project.  And finally a quality roller will last 3-4 times longer then a low cost DIY roller.  I prefer Premier rollers and specifically the Premier White Woven for smooth finishes or the Premier KodaWool for durability.  If you like new technology try the Premier Ultra-Micro.  This is a microfiber roller that will give excellent results. Now a good roller cover needs a good roller frame.


A quality roller frame will last a lifetime if taken care of properly.  I look for a frame that has a handle made of durable industrial plastic and one that has a thick wire frame that has little flex.  Cheap frames have thin wire that flexes when rolling making it difficult to get an even finish and typically leaves a trailing edge as you roll.  I also want a frame that holds a roller on tightly so it does not work its way off if you are rolling away from the end of the frame.  The Premier BLUE TIGER is my preferred roller frame.  To make rolling walls efficient and less taxing on the body you will need an extension pole.


What extension pole you need will depend on how tall your walls are.  I have pole variations from 1-2’ all the way to 8-12’.  The most common and versatile extension pole would be the 4-8’ pole.  I am simply looking for a quality extension pole that adjusts easily and is built to last.  An affordable option is Wooster extension poles.  What you pour your paint into has so many variations and options that you need to find what simply works for you.  More often then not I resort to a 2 gallon deep well roller pan with a liner but I also use 5 gallon buckets to roll out of and Wooster 24’ roller pails.  Enough about tools so lets talking about the actual painting process. 


I am not going to go into full detail on when to do cut ins in this article but for the most part cut ins are always done prior to rolling walls.  If you are rolling two coats on your walls your cut ins will be done after the first coat and before the second coat on the walls is applied.  It is important on dark colors and cheap paints to cut in and roll your walls before your cut ins dry or you will likely have haloing or hat banding when the paint dries.  If I am working by my self in a room I will cut in two walls and roll prior to moving to the next two walls.  A team of two works perfect cause one cuts in and one rolls behind the other.  Now on to rolling.


Completely load your roller up before you begin painting.  Load then roll on a small section then load again.  Keep doing the same process on the same small section of wall until your roller cover is saturated with paint.  If you do not completely load your roller your first section of wall you paint will not get enough paint on it.  Once my roller is loaded up I am going to wait till my partner has starting cutting in and has completed at least half of the first wall.  You can see this loading process in my video HERE.  I typically like to roll walls from left to right and this is simply my preference because I am right handed and it feels more natural.  You decide what way you will roll.  I load up the roller and place it in the middle of the wall to begin the unloading of the paint process.  I start unloading the paint by progressively rolling up and down getting closer to the ceiling and baseboard with each pass.  I am not unloading the paint moving right but simply up and down.  If I am working with 8’ ceilings one load and unload will work. 


After this unloading process I will reload my roller and complete the same exact process.  I typically do the load and unload process for 3 passes.  During each pass you will overlap the previous pass by several inches therefore keeping a wet paint edge.  After the 3 passes and working in a steady pace so the paint does not dry, I will lay out those 3 passes.  I like to lay out from top to bottom as gravity works with you as the roller rolls down the wall.  Overlap each pass by several inches again.  After the layout I will do 3 load and unload passes again.


The process is repeated over and over again as you move around the room.  You always want to start from one corner and finish at another corner.  Starting in the middle of a wall can lead to a lap mark showing up on the wall when the paint is dry.  While rolling your walls it is extremely important that you keep loading your roller with paint and keep the walls saturated.  You can see this process of rolling walls on my YouTube channel Paint Life TV HERE.  During my years of teaching new apprentices to paint, the most common mistake is not loading the roller enough.  One of the effects of not loading the roller enough is what we call dry napping.  What happens is your roller is unloaded of paint and begins to make a louder hissing sound instead of a sloppy wet paint sound.  This sound indicator is notifying you that your roller is no longer unloading its paint but picking paint up off the wall you have already laid out. The roller wants to stay wet with paint so it will remove paint if it becomes too dry.


Now of course if you are dry napping your walls you are undoing work you have already done but you are also causing lap marks on paint that is to thin and rapidly drying.  These laps marks will show up and will also cause color inconsistencies.  Dry napping will also lead to a stippled effect or rough surface. With quality paints you are far more likely to have issues putting too much paint on the walls verses not enough.  To much paint can lead to runs but a quality professional paint typically hangs wells and does not run.  I will back up just a bit and give you a best practice tip but will tell you I rarely pay attention to this tip.  Have your roller facing in the right direction so the roller does not work its way off and fall off the frame.


If you are using a low quality roller frame and a cheap roller cover and you are rolling away from the roller frame end the roller will work its way off the frame.  The pressure and direction rolled cause this to happen.  A quality roller cover and frame will not have this affect, hence why I do not pay attention to my rollers direction.  If you flip the frame over and roll in the same direction you are now causing pressure that keeps the roller on the frame.  I explain this in my video HERE.  I actually do not think I have ever had a 9” roller work off the frame in 20+ years of painting.  Flipping the roller over from one direction to the other as you lay out your paint can arguably cause a difference in stippling and therefore a color appearance difference to your eye.  With a quality roller I have never seen this when rolling walls.  With that said I have seen this when using mohair rollers and laying out epoxy floors.  Therefore, when I lay out an epoxy floor I always have the roller pointing in the same direction.  What is interesting is when laying out with a mohair roller with epoxy I can hear and feel a  difference in the roller when flipped over.  Watch my epoxy video series HERE.  With the technique dialed in you can now begin rolling walls like a pro. 


With the process I am going to work my way around the room from right to left.  There will be some planning involved to determine how many walls you will do at one time and how many coats of paint will be applied.  As a professional painter I am going to be applying two coats of paint in every situation unless I am painting the wall the exact same color. Since I am two coating my wall 90% of the time I will explain the process.  In order to paint a room quickly and efficiently with to coats you will want to put a light coat (skim coat) on the first coat so it will dry fast.  I am not going to do cut in on my first coat.  After the first coat is dry I am going to do my cut ins one or two walls at a time if I am working alone.  After the cut in I am going to roll the second coat and pull the tape immediately before my paint or caulking dries.  I will then move on to the next section.  The entire painting process can be viewed in my video on painting a room 3 colors in 1 day HERE.


Hopefully I have given you a few tips and tricks to painting walls like a pro that will eliminate some frustration or simply give you better results.  Some of the tools I use and talk about here are available in my Paint Life Store.

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do u cut in the ceiling line again after the 2nd coat thks

Paul Sumsky

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