Paint Roller Cover 101 by The Idaho Painter

What Paint Roller Cover Should I Use?

When walking down the paint roller aisle at your local paint store or Do it yourself box store, it can be a little overwhelming when trying to decide what paint roller cover to choose for your painting project.  You are presented with woven rollers, knit rollers, microfiber rollers, ultra micro rollers, polyester rollers, lambs wool rollers and more.  This can get real confusing pretty fast.  This confusion can lead to you being overwhelmed and then just grabbing a random roller cover. I will try to make it simple on what paint roller cover you should choose so that you will get professional results that you are after.  I will also give you a few tips to get the best performance out of the roller you have chosen.


One of the first things that you will be presented with is price.  What budget do you have for your paint project?  When it comes to price, a paint roller is just like a paint brush.  As the saying goes you are only as good as the tools you choose.  There is a lot of truth to this when it comes to painting. If you choose to go the route of saving money on a paint roller you will need to be prepared for the frustrations that come along with a lower quality tool for applying your paint.


Inexpensive paint rollers typically will shed lints on the substrate you are painting.  This is extremely frustrating and can be hard to resolve after the lints have dried to the surface.  It is important to know that the higher the sheen the more you will see the lints deposited on the surface you have painted.  Once the paint is dried to the surface it will then have to be sanded off and then the wall will need to be touched up or repainted.  I have personally run into this problem and the work involved in resolving the issue far out weighed the cost savings of a cheap roller cover.


In order to make a cheaper roller the manufacturer has to cut cost somewhere.  Removing some fabric, knit, polyester is a likely option that will make your life miserable when painting. Low priced paint rollers are typically a very loose knit that pick up paint from your bucket or roller pan fast, but then they are so loose it causes the paint rollers to splatter.  There is nothing more annoying then rolling a ceilings and having paint splatter on your face or in your eyes.  If you are seeing a lot of splatter or drips where you are rolling, a cheap roller could be the cause.  When using a inexpensive roller with low cost paint it will only compound the problem.  Having less fabric in the roller cover will also cause the paint to release improperly. A improper release with a cheap roller gives you the outcome of not putting enough paint on the wall.  This will lead to unnecessary coats on your substrate due to lack of coverage.  If this is the case you will see  tiny specs of missed or uncoated areas on the surface. Hopefully, you will understand now why inexpensive tools do not save you money in the long run.

If you don’t go cheap then what do I pick?  To start there are many different types of roller covers but the main ones are woven rollers, knit rollers, and microfiber roller.  I will add natural rollers, like lambs wool to the mix, but those are not as common.  I will start the discussion by talking about woven rollers.


The characteristics of a woven cover are that they are shed resistant.  This is the most important feature.  When painting with a semi-gloss or gloss coating a Woven Pro is a must.  The pick up and release of a Premier Woven Pro are very good and will give you a nice smooth finish on many surfaces.  Woven roller cover are typically white covers that are tightly woven fabric that are locked into place in process far superior to a knit roller. A woven roller is the right choice for interior painting where your wall or substrate has a smooth finish.  Texture like Level 5 or Sun Valley will require a woven roller if you do not want lints or fibers being released on your surface.  If you are brushing and rolling trim, door, cabinets, or anything else with a smooth surface a woven cover is the right choice.  Furniture, floors would be another time I would choose a woven roller. Getting a smooth lint free finish is possible with a woven roller. Also Interior lighting can be your worst enemy or your best friend when your project is complete.  If you have a smooth lint free surface the right light will make your project look clean and polished.  If you choose the wrong roller cover, the lighting can make your surface look stippled and littered with fibers from your roller.  A woven roller is always my choice for interior painting.


Secondly, I will discuss knit roller covers. They traditionally pick up paint faster and release paint more efficiently then a woven roller.  What that translates to is that I  can paint an exterior in less time if I use a knit roller.  My go to knit roller is the Premier Koda Wool Cover.  This is a polyester roller that is more durable then the soft woven covers like the Premier Woven Pro.  Since exteriors have rough surfaces they typically are harder on a roller and tend to tear up the fibers faster. If I am working on an exterior I am going to choose a knit rollers.  Typically on an exterior we are working with rough or textured materials like wood, composite siding, T1-11, siding, or Hardie Plank. These surfaces do not require a smooth finish and are typically painted with a satin or flat coating, and a lint here and there will never be seen.  Time is money so when painting an exterior substrate like, siding, fences, decks, pergolas, etc I choose a knit roller cover.


Thirdly,  I will discuss microfiber rollers. Microfiber roller cover were designed to give a very smooth finish on flat smooth surfaces.  A microfiber roller is fibers with little micro fingers that like to pick up more paint and release more paint faster and more efficient then traditional roller covers. It is a good choice when using gloss or semi-gloss paints.  A microfiber roller is also lint free.  I starting using the microfiber roller covers many years ago and I will share my thoughts. 


When loading a microfiber roller covers the pick up can be very frustrating.  From my experience the fibers have a tendency to want to flatten out making the paint pick up process difficult and slow.  The roller has a tendency to glide or slide in the pan and not roll.  The same goes for when you are rolling your substrate.  On smooth surfaces the roller has a tendency to not roll at times.  This usually is not and issue on rough surfaces like orange peel or knock down texture.  The frustration was a little much for me.


The glossier the paint the more the roller resisted rolling in the pan on load up.  The finish from a microfiber roller did have an exceptionally smooth lint free surface when the roller would continuously roller.  Some of these challenges were over come by Premier’s Ultra Micro roller cover.  If you are a microfiber roller person I highly recommend trying this roller.  It does perform very well.  However, I like to keep my painting process a little less decision making and uncluttered so I usually limit my options in my painting trailer to a woven, Premier Woven Pro, and a knit, Premier Koda Wool in my roller cover bin. 


Lambs wool with paper cores are traditionally used by old school painters.  Lambs wool roller covers are just that, lambs wool.  Some painters absolutely swear by these rollers and the finishes they give.  Since lambs wool is not a fabric you do not have to worry about lints for fibers being released on your walls or substrate.  All lambs wool roller covers I have seen have paper cores which can be susceptible to damage if used with chemical based coatings or if you have a tendency to toss your rollers in water and not get to cleaning days later.


Both Koda Wool and Woven Pro along with Ultra Micro roller cover all have polypropylene cores which are virtually indestructible.  There have been times and circumstances when we just toss our cores into a 5 bucket with water and clean them later.  We have been known to clean our rollers in bulk several weeks later when we can clean many at a time and a polypropylene core can withstand these circumstances without any negative impact. 


Choosing the right roller for the job will make your painting experience, faster, more efficient, and most important enjoyable.  I love painting and choosing the right tool keeps me enjoying the trade after 30 years.


Tips before loading your paint roller cover with paint.  De-linting your roller cover takes little time and effort and can save you from many headaches down the road.  If you are buying cheap paint roller cover, using knit roller covers, painting with gloss paints, or painting a glassy smooth substrate, delineating your roller is extremely important.

De-linting a roller is the simple process of removing loose lints or fibers from your roller cover prior to painting.  I have several ways of delineating a roller using tape with two anyone can learn to do in seconds.  First method wrapping or rolling tape around the entire roller cover then just unraveling it.  On a cheap roller, you will see lints stuck all over the tape.  These are the lints that would have been deposited on your wall.  Picking them off wet is messy, time consuming, and frustrating.  The next method I use to de-lint a roller is taking a roll of tape and sticking the loose end of the tape under my shoe.  I step down with pressure then unroll my tape to chest height.  I then just roller my roller cover up and down the tape like I am rolling a wall.  In 30 seconds your roller cover is de-linted.  Watch my video to see this process in detail.


After de-linting you roller pre-wetting or priming the roller with water makes loading faster and clean up easier.  To pre-wet a roller I just take a hose, bucket, and spray nozzles and spin the roller with water just like I was cleaning it.  I then take and point the spray nozzle to the end of the roller which spins the excess water out but leave enough moisture in. By doing this simple step you are again working loose lints or fibers out and adding moisture the the fibers to the initial paint pick up process goes faster.  You can see my cleaning and presetting process right here on my YouTube channel Paint Life TV.


Hopefully these simple tips on choosing and preparing your paint rollers makes your painting experience more enjoyable and or profitable.

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Hey Chris, many painters and DIY’S are using the wrong rollers. How many size rollers are there and the lint/fabric available. 5,6,10,13,15,19,20,25,30. Whizz 4’’ 6’’ what thickness to use on different substrates. The list goes on. What is the most common size roller to paint walls in a house? Ceilings FLAT? Ceilings STIPPLE/POPCORN? Rolling OIL base paints size of roller? Primers what size of roller? And then you got all paint finishes, Matte, Flat Satin, eggshell, velvet, eggshell, pearl, low gloss, semi gloss, high gloss, Urethane, just to name a few! Exterior surfaces, can be tricky! What size of rollers and type of paint to Aluminum siding? Stucco? Fences/decks. What rollers are best to apply stains? Garage doors, front doors etc. Sealers. The Gooseneck Guy! Cheers!

Donald Sincennes

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