House Painters Pro Tips: Roller Frames & Covers

Jeremy Holderness

Roller frames & covers used by house painters tampaIt might sound a bit ridiculous to some that there would be a need for a blog article focusing on paint roller frames and roller covers.  

But, you buy the expensive paint from the paint store and maybe even spring for a good quality paint brush. Professional house painters know that using a cheap cover and frame can ruin a great finish.  And they certainly would never use a flimsy DIY frame or buy the bargain pack of roller covers...and neither should you.

So how do you tell the difference between a quality product and one you should avoid? Well that's exactly what we'll discuss today - the characteristics that make a good frame and cover, and the different types and thicknesses of roller cover naps and when you should use them.  And we'll even look some specialty products that might come in handy on your next painting project.


Roller Frames

Frames come in a lot of different shapes and sizes.  The most commonly used of them is the standard 9" frame, which is the one that you've probably painted with many times.


Important things to look for in a 9" roller frame:

Rod Size - The diameter of the rod that connects the handle to the spinning cage will determine how much flex you get when you apply pressure against your wall.  A heavier rod will allow for less flex which will limit the chance your frame will accidentally slide along the wall rather than roll.

Cage Material - The spinning cage portion of the frame is typically made up of either metal wires or a plastic cage.  Either will work but the new plastic cage types generally make it easier for you to remove the roller cover when you're done with it.


Some handy specialty roller frames:

4" Mini Roller - One specialty roller frame that you'll almost certainly find in a painter's arsenal is a 4" mini roller (aka - weenie roller or hot dog roller).  These allow you to get into tight spaces or areas where there are a lot of obstructions on the walls, such as a kitchen or bathroom.

18" Frame - When contractors have a large amount of open wall space to roll they ditch the standard 9" frame and go straight to the 18" roller frame.  As the size would suggest they allow you to double your productivity, but they can be a bit heavy and unwieldy when loaded with paint.  Most homeowners wouldn't find a reason to use a frame this large but if you happen to have a large, open area to paint you'll at least know it's there as an option.


Roller Covers

There are a LOT of options to choose from when it comes to roller covers.  So we'll begin by breaking it down into the three main fabric types.

Synthetic (Polyester, Nylon, etc.) - These are the most common of the roller covers. You will see these on the shelf sold individually, as well as in multi-packs.  The price range can be huge, and there is definitely a difference in quality.  Your less-expensive options will tend to shed more -- leaving you picking lint out of your finished walls.  The more expensive ones will usually hold more paint, which means less dips in your paint tray.  As a rule of thumb I would go with no less than a medium grade synthetic cover to get a good finish.

Natural (Sheepskin, Mohair) - Sheepskin were used extensively by the old time painters mostly because they held a lot of paint and could be reused over and over again. However, they are very expensive and really suited to oil-based paints which are not used much by DIY'ers, or even by the painting industry as a whole much anymore.

Mohairs are great for when you're looking for the smoothest of finishes, such as on a metal door.

Blended (Poly/Wool) - While these covers are more expensive than synthetics, they give you the benefits of both natural and synthetic fabrics and can be used with all paint types.


Cover fabrics have two different construction methods -- knit or woven.

Knit - This most popular design allows for greater paint pickup and leaves your standard 'orange peel' look on the wall.  These are a good choice when applying flat, satin, or egg-shell paints.

Woven - These covers are designed to produce a smoother finish on the wall and are best utilized when applying semi-gloss or gloss finishes.


The final thing to consider is the pile thickness of your cover.  The height of your nap should be matched to the type of substrate that your painting.

Short Nap (1/4") - These are a great choice when you need a smooth finish on a smooth surface and you don't mind making the sacrifice of extra dips into your paint tray.

Medium Nap (3/8" & 1/2") - Commonly used on drywall walls, ceilings, etc.  These combine good paint pickup with minimal orange peel look.

Heavy Nap (3/4" & 1") - Ideal for textured surfaces like stucco.

Extra-Heavy Nap (1-1/4") - Perfect for very uneven surfaces like concrete block.



I hope this short article will help to serve as a guide to help you narrow-down your choices on future painting projects. 

The big take-away that I hope you'll get from this post, if nothing else, is that quality products not only matter when it comes to buying your paint or your brush.  It was always a shame when I worked in the paint stores many years ago and couldn't convince customers that a $2 roller cover wasn't a good compliment to their $50 gallon of paint.

If you're going to go for quality, go for quality across the board.

And check out six more tips to make your interior painting project POP.



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photo by: karpacious / CC BY 2.0







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