One of the quickest and easiest home makeovers you can do is to apply a fresh coat of paint to walls or woodwork. Painting lets you add color and a clean new look to any room, and it’s also one of the most common and straightforward projects for the do-it-yourselfer to undertake.

With any home-improvement project, good results with a minimum amount of hassle results from having the proper tools, and painting is certainly no different. Luckily, you can get a basic set of professional-quality painting tools for very little money, and properly cared for, they’ll last a lifetime.

  • Brushes: There are hundreds of brushes available, but for the average do-it-yourself painter working with latex (water-thinned) paint, a set of two is all you need — a 1 1/2-inch-wide brush for trim, and a 3-inch brush for larger areas. A polyester/nylon blend is a good choice for latex, with either a straight or angled set of bristles, depending on your personal preference. For oil-based paints, varnishes and other solvent-thinned materials, you can add two China bristle brushes in the same sizes.

    The cost difference between inexpensive and professional-grade brushes is minimal, so only get the best when investing in paint brushes! They apply more paint faster and with smoother results, and if you keep them clean they’ll last you forever.

  • Roller Setup: For painting walls, ceilings and other large surfaces, you’ll need a roller setup. Start with a 9-inch, heavy-duty roller frame — again, avoid the inexpensive ones — with a comfortable handle that is threaded at the bottom to accept a pole. Add a heavy-duty metal roller tray, and a bucket grid for rolling directly out of 5-gallon buckets. For smaller areas, you can also add a 3-inch roller frame. Select high-quality roller covers that are matched to the type of paint and the type of surface you’re working with.

  • Extension Pole: To work faster and easier with your paint roller, you’ll want to add an extension pole for ceilings and high walls. The least expensive poles are fixed-length wood with a cheap metal threaded end, and are best left behind at the store. Instead, look for a metal or, preferably, a fiberglass pole that’s easily adjustable to different lengths.

  • Drop cloths: If you are only doing one painting project, you can get away with a plastic drop cloth or two to cover floors and furniture. A better choice, however, is a canvas drop cloth, which is easier to walk on and lasts through dozens of paint jobs. Get one 3-by-12-foot cloth for hallways and smaller areas, and either a 9-by-12 or a 12-by-15 for larger areas. Canvas drop cloths are too heavy and rough for covering furniture, so add a box of thin painter’s plastic to your supplies and use that for covering everything except floors.

  • Masking Machine: Use a masking machine once or twice, and you’ll wonder how you ever painted without one. Masking machines dispense masking paper and masking tape at the same time, and really speed up your prep work.

  • Putty Knife and Scraper: For starters, you’ll want to have a 1- or 1 1/2-inch-wide putty knife with a stiff metal blade (don’t get plastic ones), and a second one with a flexible blade. You can add other sizes as the need arises. You’ll also want a paint scraper for scraping off old paint. Look for one with a strong, comfortable handle and a top-mounted knob that allows you to place extra pressure with your other hand while scraping. Scrapers with a U-shaped scraping blade are a good choice, allowing you four blades in one scraper.

  • Clean-up Tools: Properly cleaned and maintained, all of your painting equipment will last for decades, so invest in a couple of basic cleaning tools. You’ll need a combination brush comb/roller scraper — with broad metal teeth on one side — for combing out paintbrushes and a concave surface on the other for scraping excess paint off roller covers. A roller spinner, a simple, hand-operated tool that spins and fluffs your roller covers after washing, will simplify cleaning and greatly extend the life of the covers. Add a couple of sponges with abrasive pads on one side for cleaning roller trays and other tools, along with a box of thick cotton rags.

  • Storage Bin: Finally, grab an inexpensive plastic bin with a lid to store all your tools. All of your paint gear with the exception of the pole will fit in one bin, with room left over for a spackle, tape and other basic supplies. The bin will keep everything clean, protected, and all in one place the next time you get the urge to paint.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at


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