We spent 50 hours researching and testing more than 15 different kinds of paint rollers and found that performance, coverage, and ease of cleaning were the most important factors for consumers who were shopping for paint rollers. HomeRight PaintStick EZ-Twist Paint Roller scored high marks in all categories and is our overall top pick. The HomeRight paint roller makes painting the ceiling and walls super easy. The 64” of reach makes it really convenient to paint high places without worrying about dripping paint or making a mess. The paint roller covers will not shed on the wall and cleanup is a breeze.
Paint Roller Buying Guide
Choosing the right paint roller involves several factors that you need to know about. We have provided these considerations below so you are prepared for the shopping process.
Select the right paint roller frame – The skeleton of the paint roller is the frame that the roller cover fits onto. This roller frame is a comfortable handle, usually made of plastic that is connected to a metal frame that goes inside the roller cover. Most roller cages, as these frames are also called, have caps on each end. Most roller frames are sold in sets along with roller covers and brushes but you can purchase just the frame as well if you prefer. There are several features that a roller frame can offer. The best ones have the following characteristics:
1. Ergonomic handle – If you do a lot of painting on a regular basis or you have a large painting job coming up you want to choose a paint roller frame that is easy to grip and that fits comfortably in your hand. It is worth it to pay a little more for a high quality handle that will also reduce strain on your wrist and hand.
2. Threaded handle – Look for roller frames that offer clips or threads at the bottom of the handle so you can easily add extension poles for taking care of ceilings and tall walls.
3. Ball bearings – The best roller frames have ball bearings that provide a very smooth rolling motion and as a result, a smoother finish.
Length of the roller – Paint rollers come in a variety of lengths. It is important to match the length of the roller with the roller cover you purchase so the job is done right. Some roller frames are adjustable and feature clips that secure the cover onto the frame rather than the cage. Some of the more common lengths for rollers are:
1. 9” roller – This is the most common size and is well-suited for the majority of DIY painting projects. 9” rollers fit into a 5 gallon paint bucket easily and are large enough to cover a good sized area in one roll. They are easy to handle and manage while painting.
2. 12” roller and longer – These larger paint rollers are a bit more difficult to handle and are heavier as well. This size is most often used by professionals but if you are familiar with painting and want to cover a large amount of space quickly, you might want to consider this larger size.
3. 6” – 7” roller – This is the right sized roller for painting baseboards or small furniture. These smaller rollers are also very good for painting behind toilets
4. 4” mini roller – These mini rollers are great for small furnishings, more precise work around windowsills and fixtures, and for touchups as well.
The Right Roller Cover – Roller covers fit over the paint roller frame and can vary in texture and what kind of surface they work best on as well as the best paint for the job. There are several different types of paint rollers on the market to choose from.
- Mohair/Wool – These natural fiber roller covers are best suited for using with oil-based paint. They can be used for other types of paint as well and work on a variety of surfaces. Wool holds a lot of paint at one time so it will typically provide great coverage with just one coat of paint.
- Synthetic – These roller covers include nylon, Dacron, and polyester. They are suited for water-based latex paint since they resist matting. Synthetic roller covers work well on any finish and work well on most surfaces. Synthetic roller covers do not hold as much paint but they are extremely durable.
- Polyester/Wool Blend – If you use both oil-based and water-based paint frequently, these blended roller covers are an excellent choice. They are very versatile and work on most surfaces as well. They hold a lot of paint and will last a long time if they are taken care of.
- Microfiber – Microfiber roller covers are relatively new and can be identified by the diagonal stripes that are on the cover. These work well will oil based paints that have a satin, Eggshell, or matte finish and can be used with latex paint also. Microfiber roller covers pick up a lot more paint than average covers and require a bit of practice to get right. You may want to practice on cardboard or another type of disposable surface to get used to the amount of paint you are working with before you tackle your home’s walls.
- Foam – Foam roller covers are not as long lasting as the other types are and in many cases are good for one-time-only use. They work great with high-gloss or semi-gloss paint that is being applied to smooth walls. They are also good for touchups on baseboards and trim or other small projects.
Roller Cover Styles
Below we have described more type of roller covers that are used for specific painting jobs. This information will help you choose the right covers for your project and for your paint roller.
- Staining – Roller covers for staining are specifically designed for that one purpose. You should not use staining covers for anything other than staining. If the stain is water-based you can use a staining cover again after washing it properly. If you are using oil based stains you are looking at a one-time-use only situation for that roller cover.
- Lacquering – A lacquering cover is made for smooth surfaces that are being lacquered or varnished. These covers will result in a brilliant finish that is like glass.
- Short Pile – Short pile paint covers are well-suited for smooth walls and produce an even result. The material it is made from and the length of the nap produce fewer drips than other models do.
- Medium Pile – Medium pile roller covers have long naps that are much better at filling in uneven surfaces which can happen frequently with plaster walls. Many people use medium pile covers with a telescopic handle.
- Long Pile – If you have uneven walls that are not uniform, long pile roller covers are the way to go. They can be used on brick, plaster, and other textured walls.
- Honeycomb – This cover has holes all over the surface of the roller cover. It will create spikes and crevices on the wall to give it a unique structure.
- Pin – this is another cover that adds a textured, decorative aspect to any wall.
The nap of a roller cover is the length of the fibers that make up the cover. There are several different nap lengths that work for a variety of projects and surfaces. In general, the shorter the nap is the smoother the surface should be that you use it on. Using the wrong length nap on a surface will result in imperfections that will be noticeable.
- ¼” – This is the best length for ceilings, cabinets, and super smooth walls that don’t have any texture. They are also good for metal.
- ⅜” – If your walls are lightly textured this nap will work well.
- ½” – If your walls are moderately textured, you have paneling, or want to paint your brick fireplace or accent walls, ½” nap is a good choice.
- ¾” – if you’re painting bare brick, concrete, or heavily textured walls, you will get the best results from ¾” naps. It also works well on popcorn ceilings.
- 1 “+ – This thick nap is just right for paining rough brick, stucco, and cinder blocks.
Choosing the right roller cover for the surface
There are many different surfaces in your home that you may need or choose to repaint at some point. Many of the paint rollers on the market are made for a specific surface, paint or project. Below we’ve listed different types of surfaces that you may paint in your home and the right rollers for the job.
- Ceilings and Walls – The best paint roller for painting walls and ceilings is a drip-proof roller that features 12mm fibers on the roller cover. Don’t forget to get the right ceiling or wall paint and cover your floor to protect it!
- Doors and Furniture – For your doors and furniture, a 5mm lacquering roller made from synthetic materials is recommended to get the smoothest finish. Prepping the surface and choosing the right paint or stain for wood is the best way to get a perfect result.
- Smooth walls – If you’re painting smooth walls in your home, a 10mm, double layer sleeve made of fiber will be the best choice. If you’re painting the bathroom or kitchen use a paint that will resist moisture, mold, and mildew.
- Plaster walls – Choose a honeycomb roller cover when painting plaster walls. This type of roller will give you crevices and texture that plaster walls are known for.
- Exterior coating and facades – Outdoor painting projects are best for 18mm fiber rollers. Look for one with pliolite or your exterior paint can damage the roller cover. If you’ll be painting outdoor wood structures, choose a paint that will protect the wood as well so it lasts longer.
Paint rollers make painting much simpler and faster. Choosing the right paint roller is critical to having a great result. With all of the different paint rollers on the market it is super easy to get confused or purchase one that is not right for the painting job or surface you’re painting.
The purpose of these reviews posted above as well as the buying guide is to help you understand the different options available to you. Knowing the different types of roller covers, different kinds of paint rollers, and which rollers work best with certain surfaces will make the whole shopping process much easier.
The three top-rated paint rollers featured above are great examples of quality paint rollers that will produce the kind of results everyone wants when they repaint areas of their home whether it is the kitchen, the living room or the entire interior.
Not all paint rollers are created equally so understanding what makes one high quality will prevent you from spending your money on a paint roller that will leave you frustrated and potentially with a disappointing paint job is critical. Painting the interior of your home is common especially for rental owners that paint in between tenants. Knowing the right information that will save you time and money will make it much more enjoyable to repaint when needed without the stress and hassle of trying to use supplies that are wrong for the surface you are painting or the paint you’re using.
The information in this buying guide is information that will help you with every home painting project you ever have and will allow you to confidently make a decision on the right paint roller and paint roller covers for your specific projects. There is no one paint roller works for all paints, surfaces, and projects so choose wisely and you will love the results you get.