Just Shoot It Pt 2
Previously we’ve discussed the advantages of using an hand-held airless paint sprayer for home-improvement projects. But we didn’t really get into the specifics of how to use the device. So let’s fix that now. The major advantages of the the airless sprayer are that the tool will give you an even, smooth paint covering, and it will do it rapidly. The small cost for this speed is the need for extra attention to prep work.
The most important part of the preparation for using the airless sprayer is masking- if you don’t want paint on it, you need to cover it! You may have seen professional paint contractors using a tool called a Paint Shield on exterior jobs. The paint shield looks like an over-grown dry-wall taping knife the painter use to get sharp, straight lines. Do not try this at home. The contractor and his helpers are professionals who do this all day, every day. For your project, depend on thorough masking.
Most hand-held airless paint rigs have a small bottle of oil packed with them by the manufacturer. Follow the manufacturers instructions to lubricate the pump before using it the first time, and it will work a lot better. It will also be important to lube the pump at the end of the project, but we will get to that when we clean up.
The “trick” to a good looking spray job is to get the paint to hit the surface evenly. The nozzle on the sprayer may give a cone shaped spray pattern, but a fan is more common. Because tipping the pot will cause the pump to lose suction, usually there is a provision to turn the nozzle and the fan pattern 90 degrees to allow an up and down spray pattern as well as side to side. Always hold the gun so that the nozzle is square to the surface. This will require you to bend your wrist at the beginning and end of each spray stroke. You can practice on a piece of cardboard or plywood by filling the paint pot with water and spraying that until you get the hang of the technique; it should only take a few minutes practice.
It may be necessary to thin your latex paint before running it through your sprayer, especially if you are using a lower powered, less expensive sprayer. Usually it will only take a couple of tablespoons of water per quart of paint; look to the manufacturers instructions for guidance. When the paint pot is screwed onto the gun, the pump will need to be primed- simply point the gun at a scrap of cardboard and hold the trigger for a few seconds until the paint shoots from the nozzle.
Most sprayers have an adjustment for the pressure of the pump. It is best to start with a lower setting to avoid wear and damage to the rig, but usually the lower pressure will not give a good spray pattern. Gradually adjust the pressure higher until you have a good spray pattern.
Overlap your strokes to ensure full coverage. When painting side to side, I like to shoot my first stroke as high as I can reach, then shoot the second pass aiming the nozzle at the bottom of the first pass. It is also important to remember the nozzle has to be moving when you press and release the trigger. This is to avoid over-painting in a single spot when you pull the trigger.
Easy clean up is an advantage of using latex, but just because it is easy don’t think that it isn’t important for your sprayer! I start by pouring any left over paint from the paint pot back into the paint can. Next clean the pot with warm water. When the pot is clean, fill it with warm water and put it back on the sprayer. Run the water through the rig until just clean water comes out the nozzle. If I know I am not going to use the sprayer for a while, if I try to take the pump apart and clean the parts throughly; and old tooth brush can help with this. Before storing the unit, relubricate using light household oil to prevent the parts from rusting.
The whole process may sound a little long and complicated, but just take it slow and you won’t forget anything or mess it up. Best of all you will have a great looking paint job very quickly!