Using Foam Brushes

It is time for us to make the professional painters cringe again!

As we’ve heard and said our selves many times, the best policy for the DIY painter is to buy the best paint brushes you can afford. And experience has shown time and time again that using a quality paint brush not only gives a better finish, but they are actually a pleasure to use.

So why are we even considering foam paint brushes? Well, despite of what might seem like professional snobbery, there are some times that using a cheap foam brush makes more sense.

A quality bristle type paint brush that has been properly cleaned and stored after each use should last years. Without proper care expensive paint brushes are a painful drain on the wallet.

The poly foam brush comes in various sizes, and will be found with the paint brushes in the store. The most popular foam, or sponge brushes will have a dark gray head mounted on a wooden dowel. They come in one to four inch sizes, so grab the one that is most appropriate to the job you intend it for. There will be a supporting plastic insert inside the foam which keeps the wider brushes from flopping around. Some coating products, such as urethane an oil based varnishes may melt the foam, so be sure to check the labels of both the foam brush and the coating product. There should be no problem using the foam brush with latex.

To use the foam brush, dip the end of the brush into the paint can to load it with paint, I like to press the end of the brush against the side of the can, when the foam expands it will soak up the paint. When you apply the paint to the surface, use a slight pressure to help squeeze the paint back out of the sponge.

One common complaint about foam brushes is that they will often leave a noticeable ridge of paint on either side of the brush. Personally, I see this with bristle brushes as well, and fixing it is simply a matter of lightly “tipping” the paint; using the brush to smooth out any imperfections as you go along.

Foam brushes are definitely inferior to bristle brushes on rough and irregular surfaces. It is strictly a matter of personal preference as to which is better for smooth surfaces like doors, cabinets, and window cases. For me, if I am only painting a few smooth items, I prefer the foam brush; but if I am painting every window sill in the house I will probably use a bristle brush. For me, the biggest disadvantage to the foam brush is that it doesn’t last. Yes, it can be washed and reused a few times, but if I am doing a job that will take more than a couple of hours, I find that the foam brush get “gunky” with partially dried paint, and becomes difficult to use.

The best feature of a foam brush is its price. Even the best 4 inch foam brush is rarely more than $1.50, and it is not uncommon to find a bulk pack of foam brushes in various sizes for less than a dollar. This makes them very attractive for small touch-up jobs; they are cheap enough to be considered disposable. Whether the job takes all afternoon or five minutes, the bristle brush requires the same amount of cleaning at the end of the job, and it hurts my feelings to spend 15 to 20 minutes cleaning an expensive brush after a five minute paint job!

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