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Paint Sprayer

April 17, 2012

Between the basement and mud room remodels, I had ten doors to paint.  I started painting them with a brush, but after spending ten minutes to paint just one panel, I decided it was going to take me way too long so I decided to invest in a paint sprayer.  I had read about high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) sprayers in a handyman magazine recently, and decided to pick up the Graco 2900 from Lowes.  It cost about $120.

The first hiccup:  When I got home and unboxed the sprayer, I found that it was missing several components — a viscosity tester and a tool to assemble and de-assemble the sprayer.  I ended up having to go back to Lowes to exchange it.   An hour wasted but not the end of the world.

The instructions for the sprayer tell you to test the paint and dilute it as necessary to reach an acceptable viscosity.  I found that diluting the paint (I’m using Sherwin Williams’ “Pro Classic” interior latex paint in semi gloss — which we’ve used for all the woodwork throughout our house) with 1:10 water:paint did the trick.  I used a kitchen whisk to mix the paint and water (don’t tell my wife).

I tested the sprayer on some casing that I needed to paint.  I don’t mind painting this kind of molding by hand, but the sprayer made quick work of the job — I got it done in less than half the time it would have taken me with a brush, plus because the paint goes on a bit thinner, you can sand between coats after a relatively short amount of time.

What I noticed about the sprayer,  is that the paint appears to go on in “spits” — meaning as you’re painting you can see small spots.  This smoothed itself out during the drying process, though, and didn’t appear to pose a problem.

Clean up was relatively easy, though I have a different approach than what the manual suggests.  The instructions suggest that you should clean the gun by spraying water through it.  I did this the first time, and it took a long time to clean it out, and the water-paint mixture was a huge mess.  Instead, I recommend disassembling the gun and washing everything by hand, re-assembling and spraying clean water through the gun, and then disassembling again to allow everything to dry.   It sounds like a lot of work, but the gun breaks down in about a minute so it’s not that difficult.

My technique down, I had a free day this weekend to paint the doors.  A coworker and friend of mine that used to work for Ryan Homes gave me a trick for painting this many doors — stand them up in a zig-zag pattern and screw a furring strip across the top of the doors.  I forgot to take a pitcture, but a top down view of the doors would look something like this:  /\/\/

I strung the doors together in two units with five doors each and put them on a plastic tarp in my back yard.  It took me about ten hours to get three coats of paint on the doors, sanding between each coat (I used a random orbital sander with general purpose paper).  The Graco sprayer has an adjustment to allow you to spray in either a round, vertical, or horizontal pattern, and the instructions recommend spraying with the vertical pattern while spraying side-to-side, and then switching to the horizontal pattern and spraying up-and-down.  I sprayed the first two coats using both patterns with the maximum amount of paint the gun would allow, and the third coat with just a very light ratio of air-to-paint to touch up. 

It took me two gallons of paint and all day — and I made a few mistakes along the way, but wow, the doors look great!  I would say that they look pretty close to furniture-grade.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Don’t spray with the paint reservoir almost empty.  Doing so makes it hard to keep moving in a continuous pattern, and I ended up putting too much paint in a few areas, which causes a large “drip” pattern to appear.  I tried using the air from the sprayer to smooth this out, which didn’t work at all — in retrospect, I should have brushed them out.  Instead I’ll have to sand off the paint and touch up with a brush.
  • I mentioned that I switched between the vertical and horizontal spray patterns.  When you do this, the pattern that you’re not using gets clogged pretty quickly.  You can get away with removing the clogs by hand, but plan on rinsing and scrubbing the nozzle with a stiff brush each time you refill the tank.
  • On the Graco, at least, the spray pattern is adjusted by controlling the paint flow to either two (vertical and horizontal) or four (round) nozzles.  As such, the round patterns gets twice the paint that the vertical and horizontal patterns — so it’s easier to paint with vertical and horizontal OR round, but switching between vertical/horizontal and round is difficult because it’s hard to adjust the amount of paint that you’re getting.
  • Stand the doors upside down (which I only did for a few of the doors).  The side that is on the ground needs to be touched up with a brush afterwards, and it will be easier to avoid making a mess if you’re painting the top of the doors instead of the bottom.  (I installed the doors last night and still have to do some touch up, and am dreading touching up doors with new carpet being installed today).
  • Don’t paint outside on a windy day.  Duh.  I was completely covered in paint, but it oculdn’t be avoided given my timeline.

From → Interior Design

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