Tradesman holding a spray gun and wearing a mask

A Guide to Handheld Airless Paint Sprayers

When choosing a handheld paint sprayer, you will generally be selecting one of the airless types. These gas or electric powered devices pump paint (or stain) into a spray gun and out to a tip where it is atomized into a spray. The particular spray tip that will be used will depend on the surface being sprayed and fluid being used. The following guide points out how to choose the right paint sprayer and how to use it.

Getting It Done Fast

If your goal is to finish as quickly as possible, then you need to look at horsepower. The more horsepower you have, the more paint you can spray out per minute. At the same time, there’s no reason to go overboard with this and purchase more horsepower than you need for a small project. After all, how fast do you really need to paint the interior of a one-bedroom house?

Coating Types

The coatings you will be using will affect the type of sprayer you should choose. You will need a much larger sprayer tip if you’re going to use very thick coatings. This ties in with horsepower again, since larger tips require greater pressure. If a sprayer does not have enough power to support larger tips, it may have a tendency to clog.

Sprayer Tip Sizes

Sprayer tip size numbers can be a bit confusing. With some tips, it can refer to the actual size of the opening in the tip. With others, it can indicate the size of the spray you will get in inches. For example, you might have a tip that is .015; this would be the size of the tip. You could also have a tip listed at 615, which would indicate that the opening is .015 and the area it will cover is 6 inches.

The way to make the selection is to first choose the tip size needed for the thickness of the coating, and within this tip size, select the one that will give you the spray width you want. Obviously, you can use a wider spray width for large surfaces like walls and ceilings, but you’ll want a smaller width for items like railings or outdoor furniture.

Replacing or Unclogging Tips

Over time and with a lot of use, tips do wear out. When this happens, the flow will be faster than you want and the fan width will be reduced. The result is too much spray over too little surface. Tips are easily replaced and fairly inexpensive. However, if you have a reversible type and the tip is simply clogged, you can often unclog it by flipping it around and blasting out the clog.

Buying Versus Renting

An important consideration is whether you will want to purchase your own handheld airless paint sprayer, or are going to rent one. For one small project, renting might be a better option. However, if you think you’re going to be using the sprayer frequently, then it may well be a good idea to invest in your own.

Safety Concerns

Paint sprayers of any kind should be used with caution. Follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions for setting up and operating the sprayer. When you’re using the sprayer, always wear an appropriate respirator mask and eye protection. Don’t let children use the sprayer and never spray at a person or animal. Make sure that you have covered up any objects or fixtures near the object or surface you will be spraying.

Practice Makes Perfect

It takes time and a good deal of practice to learn how to use a handheld paint sprayer effectively. The best method is to slowly and smoothly move from side to side while slightly overlapping the previous pass. Keep in mind that it’s not necessary or expected to be able to fully cover the surface with a single pass.

Choosing the Right Sprayer

Below are some final quick tips that will help you select the right sprayer for your needs.

● Choose a sprayer with a long flexible hose to make maneuvering easier.
● If you have to move around a lot with the paint supply, look for a unit that has a backpack or wheels.
● Ensure that the dealer or renter can provide operating information in the form of how-to manuals or online resources.
● Tip extensions make it much easier to get to hard-to-reach surfaces like very high ceilings.
● Try to pick the sprayer that will be easiest to disassemble and clean when you’re done.

Handheld airless paint sprayers are one of the great blessings of the modern age, since they make painting far simpler, cleaner, and faster for the consumer. The key is in selecting the right one for the job you have in mind and using it properly.

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