House Painting Manually vs. Spray Painting

Man Painting House Exterior 519515491
 Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Painting a home’s exterior is a big, time-consuming job, which means that most people look for ways to make the work go quicker. Painting contractors, for whom time is money, almost always do this work using power sprayers. Homeowners often rent or buy spray equipment for the work.

So, it may be surprising that there are several advantages to painting your home’s exterior by hand. Painting a house manually saves money, fits into your daily schedule better, helps you see siding problems up-close, and can provide more thorough coverage. Find out if spray-painting a house or painting it by hand is best for your next job.

Paint Spraying

  • Faster
  • Lots of prep work
  • Wastes paint
  • More expensive
  • Less attention to detail

Manual Painting

  • Slower
  • Little prep work
  • Conserves paint
  • Less expensive
  • More attention to detail

Paint Cost and Conservation

One gallon of exterior acrylic-latex on a clean, painted surface will easily hit or exceed the manufacturer’s estimates of one gallon per 400 square feet of painted space if it is applied using a paintbrush or roller.

Spray painting a house exterior uses up a large amount of paint because so much of the paint drifts away into the air. When premium exterior house paints sell for up to $75 per gallon, conserving paint by manually painting is a clear advantage.

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Scheduling Painting

Painting a house with a paint sprayer usually is done in one massive start-to-finish project entailing long days of work. Preparing spray equipment and cleaning it up at the end of each session is a big job, so long, continuous working sessions are the norm.

But when manually painting a house, you can start and stop at your leisure, breaking the big job of painting a house into as many one- or two-hour segments as you want. You only need to put on your old pair of jeans and shirt, pop open the can, and start painting. Preparation takes just a few minutes. If you’re the type who likes to get started ASAP, manual painting is for you.

If you’re using water-soluble latex paint, the simple job of cleaning a paintbrush doesn’t add much time to the overall work. Or, if you expect to pick up on painting within a few hours, you can seal up the roller with a cover or wrap it tightly in plastic.


Careful masking of windows and doors is mandatory if you are painting with a sprayer. There is no such thing as cutting in when using a sprayer: The paint sprayer will cover everything in its path, house and masking alike. So, even remote stretches of lawn, mulch beds, and bushes might need to be covered up, especially if it’s a windy day.

Manually painting a house means far less preparation. If you have a steady hand, you can hand-paint around windows without masking them off. The precise nature of cutting-in interior trim for windows and doors does not apply to the exterior. While you do want to be as precise as possible, exterior cut-in areas like window and door casings are more forgiving.

As for preparing the landscape, when manually painting a house you only need to lay a canvas drop cloth on the ground just below your work area. No draping bushes and outdoor furniture with plastic is necessary unless you anticipate an unusually messy painting session.

House and Siding Repairs

One of the best things about painting your house exterior has nothing to do with the finish coat itself. Painting a house manually gives you the opportunity—actually, it forces you—to get up-close and personal with your house’s skin.

Many homeowners would never undertake repairs to the house’s siding and trim if they didn’t spot these problems during the painting project.

When spray painting a house, it’s easier to treat siding problems as being less important than when you’re touching and seeing the problems up-close.

Painting by hand requires careful examination and preparation of the surfaces in a way that is often overlooked when spraying. House exteriors that are painted by brush tend to get more tender loving care.

Tiny Problem Areas

When dealing with small, complex areas of a house exterior, the paint sprayer isn’t much help. These areas often get very thin coats of paint, and show-through is common. A paint sprayer simply cannot move the paint into tiny cracks; it’s more about widespread coverage. But a paintbrush is perfect for those knots or cracks where you need an extra daub of paint.

Tips for Painting a House Manually

  • Work in sections. Break up the project into smaller sections that you can tackle with ease. Some homeowners find it helpful to think of each large wall surface as an individual project. You can even paint each large wall surface in a separate season—tackling one face of the house each summer, for example. You can also mentally divide each mini-wall project into smaller sections that can be completed in the course of two hours.
  • Use rollers and extensions as much as possible. Paint rollers work best on interiors because interior walls are large, flat, and lacking in features. Exterior siding tends to have more features and ornamentation that made paint rolling more difficult. But most homes do have a few large sections that can be rolled. Plus, when rolling high or remote sections of siding, be sure to use an extension pole with the roller.
  • Hand-paint only the special sections. Some areas need more attention and a thicker coat of paint than others. Exterior corners and drain pipes are areas that tend to get battered by the weather and can benefit from hand-painting. If painting the entire house by hand seems more than you can tackle, at least address the special areas with the special attention that comes along with hand brushing.
  • Clean brushes carefully. Learn how to properly clean paintbrushes. A quality paintbrush is a fine tool; by treating your brushes better, you extend their lifespan. This allows you to buy higher-quality brushes, which in turn makes your painting go smoother.
  • Use bigger brushes. Buy at least one 4-inch brush. It just makes sense that if you’re going to be painting broad expanses, you need a broader brush.
  • Choose proper paint sheens. Using flat or matte paint finishes helps you pick up again on your painting without worrying about visible lap marks. Flat paint hides overlap marks better. However, be aware that surfaces coated with satin or semi-gloss paints will be easier to clean.

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