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Why Airless Spraying Costs More Than Brushing and Rolling but the Results is of High Quality Finish

You've decided it's time to repaint the interior of your home, and you're weighing the pros and cons of brushing and rolling versus using an airless sprayer. On the surface, airless spraying seems appealing since it's faster and promises a smooth finish. However, for most DIYers and even professional painters, airless spraying often ends up costing significantly more than the traditional brush and roller method.

Before you drop a few hundred bucks renting an airless sprayer, it's important to understand why spraying costs so much more and whether it's the right choice for your particular project. While airless spraying does have its advantages in some situations, there are a number of reasons why brushing and rolling remain the more budget-friendly options for most interior home painting.

The Higher Upfront Cost of Airless Sprayers

Investing in an airless sprayer means spending more upfront compared to brushes and rollers. Airless sprayers, especially high-quality commercial models, don’t come cheap. You’re looking at several hundred to over a thousand dollars for a sprayer, while you can get started with brushes and rollers for well under $100.

The higher cost comes down to a few factors:

  • Powerful motors. Airless sprayers need strong motors to generate enough pressure to atomize the paint and push it through the hose and spray tip. More powerful motors mean higher costs.

  • Durable parts. From the pump and motor to the hose, gun, and spray tips, airless sprayer components have to withstand high pressures and frequent use. This requires more heavy-duty, high-quality parts which also increase the price.

  • Complex technology. Airless sprayers incorporate sophisticated technology like high-pressure pumps, motors with precision speed control, specialized hose and spray tip designs - all of which factor into the overall manufacturing cost. This technology ain’t cheap!

  • Additional accessories. In addition to the sprayer unit itself, you need other gear like an airless spray hose, spray gun or wand, filters, spray tips, etc. These accessories also add to the total cost.

While airless spraying does cost more upfront, for many professional painters and contractors the increased productivity and high-quality results make it well worth the investment. For DIYers or small jobs, brushes and rollers may still be the more budget-friendly choice. But when you have a lot of square footage to cover, an airless sprayer can save time and money in the long run.

The Additional Protective Equipment Required

Spraying with an airless sprayer requires a lot more gear than brushing and rolling, which adds to the overall cost.

To start, you'll need a respirator mask to avoid inhaling paint particles and fumes. Airless sprayers generate a ton of mist and overspray, so a mask is a must. You'll also want protective eyewear, like goggles or a face shield.

Then there's the coveralls. Unless you want to ruin your clothes, invest in a good pair of disposable coveralls and shoe covers. You should also consider gloves, especially if you're spraying latex or oil-based paint.

  • Prep the room by laying down drop cloths, tape, and plastic sheeting to protect floors, trim, windows, and anything else you don't want to paint. All this protective equipment also needs to be purchased and factored into the cost.

  • Don't forget the expense of the sprayer itself, which can be significant, especially for larger commercial units. The spray tips also need to be replaced periodically, adding to long term costs.

  • Additional cleanup time and the solvents required also mean higher costs. You'll need tools like scrapers, trays, and brushes to clean the sprayer parts, and chemicals like lacquer thinner to dissolve any remaining paint residue.

So while airless spraying may seem like an efficient method, all these additional requirements mean the total cost of a sprayed paint job is usually notably higher than the good old brush and roller approach. For small DIY projects, brushing and rolling is often the more budget-friendly option.

The Extra Time Needed to Mask and Shield Surfaces

When spraying walls and ceilings with an airless sprayer, extra time is needed to properly mask and shield surfaces you don’t want to get paint on. Unlike brushing and rolling, overspray is inevitable with spray painting. You’ll need to account for the additional prep work to get a professional-looking result.

Masking Trim and Floors

Any baseboards, window sills, doors, floors or adjacent walls you want to protect from overspray will need to be masked off with paint tape and drop cloths. This requires carefully measuring, cutting and applying tape, then placing drop cloths and ensuring no seams or edges are exposed. Removing all this masking once done spraying also adds time. For DIYers, this extra masking and prep work can significantly increase the total time required for the project.

Protecting Furnishings

In occupied spaces like homes, shielding or removing furniture, art, lighting fixtures, vents, outlets and anything else in the spray zone is a must. This may involve moving heavy pieces out of the room, covering them with drop cloths or tape and paper, or fully masking them off. Re-setting the room once spraying is complete also takes time. For professional painters, the cost of labor for all this furnishing protection is factored into job estimates when spraying.

Venting for Proper Air Flow

Proper ventilation is key when spraying indoors. Opening windows and using fans to pull overspray out and bring fresh air in requires setup and monitoring. Powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) or ventilators may also be needed for larger jobs, adding to costs.

In the end, while airless sprayers offer an efficient method for applying paint, the additional time and costs required for masking, shielding and venting the work area often makes brushing and rolling the more budget-friendly choice, especially for smaller DIY projects. For professional painters and large commercial jobs, these extra steps are accounted for, but still ultimately increase the total cost when compared to more basic application methods.

The Increased Amount of Paint Required

When using an airless sprayer, you’ll need significantly more paint to cover the same area as brushing and rolling. Why is this? A few reasons:


Airless sprayers are infamous for overspray—the mist of paint particles that ends up covering surrounding surfaces. Overspray wastes a lot of paint and requires extra time to clean up. You’ll need at least 25% more paint to account for overspray loss.

Thinner Coats

Airless sprayers apply thinner coats of paint with each pass compared to brushes and rollers. It may take 3-4 coats of sprayed-on paint to equal the coverage of one coat of brushed-on paint. More coats mean buying more paint.

Learning Curve

If you’re not experienced with an airless sprayer, there will be a learning curve. You’ll waste paint as you get the hang of controlling the sprayer and achieving an even coat. It’s best to practice your technique on scrap material first before tackling your actual walls.

•Choose a spray tip sized for your project. The smaller the tip, the less paint is released, so you’ll need more passes. Larger tips waste more paint.

•Keep the sprayer moving at a consistent speed and distance from the surface. Stopping and starting again or changing your speed/distance will create uneven coats, requiring extra paint to fix.

•Overlap each stroke by about 50% for the most even coverage. Not overlapping enough will create missed spots; overlapping too much wastes paint.

•Consider a paint sprayer with adjustable pressure to fine-tune the spray for your needs. Higher pressure releases more paint for faster coverage but also more overspray.

With some practice, you can minimize paint waste. But in general, you should plan on buying at least 25-50% more paint for an airless sprayer versus brushing and rolling. The increased productivity may offset the added cost, but it’s important to budget properly for your project.

The Added Expense of Cleanup and Maintenance

The Added Expense of Cleanup and Maintenance

With an airless sprayer, the job isn’t done when the paint’s on the wall. There are additional costs to account for in the form of cleanup and maintenance.

More Thorough Cleaning

Compared to brushes and rollers, airless sprayers require a much more intensive cleaning after use to prevent clogs and keep the equipment in working order. You’ll need to flush the sprayer with solvent, then disassemble many parts to clean individually before reassembling—a time-consuming process. The sprayer also generates a lot more overspray, resulting in more time needed to lay down drop cloths and protect surfaces, and clean up drips and spatters when done.

Costly Maintenance

Airless sprayers contain many more parts than manual painting tools, so there are more opportunities for something to break down or need replacement. Things like spray tips, filters, seals, and hoses will eventually degrade and leak, requiring service. The sprayer itself will need periodic maintenance from a technician to keep it functioning properly. These costs add up over time and multiple uses.

Storage Considerations

Airless sprayers are more difficult to store than brushes and rollers. They require a larger storage area, enough space for all accessories and parts, and a suitable environment to keep the equipment in working condition. Harsh temperatures and humidity can damage seals, hoses, and other components if not properly stored. Ongoing storage costs like renting a separate storage unit may need to be factored in, depending on your available space.

In the end, while airless spraying may save time, the additional expenses in cleanup, maintenance, and storage often mean the total cost of a job is higher than if you had used manual painting tools. Make sure to account for these added costs when determining if renting or purchasing an airless sprayer makes financial sense for your needs.


So there you have it - while airless sprayers can save you time, the costs can really add up. Between the equipment, masking supplies, and extra paint needed, it may end up costing you 50-100% more per room than the old-fashioned brush and roller method. Unless you’re a professional painter doing many houses per year, the time savings probably won’t offset the additional expenses for most small DIY or residential jobs. Sometimes the tried-and-true techniques are the most budget-friendly. If you’re looking to save money on your next paint project, grab your brush, roller, and a few friends - you’ll finish the job with cash left in your pocket and a few funny stories to share over pizza and beers!

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