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Do It Yourself: Don’t go cheap when buying paint sprayers

Q. I want to learn to use a paint sprayer and do a lot of inside and outside painting at my house. The dealer has a good selection but is not clear on which would be best for me. Can you help?

A. Do-it-yourselfers basically have two choices in sprayers, not counting aerosol-spray paints often chosen for small jobs. The choices are airless sprayers and HVLP (high volume, low pressure) sprayers. Some professionals use sprayers in which the paint is propelled by compressed air from a tank, but few do-it-yourselfers want to deal with the compressor and air hose involved.

Both airless and HVLP sprayers use a built-in pump to propel the paint through nozzles, and they simply have to be plugged into an electrical outlet. Airless sprayers are the big favorite for those who want to use latex paint, which is the choice in the vast majority of painting projects. Top-quality airless sprayers can pump out thicker latex paints without thinning.

HVLP sprayers can spray latex, but it usually has to be thinned, which means more preparation time and sometimes more coats of paint to get good coverage. However, HVLP sprayers are the best for those who are most interested in spraying clear finishes like varnish and lacquer, stains and oil-based paint, which seldom need thinning. HVLP sprayers are easier to control and produce less overspray.

When buying either type of sprayer, it pays to choose the best-quality sprayer you can afford. Most come with instructions on using the sprayer and on effective painting or finishing, but I recommend practicing to get a smooth finish before starting major projects. When I bought my first sprayer, I practiced on sheets of cardboard cut from a big box and leaned against a tree. One of the things I like least about spraying is cleaning the spray gun and paint container after each use. To me, cleaning a paint brush is a joy compared with cleaning a sprayer.

Q. My aluminum rain gutters leak at a couple of joints where gutter sections are connected to fittings. Dirty water drips onto the composite deck and makes ugly stains that are difficult to remove. I’ve patched the joints several times with caulk, but they always start leaking again soon after. What’s wrong and how do I fix it?

A. Leaks at aluminum gutter joints are common, and are often caused by movement in the gutters that breaks the original seal between gutter and fitting. Strong winds and very heavy rains can cause enough movement to break the seal. One of the problems with getting effective repairs at the joints is that it is usually very difficult to get the surface clean enough to give good adhesion to the repair material. The joint must also be dry.

A high-quality 100-percent silicone caulk, like GE’s Silicone II Gutter and Flashing Caulk, is a good choice for repairs because it is fully waterproof when cured, adheres to many surfaces including metal like aluminum, and has enough flexibility to withstand some movement in the joint. This is a clear caulk, and can be used both inside and outside the gutter joint without being unsightly; it can’t be painted.

Virtually all aluminum gutters have a baked-on paint finish, so you’ll need to be careful not to damage the paint when cleaning joints, especially on the outside surface.

Gutter sections usually fit into a slot in the edges of the fitting, so a sharp-pointed knife makes a good cleaning tool to scrape out dirt and old caulk. A stiff brush can be used to loosen dirt, but the dirt residue must then be brushed away from the repair area.

Put plastic sheets or other protection on your deck to prevent stains from dripping caulk. Caulk the inside and outside of the joints, using a bead of caulk one-quarter to three-eighths inch thick. A plastic spoon or knife makes a good tool to smooth the bead of caulk, especially if dipped in a little mineral spirits (paint thinner).

There is no way to guarantee that using this system will permanently stop the gutter leaks, but I have tried a number of repair products and this one is as good or better than most.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.