Certain home improvement projects require a professional. Not many homeowners are ready to install their HVAC, pour a foundation, or build an addition. Other projects, though, just seem to be begging for the do-it-yourselfer. Painting is one such job. After all, who isn't capable of dabbing a brush or a roller into paint?
But painting is more difficult than it looks. So, it is with great pleasure that many DIY painters decide that it is now time to hire a painting contractor to take on the job. They may have arrived at this decision after years of tackling their own painting jobs. Or they may simply want the painting job done quickly and professionally.
What a Painting Contractor Is
A painting contractor can work independently or as a sub-contractor under a general contractor, Usually, the painting contractor is a relatively small operation, ranging from the one-person sole proprietor up to 20 or 30 painters working for a small company.
Some painting contractors take on related tasks, such as installing millwork or trim, light carpentry, hanging or finishing drywall, plaster repairs, minor drywall repairs, and hanging wallpaper.
Most painting contractors do both interior and exterior painting. But some painters specialize in interior decorative work only, such as wallpaper.
Since picking colors is one of the first steps in painting a home, a color consultant can help with that. Some of the larger painting contractors may have an in-house color consultant. Or they may be able to connect you with a recommended color consultant.
How to Find a Painting Contractor
Since there are no nationally franchised painting companies, painting contractors tend to be local. So, you'll need to search your immediate area for a painting contractor who is capable of taking on your project.
Ask around your neighborhood for recommendations on painting contractors. Some painting contractors display signs on the lawns of houses they are working on. Ask the owners of homes that are being worked on if you can peek in. More importantly, ask if they would hire this painting contractor a second time.
Large communities often have local magazines and many of them feature renovated homes. These pieces will list the names and contact information of the contractor and sub-contractors.
What a Painting Contractor Does
An interior painting project, done by a painting contractor, will take anywhere from two to four days, depending on the size of the house.
- Coverage of all areas that will not be painted, such as floors, windows, kitchen counters, and cabinets.
- Minor surface preparation before painting, which means light sanding and scraping away loose paint, tapping in a few protruding nails, cleaning off the woodwork, and using tackcloth in some areas. The key here is minor, as the contractor will assume that the house is mostly in paint-ready condition.
- Removal of electrical plates, lights, doors, and other obstacles. These items are labeled and stored in a separate area.
- Moving furniture away for better access to the areas to be painted. This is not a painter’s job, so you would need to confirm this beforehand. Items that aren't easily moved are covered.
- Priming new drywall or the current paint with an interior latex primer. Primer has short recoating periods, so two coats of primer are usually possible within one day.
- Two coats of the color of interior latex paint on the walls. You usually need to wait at least one to two hours to recoat eggshell or satin sheen paint. But it's usually best to wait longer than this. Flat matte paint can be recoated within 30 minutes or an hour.
- Two coats of paint are applied to the ceiling. As a flat sheen paint, the second coat of paint can be applied fairly soon after the first coat.
- Painting the trim and molding (baseboards, window trim, window muntins, etc.).
- Touchups of missed spots are made with the brush or with a small roller.
- Cleanups for accidents. No matter how good the coverage with drop-cloths, some drips will happen. Painting contractors are prepared to remove paint drips and smears.
- A final evaluation between painting contractor and homeowner.
How to Discuss Your Job With a Painting Contractor
Unlike conversing with an electrician, you do not need to know specialized lingo. Most house painting contractors are good at making things clear to the homeowner. A few topics you will want to discuss:
- Is the cost of the paint included in the estimate?
- What type of paint does the contractor intend on using?
- How much will it cost to use premium-quality paint?
- Do surfaces need to be primed?
- Should the interior surfaces be washed down and, if so, how will this be done?
- For exteriors, how will the siding be washed?
- How many coats of paint will be laid down?
- How will the non-paintable areas be covered for protection?
- How long will the job take?
- Is it preferable for the residents to vacate the house during the job?
- Will masking tape be used around the trim or the cut-in method?
How Much the Painting Job Will Cost
Likely, the estimate for your painting job will be more than you expect. This is common for do-it-yourselfers because, based on previous DIY jobs, the cost of the job is supplies and materials only, no labor.
Some painting contractors will have formulas that they use, totaling up the square footage of walls and ceilings, along with linear footage of trim. They will calculate preparation time, as well as the hard costs for primer and paint.
Most paint contractors will give you an estimate based on their experience with similar jobs. While this estimate cannot be tied to specifics, it is usually a reasonably good figure. For you, the homeowner, the only way you will know if this is a good estimate is to compare it to quotes you get from other contractors.
A whole-house interior paint job will likely cost about $3 to $7 per square foot of floor space. So, a 2,000-square-foot home will cost from $6,000 to $14,000.
Some painting contractors will include the cost of the paint in the estimate, but that's usually for lower-quality contractor-grade paint. If you'd like higher quality paint, you'll need to add that into the total cost, as well.