How to Choose a House Painter


by Marcus Pickett

House painters aren't hard to find, but trying to determine which ones will do a good job and who is right for your home is a different story. Some painting contractors are just trying to make a quick buck, but some contractors know everything there is to know about house painting and satisfying their customers. Quite a few house painters are somewhere in between. Different priorities may lead to different choices in hiring your painter, but there are also some common pitfalls to avoid.

Pitfall #1: Quick Start, Slow Finish

The average length of a house painting project is almost four days. If you need the project done in the next three days, you can probably pay extra for overtime labor and make it happen. Unfortunately, simply saying you need the project done in three days isn't enough. In an effort to get the job, a painter may show up the first day, complete one-third of the project, take your check, and then move onto other projects. Too many people don't take the time to check on their painters before they make a hiring decision because they're in a hurry. But you can't make sure a project is going to get done quickly until you make sure it's going to get done at all.

How to Find a Painter in a Hurry

  • Online referral services will have painters calling your home within hours, if not minutes, of submitting an online request. Rather than skip customer referrals, use these trusted online sources and read reviews from homeowners about their experiences with various contractors.
  • While you're waiting for contractors to submit estimates, find your own color swatches and have a plan ready for your painting job.
  • Pay in installments and reserve at least one-third of the total payment until the work is completed.

Pitfall #2: Cutting Your Budget in the Wrong Place

The average cost of house painting is $2,152 (or $3,511 for exterior house painting). Some people suffer from sticker shock when they first solicit estimates from house painters. If you're in this position, resist the urge to skimp on labor costs by hiring a non-professional painter. Instead, look at ways to save money through discounted paint products. Many painters can work with you, modifying paint supplies and coverage to help with the bottom line, but they can only go so far. If a highly reputable company is still 10% more than your budget, you should be skeptical if the next guy comes in with a bid less than your budget.

How to Find a Painter on a Budget

  • Make sure you don't pay until the job is done and you're satisfied. Protecting yourself from unreliable contractors will allow you to choose the lowest possible estimate.
  • Ask painters about discounts for moving furniture and/or prepping rooms yourself.
  • Ask painters if they have an off-season, and if they offer discounts during these months.
  • Look for a package deal. Some painters offer a free consultation with an interior decorator as part of their service offering.

Pitfall #3: Hiring the Wrong Painter

The slew of homebuilder bankruptcies in 2009 flooded the house painting market with unemployed painting subcontractors. These painters frequently offer a lower bid. For an unfurnished home this may be your answer, but these painters may be unaccustomed to navigating furniture, electronics, and other personal belongings. Ask an experienced, independent painter about the subtleties of handling a fully furnished house and you'll soon realize you have more than just your walls to consider when hiring a painter. Also, don't assume that a well-qualified interior house painter is able to tackle your exterior painting needs or vice versa. From surface preparation to working around the weather, exterior house painting can sometimes be a world apart.

How to Find the Right Painter

  • Go into detail about the types of jobs the painter has completed and what you expect from the painter during the painting process and from the final result.
  • Customer referrals are especially good at making sure you choose the right type of painter. Try to find a customer who reminds you of yourself, your home, and your paint project. Give added weight to any advice from this professional.
  • Learn more about exterior house painting by reading the Exterior Painting Guide.

-- Marcus Pickett is a senior home improvement writer with He has written more than 1200 articles on managing your home and home improvement trends.