How to Paint Your House Inside and Out-the Right Way

How to Paint Your House Inside and Out-the Right Way

The best and most comprehensive guide for painting all of the interior and exterior surf4ces of your home. Through step-by-step, detailed instructions and scores of how-to photos and illustrations, The Complete Painters Handbook tells you everything you need to know to prepare and paint:

  1. walls
  2. railings
  3. interior and  exterior trim
  4. steps
  5. shutters
  6. downspouts
  7. baseboards
  8. masonry
  9. windows
  10. floors
  11. concrete
  12. garage doors
  13. gutters
  14. brick
  15. ceilings
  16. doors

To our Goldenland House Painters, painting is much more than just waving a brush.

  1. Select the best color and the right paint for each job
  2. Repair and prepare surfaces for painting
  3. Choose the best brushes, rollers, and spray guns
  4. Operate special tools such as sanders
  5. Raise scaffolding and ladders
  6. Apply paint professionally so there are no streaks or unsightly drip marks
  7. Prevent problems such as peeling, cracking, and chalking
  8. Estimate material and labor requirements
  9. Most importantly, do the job safely

Our websit is the culmination of the work of many Auckland local painters. When we started painting, we searched high and low for a comprehensive guide to painting but found little detailed, professional level instruction. I had to learn the ropes alone, all the while think-ing how valuable that kind of guide would be.

Our painters will proof you how to paint or stain a house safely, quickly, and predictably. It leads you through the entire painting process, including how to glaze windows, replace trim boards, repair drywall, operate electric sanders, raise ladders and platforms, and apply a variety of paints and stains, inside or out. Because painting is much more than waving a brush, I cover color selection, paint types, peeling problems, and rollers and spray guns.

No longer will you fall prey to a faceless painting company’s estimate: we show you everything you need to know to complete the job yourself. If you choose not to paint, this book gives you the background to wisely evaluate a professional painter’s estimate.

We promise you 10-hour workdays, lots of humidity and sticky clothes, paint on your hands, sneakers filled with dust, the faint aroma of paint thinner in your hair, a dynamite tan, a terrific sense of satisfaction and pride, and savings in your pocket.

Are We the Best Person for the Job?

Before you start hauling out ladders and opening paint buckets, ask yourself these questions to determine if you’re the best person for the job:

  1. Can you physically handle the surface preparation and repairs that should be done first? Do you want to?
  2. Do you have the tools and equipment you’ll need? If not, do you care to invest in them?
  3. Do you have the time to do the job? What would happen if you missed your deadline?
  4. Do you feel very comfortable undertaking this projector do you get dizzy from heights or hate getting messy?
  5. How much money will you save by doing this yourself? Enough to warrant taking on the job?
  6. How committed are you to doing a top-quality job that will last?

These questions can help you decide if you should tackle this undertaking or if you should hire someone to do the job. To get a good overview of the painting process and all that it entails, refer to “A Painter’s Checklist—Exterior” before you commit yourself to doing the job on your own.

Most of the repairs and preparation a house will need before painting are easy enough and can be done with basic home tools and modest skills. You may choose to have a carpenter fix any standard problems, so that you can concentrate on painting.

Sanding is an ambitious job, too. I recommend using a heavy-duty rotary disk-sander to do the paint removal, and this tool demands some strength to use and an investment of around $150, should you choose to buy one.

How big is the job? Some houses simply need to be washed before painting. Peeling walls, however, mean heavy sanding. Also consider that any job will take about 25 percent more time if done on a ladder rather than on the ground; the job will be more dangerous, as well.

Estimate the dollar savings of doing the project yourself. The larger, older, and more tree-sheltered the house, the more tools, equipment, materials, and time you’re apt to need. For help in determining the expense of doing the job yourself. The size of the cash outlay may come as a surprise. You can save money by renting the more expensive equipment, but I do not recommend trusting your safety to rental ladders and planks.

To calculate how much money you can expect to save by doing the job yourself, add your estimated costs for equipment, materials, and labor—giving yourself a wage you consider worth your while. How does the sum compare with estimates from two or three painting contractors?

Assess your own fitness for the project. A couple of rooms are easy to paint and don’t require a lot of stamina. But painting an entire house is time-consuming and enervating. You must have both plenty of time to complete the project, everything takes longer than expected, especially the first time around) and the endurance to work hour after hour, in dirty clothes, in high and precarious places, and in variable weather. With all due respect, it may be best to leave physically tiring work, such as using a sander and painting second stories and eaves, to a contractor if you are over the age of 40 or in less-than-excellent condition. House painting is hard work.

Finally, I’ve seen many painting jobs run far beyond the anticipated completion date. A time miscalculation can ruin the fun of painting and jeopardize the chance to finish the job at all. Again, we will help you calculate how long the preparation work and painting will take.

Despite all of the cautions indicated above, painting a house is still one of the most gratifying experiences a homeowner can have—to do a thorough, neat, beautiful, and durable job and then haul in that last ladder without incident, on time, and at a cash cost thousands of dollars under the lowest professional estimate is a terrific and doable accomplishment. If you are up to the task, I wish you all the best!



❑ Remove shutters (watch out for bees and bats). Label and stack shutters, or trans-port them to a stripping shop if necessary.
❑ Clip bushes and tree limbs back from house. Pick up clippings.
❑ Close storm windows so that sanding dust does not get on sashes.
❑ Remove hardware (light fixtures, plant hangers, thermometers, and so forth).
❑ Begin heavy sanding, staying out of direct sun. Work top to bottom, side to side. Then fine sand these areas.
❑ Scrape. Concentrate on trim-to-siding joints where the sander wheel cannot reach, and also masonry, concrete foundations, and gutters.
❑ Fill holes and cracks with caulk, Water Putty, and Spackle. Repair broken glass and rotten wood.
❑ Brush dust off siding. Wash with TSP and bleach (painted and stained surfaces only). [11 Remove storm windows and renew glaz-ing compound as necessary.
❑ Prep shutters. (This can be done evenings and on rainy days.)
❑ Prime bare wood. Allow to dry 24 hours.
❑ Paint. If a one-color scheme, paint every-thing in one sweep—trim, siding, and windows. If a two-color scheme, paint siding first, let dry, then paint all trim. Paint shutters on rainy days.
❑ Re-install storm windows and hardware.
❑ Paint floors, thresholds, and steps.
❑ Walk around house to check for drips, bare spots, and other flaws.
❑ Re-install shutters.
❑ Scrape window panes when paint has dried sufficiently.


❑ Remove outlet plates, lights, furniture, hardware, carpets, and so forth.
❑ Repair split and cracked walls. Make other surface repairs.
❑ Hand sand glossy paint on doors, windows, and trim.
❑ Wipe away dust and cobwebs. Wash with mild soap where necessary.
❑ Lay drop cloths and arrange lamps for maximum lighting.
❑ Prime bare wood and repairs.
❑ Paint. If a one-color scheme, paint ceiling and walls, top to bottom; then paint woodwork. If a two-color scheme, paint ceiling and let dry. Then paint walls and let dry. Then paint woodwork (windows, doors, cabinets, and so forth).
❑ Paint floors and thresholds.
❑ Re-install hardware, remove drop cloths and equipment, sweep up, and reposi-tion carpets and furniture.
❑ Scrape window panes when paint has dried sufficiently.

How Much Time and Money Will It Take?

This chapter shows you how to figure how much time and money you’ll need to paint all or part of your home. An estimate is especially important to you as a homeowner, because other responsibilities limit the time you can devote to a painting job of this scale. The figures will suggest whether you should take it on yourself or hire it out.
This chapter guides you through an estimating process that will enable you to accurately gauge how much time will be needed to paint anything and everything in your home, whether it be the whole place or just a few windows.

Estimating the Exterior

As you walk around the house a few times, note high spots, peeling paint, sagging shutters, and other time-demanding areas. Once you have a general idea of what needs to be done, then get specific. Inventory the things you’ll have to paint using Table 1-1, “Time Estimates: Exterior” on pages 4-5. Your home’s exterior is merely the sum of many small painting projects: doors, windows, shutters, blocks of siding, trim board sections, fancy wood-work, and so on. By tallying how many of these projects you plan to paint, you get a picture of the magnitude of your painting job.

This table should help you determine the amount of preparation, priming, and painting work for each item. As you fill it out, you’ll be using your judgment. All you need to do is figure if and where sanding and washing and priming and painting are required, and then look up how long this will take. For more information on just how much attention a particular area needs, see the chapter that covers that particular aspect of prep work or painting.

Keep in mind that the decision to sand to the bare wood means you’ll have to prime and paint, which is just like painting twice. As you inspect the house, judge how bad off each element is. I’ve used three categories . Extensive preparation/prime means that you expect to heavy sand 50 to 100 percent of the surface to the bare wood, then fine sand, scrape, and prime in order to be ready to paint the finish coat. Moderate preparation/ prime involves preparing 10 to 50 percent of the surface. And by light preparation/prime, I mean that a surface needs only a little sanding and scraping, and very little or no priming, that is, there’ll be no bare wood to cover. Note that I’ve included priming time in these preparation estimates. This makes sense because the more bare wood you expose by sanding, the more priming you must do. In order to keep things simple, I have not made priming a separate work category.

If you want to know how much of your preparation/prime time will be spent priming, refer to the table. I calculate that fully 30 percent of an extensive preparation job will be spent on priming; on a moderate job, priming will take about 10 percent, and on a light job, virtually 0 percent.

Don’t forget to allow for time to take care of ancillary duties. Bushes and limbs should be trimmed back at least 1 foot from the siding, because you’re going to need space to move around. You also can pull delicate bushes away from the siding with
heavy drop cloths and rope; but remember that bushes still have to be trimmed so that they won’t spring back against fresh paint once the cloths are removed. Also consider that you’ll have to brush all sanded surfaces to remove sanding dust, and wash and rinse those areas from which you don’t have to remove the old paint. You shouldn’t wash bare wood walls after brushing, you want to keep bare wood as dry as possible.

If you’ll be painting anything that is higher than two stories, increase the time estimates in the table by 25 percent to reflect a slower, more cautious rate of working.

When you add up the number of hours a job will take, you may be surprised at how much time is involved. An entire house could take you 6 weeks or more, if you can work only weekday evenings and weekends for a total of 30 hours per week at best. This is a big chunk of time, which is why I strongly recommend that you paint with a partner.

One advantage of working with someone is that the job will be a lot less lonely. And loneliness is a factor in the time estimate for a paint job: when there’s no one to joke around with or compare your progress to, you begin to work slower and slower. You won’t get clinically depressed, but you won’t have much fun either. And if painting your house isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing. So get a partner, or better yet, a few partners.

Moreover, when working with others, you’ll speed up the preparation and painting tasks: two people painting together can do the job more than twice as fast as a single painter. For example, you need at least two people to set up the plank on ladder jacks. That means- the solitary painter must paint from a ladder, which is less efficient.

But where are you going to find partners, especially if you don’t have any children you can enslave for a few weeks? The barn-raising strategy is a favorite of mine. You and your spouse get together with a neighborhood couple who also need their house painted. The four of you split the cost of the sanders, plank, ladders, and other equipment. Then you all gang together to paint first one house and then the other. It’s faster, more fun, and cheaper, and you may end up better friends, to boot.

After you tally up the numbers, take a walk around the house and consider how many 10-hour days and weekday evenings you can devote to this project. You should allow a comfortable buffer of time, because a few rainy weekends could wash away the hours you set aside to prep and paint. You don’t want to find yourself starting in late August and still painting in October: you may inadvertently sacrifice safety and workmanship in trying to beat the clock.

Remember that you don’t have to do it all at once; you can paint only the siding and trim now, leaving the window sashes for next year. You also can start sanding as soon as it is warm enough to work outside without gloves, and continue painting well into autumn.

The More Colors, the More Time

In this book, I use the term “one-color job” to describe a house on which everything is painted with the same color and type of paint. On a “two-color job,” siding and trim are painted with different colors and/or different types of paint. And a “multicolor” house involves three colors or types of paint on siding, trim, and shutters.

A multi color house takes no longer to paint than a two-color house because the shutters are taken off the wall to be painted, no matter what their color. But the time estimate tables take into consideration that a two-color job will take longer than a one-color job. This is an important point to keep in mind when determining the magnitude of the job: a two-color job can take you anywhere from 11/2 to 2 times as long in the painting stage as a one-color job.

Resist the temptation to reduce the hour estimates listed in the tables. You may think you can beat the times I have given, but there are a number of factors built into the estimates. For example, I know I can paint and scrape a window in 45 minutes, and yet I advise you to allow at least 1 hour. That’s a pretty big difference when you’re talking 20 windows. But you have to allow time to remove screens and storm windows from their tracks, remove hardware, sweep up or vacuum the paint shavings after painting, and, finally, re-install the storms, screens, and hardware. These tasks are typically overlooked when considering the magnitude of a project, but the little things add up to extra hours. In fact, you’ll have to work quickly enough just to meet the estimates in the tables!

Understanding Exterior Estimates

Now, let’s apply everything discussed thus far to a real painting situation to see if you understand how the estimating is done. Imagine that you are going to be painting the front side of the garage shown in Illustration 1-1 on page 6. See if you can put together an hourly estimate that approximates the one outlined below. This exercise should help you pull together all the suggestions in this chapter, which will enable you to see the big picture when estimating your own painting project.

Assume the following: 100 percent of the sid-ing and trim must be stripped to the bare wood and/or scraped until free of loose paint, the garage doors and windows need only moderate prep work, the paint is not thick and alligatoring, and the color scheme is two-color. There are no shutters to paint.


In this example, you want to paint the sash inside the storm window housing. The three win-dows all need to have some glazing compound replaced, but there are no broken panes of glass to replace. So, this qualifies as moderate prep work.

prep/ prime: 3 windows X 1/2 hours = 11/2
paint: 3 windows X 1 hour 3/5 hours total (approx.)


The only doors here are the garage doors. Let’s assume that these doors need a moderate amount of heavy sanding and scraping.

prep/prime: 2 garage doors X 11/2 hours = 3
paint: 2 garage doors X 11/2 hours = 3/6 hours total

“Blocks” of Siding

In this example, the entire garage face needs to be stripped to the wood. You must make a judgment call for your siding: if the peeling paint is thick and alligator, allocate an extra 1/2 hour for heavy sanding. But in this example, the paint is fairly thin and comes off like cream under the spinning disk-sander. Therefore, you should allocate the standard 11/2 hours for each 8-by-8-foot “block” of siding.

There are definitely two full blocks of siding: one to the left and one to the right of the center window (even though they are only about 6 by 6 feet). To the right of the right window and to the left of the left window, there are small sections of siding not yet accounted for. Even though these corner siding areas are definitely smaller than the standard 8-by-8-foot section, they are tough to heavy sand because they are tight working areas—cramped-in by the main structure of the house and a nearby downspout. Consider these two corner siding areas as equaling one block of siding. The area of siding below the windows looks as if it equals between two and three blocks of siding. Because we want to make a realisitic estimate, let’s round this figure up to three siding blocks. Thus, we have six blocks of siding to heavy sand, prime, and paint.

  • prep/prime: 6 siding blocks X 11/2 hours = 9
  • paint: 6 siding blocks X 3/4 hour = 5 (approx.)/14 hours total

Trim Boards

Count the number of 20-foot lengths of trim board. This includes the trim running beneath the gutter and down the right-hand side of the garage (under the downspout). If you assume the plank scaffolding is 16 feet long, then the following seems accurate:

  • gutter trim (20 feet) = 1
  • vertical trim board on right-hand side (20 feet) = 1/2 sections
  • With the equivalent of two 20-foot sections of trim to paint:
  • prep/prime: 2 sections X 3/4 hour = 1/1/2
  • paint: 2 sections X 3/4 hour = 11/2/3 hours total


Small sections of the concrete foundation to the lower sides of the garage doors should be painted with a roller. Though it will actually take you only about 20 minutes, allocate one full hour to be conservative.

Also, remember to account for those extra duties like tying back bushes and brushing the siding free of sanding dust. Let’s assume the latter takes 2 hours.

Flower Boxes

There are three flower boxes to be stripped to the bare wood.

  • prep/prime: 3 flower boxes X 1/4 hour
  • paint: 3 flower boxes X 1/4 hour = 3/4/2 hours total
  • You’ve covered all the bases. It’s time to tally the figures, which should equal 33 hours to paint the front of the garage.

Now get yourself a partner. While the entire job still requires 33 hours’ worth of work, it can be completed in under 17 hours with two people or in just about 8 hours with four people.

Estimating the Interior

Go through the same steps for making indoor estimates as you did for outdoor estimates. Your painting will include many of the same items—doors, windows, shutters, moldings, blocks of wall and ceiling area, plus cabinets and shelves. Although it’s valuable to understand how long an interior painting assignment will take, it is not critical to your ability to finish the work because even large rooms don’t take that much time to paint. You can elect to start painting an interior room without really knowing how long it will take you, and you can run way over your intuitive time schedule without it making much difference: if it takes 12 hours and you thought it should have taken 6 hours, the worst fallout from this underestimation is the irritation it causes. Being able to finish an interior job is not jeopardized by an inaccurate man-hour estimate.
Refer to Table 1-3, “Time Estimates: Interior,” on pages 8-9 for preparation and painting times. Keep in mind that interior work requires very care-ful painting. You need to be much more precise and discriminating than when painting outside, where a small drop of trim paint on the siding may not be noticed.

Interior prep work can take either a little time or a lot, depending on the preparation and repair needed. For instance, it takes very little time if you are just doing a light hand sanding of glossy paint or occasionally scraping loose paint. Repairing a hole in the wall, however, could take up a few evenings.

Estimating Materials Cost

Estimating materials is a real guessing game because every job is unique, but this exercise should be useful in giving you a dollar range within which your total materials bill will fall. First you need to estimate the number of hours your painting proj-ect will take, as explained above. Then use Table 1-4 “Converting Hours to Dollars,” to convert the total number of hours (including time for washing, bush trimming, and so on) to a dollar figure.

This model assumes you will be purchasing high-quality materials, including paint and primer, premium sanding disks, and brand name glazing compound. If you think that the materials bill is high, consider that professionals now charge between $5,000 and $12,000 for a full exterior paint job.

Estimating the Amount of Paint: Exterior

About 65 percent of your total materials bill will be for paint and primer. Sanding disks make up roughly 15 percent, according to my experience, with the remaining 20 percent going to TSP (trisodium phosphate) and bleach, caulk, fillers, masking tape, nails, glazing compound and glazier points, sheets of sandpaper, and so on. Because paint and primer command the lion’s share of your total materials bill, plus the fact that you want to avoid over ordering a custom-mixed color or running out of paint when the stores are closed, it pays to figure out how many gallons of paint you will need.

There are two ways to estimate the number of gallons of siding paint you will need. Visually divide the house into sections of 20 by 20 feet, or 400 square feet. This is very roughly the area that a gallon of paint will cover. You can simply hold your hands in front of your face to define blocks that are about that size. Figure on using 1 gallon of paint for each block; if you are using stain, count on using 11/3 gallons per block for the first coat and 1 gallon for the second, because stain soaks into the wood.

  • If your house will be a two-color job—that is, trim and siding will be different colors—plan on buying one gallon of the trim color for every eight gallons of siding paint. So if you need six gallons for the siding, buy a seventh gallon in the trim color to take care of eaves, trim boards, doors, etc.
  • If you are painting shutters, you’ll need one gallon of paint for every 28 shutters that will he sprayed, or every 34 shutters that will be painted by hand.
  • If you will be painting window sashes as well as window trim, add one gallon of trim paint for every 40 windows. Buy a full gallon whether you have 28 windows or 36.

To get a more precise estimate of the number of gallons required, you may calculate the surface area of your siding. Illustration 1-2 on page 10 shows a basic house structure. It’s simply a drawing of four rectangles and two triangles side-by-side. Once you begin to see your own house as a series of rectangles and triangles, gallon estimates are a cinch. Simply measure the lengths, widths, and heights of each “square” and “rectangle” on your house, and calculate total square feet. For example, the dimensions of the house in the illustration are: length, 80 feet; width, 35 feet; height, 12 feet; and gable height, 8 feet. With these numbers, we can figure out how much surface area must be painted:

  • Each of the long sides (the front and back of the house) measures 12 by 80 feet. Therefore:
  • 12 feet X 80 feet = 960 square feet per side
  • 2 sides = 1920 square feet

The two short sides (the near side and far side of the house) each measure 12 by 35 feet. Therefore:

  • 12 feet X 35 feet = 420 square feet per side
  • 2 sides = 840 square feet

The two gables (one on top of each short side) each measure 8 by 35 feet. Multiply these two dimensions and then multiply this number by 1/2. Therefore:

  • 8 feet X 35 feet X 1/2 = 140 square feet per gable
  • 2 gables = 280 square feet

Thus, we have the following measurements:

2 long sides        1920
2 short sides       840
2 gables            280
total square feet   3040

3040 square feet
——————————————— = 7.6 gallons
400 square feet covered
per gallon
What about windows and doors? Clearly, you would need less siding paint if you had lots of windows and doors taking up siding space than if you had siding alone. But the calculation is still accurate. For instance, if Illustration 1-2 had ten windows measuring 3 by 5 feet each, windows would take up 150 square feet of siding space (10 X 3 X 5). Therefore:

total square feet      3040
window allowance       150
net square feet        2890
2890 square feet
——————————————— = 7.2 gallons
400 square feet covered
per gallon

The difference between 7.6 gallons and 7.2 gallons is less than 1/2 gallon, not much at all. When you consider that a rough siding texture can reduce coverage from 400 square feet to 320 square feet per gallon, it makes sense to ignore windows and doors because this automatically compensates for the extra paint you’ll need if your siding is not perfectly smooth. Besides, you want to have a little paint left over for future needs (touch-up, color matching, etc.). Finally, use the above rules to calcu-late the remaining gallons required for windows, doors, and trim.

Remember that if you are sanding the siding, you must buy primer and paint. For instance, if you were sanding 100 percent (or 50 percent) of the siding, you would need about 8 gallons (or 4 gallons) of primer as well as 8 gallons of paint, which equals 16 gallons (or 12 gallons) total!

Now that you’ve figured out how much paint you need, you can determine how much the remaining materials will cost. You can get an estimate by using this rule of thumb: about 35 percent of the total material cost will be for nonpaint items. Assuming a total cost of $24.00 per gallon of paint, here’s what we come up with:

7.6 gallons X $24.00 per gallon = $182.40 total paint cost

$182.40 total paint cost X -35/65 = $98.22 65

So, you’ll spend about $182.40 for paint and $98.22 for things like roller sleeves, aluminum foil,glazing compound, sanding disks, and masking tape. Your total will be about $280.00.

If you want to get more precise about where your nonpaint material dollars are going, first make a list of every prepping and painting job ahead of you, noting the materials listed in the Equipment & Materials boxes located in the applicable how-to sections. Then refer to Table 1-5 and add up the costs.

Estimating Equipment Costs

Once you have determined how much mate-rials will cost, you should figure out how much it will cost to purchase and/or rent all the equipment you will need. Simply make a list of each piece of equipment you will need, using the Equipment & Material boxes located in the applicable how-to sections, and refer to Table 1-6.

Hiring a Contractor

If you are daunted by the time and dollar estimates you come up with, you may opt to hire a professional rather than doing the job yourself. If you have a huge painting job, hiring a pro is a wise decision. Nevertheless, your reading won’t be in vain. Once you’ve become familiar with this book, you’ll be better able to hire a good painting contrac-tor. For example, you can see if a professional knows the painting business by asking what he or she thinks should be prepped and painted and then comparing this list with your own. (In any case, getting the pro to commit to a specific paint-ing plan makes certain everything you expect to be painted will get painted.)

Consider getting as many as six estimates, and ask for a figure on both labor and materials. Esti-mates are free (it’s an industry standard to charge nothing for compiling an estimate). And for exte-rior work, you don’t have to be home when the professional visits. With six estimates in hand, you’ll have a very good idea of the median cost of a paint job. You minimize the chance that you’ll get a professional who is expensive beyond the value delivered.

When choosing a pro, remember that reputa-tion is everything. You can locate six painters at random from the yellow pages, but a far better approach is to get recommendations by talking to neighbors and paint shop owners. After all, a large painting job will cost thousands of dollars, and you want to be sure you investigate the character of the individual who will be in and around your home.

Little things mean a lot. Will the pro be courteous and helpful when you have questions or complaints? Will the pro finish the job, or leave the last details incomplete? Consider the aggravation you would experience if the pro didn’t show up when you expected. Details make the difference between a mediocre job and a great job, so a more expensive and thorough painter may be a better deal in the long run. The lowest bid is not necessarily the best. You’ll want to know more than the bottom line. Here is a checklist of things to put in the contract:

  • When can they start?
  • When will they finish?
  • What type and brand of paint will the pros use?
  • Will they spray the paint or brush it?
  • What type and extent of surface preparation will be performed?
  • Will they sand off loose paint, or merely scrape?
  • Would they recommend sandblasting and staining or aluminum siding instead of a new coat of paint, and why?
  • Will they wash old painted surfaces before painting?
  • When will they arrive in the morning and leave at night?
  • Will they work on weekends and over holidays?
  • Will the contractor personally be involved in the work, or will a crew be sent in to do the job?
  • How long have they painted? Are there homes they’ve done that you can see? (Ask for a list of references you can call, some of whom had the work done a few years ago so that you can judge the durability of their workmanship). .
  • Where will they store their equipment? Will there be any equipment or materials that could harm your children or pets?

Contingency Issues

  • Under what circumstances can you legally void the contract (if, for example, a painter does not start when promised)?
  • What if there is damage to your property (a ladder through a car windshield, ruined shrubbery, or spilled paint on the roof, for example)? Who will assume responsibility for the repair and its cost? Does the contract address this issue? If so, is a maximum time alloted for repairs to be completed?
  • Is there a guarantee of workmanship (for example, no peeling paint for 2 years)?
  • Does the contract explicitly state that you are not responsible for accidents? Does the pro carry liability insurance that covers personal and property damage?
  • What if they are unable to finish the job? Are you entitled to a full refund? What arrange-ments will they make to find another painter to finish the job this season? Do they accept responsibility for extra costs required to find another painter above and beyond the dollar amount you owe them under the contract?
  • What is the payment schedule? An example is 50 percent before work begins and 50 per-cent upon satisfactory completion of the work.
  • Is the bid in the contract fixed or merely an estimate, subject to revision? (You want to get a fixed and unalterable bid.)
  • Are you responsible for equipment stored on your property?

I do not mean to give you the impression that professional painters are not honorable. But it makes good sense to specify all issues explicitly in an agreement. Anticipate misunderstandings that could erupt into major conflicts. Remember, a contract is not just a legal document—it serves as a way to make clear the responsibilities of both parties, for the sake of a better job.

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