Probably more than any other home improvement project, painting is the easiest and most cost-effective way to maintain or improve your most important investment: your home.

You may want to paint a room or two. Perhaps the exterior of your home would benefit from a fresh coat of paint. You may be driven by the goal of selling your home or simply making it a more pleasant and welcoming environment for you and your family.

When is painting a Do It Yourself project and when should you hire a professional painting contractor?

That depends. Are you retired with plenty of spare time, working long overtime hours, or something in between? Are you willing to pay for a professional, finished product, or is “good enough” good enough?

hiring a contractor

In addition to superior performance in the actual painting, professional paint crews save homeowners time and hassle. The price tag varies based on the size of the job, condition of your walls, and quality of the paint.

“Many people will choose a professional for larger jobs, such as an entire exterior repaint or cabinet refinishing,” says Don “Tres” Dix III, owner of Knight’s Paint.

Of course, our association highly recommends hiring local NCCA members who are qualified, licensed, and insured. Even more important, NCCA members have their reputations at stake with every job. Crews from out of town don’t have local references and if there’s a problem later, resolving that problem can be difficult if not impossible.

Sean Moule, general manager of Moule Paint and Glass, breaks down the numbers.

“According to homegain.com, interior painting offers a 107% return on investment,” Sean says. “For this reason, 68% of realtors recommend potential home sellers paint their walls prior to listing. Exterior painting is more involved than interior painting, so most homeowners hire a licensed professional for the job.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit to hiring a professional painter is that your project will have a professional look, with clean lines and edges. Hiring a professional painting company also saves you hours or days of labor and potential frustration.

Finally, climbing a ladder to reach high ceilings can be rough on your body and sometimes dangerous. Although DIY accidents are rare, you don’t risk personal injury when you hire a professional.


“Many people feel pretty confident taking on a job like repainting the bedroom or bathroom,” says Tres. “You can come into one of our stores with your project list and we can talk you through it step by step to ensure you’re using the appropriate products.”

The largest cost you will incur is the paint itself, which generally sells for $20 to $50 per gallon, depending on quality. One gallon of paint will cover about 350 square feet of wall space.

Primer usually costs $10 to $40 per gallon, with a gallon covering about 200 square feet. Accessories such as brushes, rollers, paint trays, and gloves usually add $30 to $50 to the total price.

Here are some insider tips from friends who have tackled small DIY projects:

High-quality paint will show better color and covers more area than low-cost paint, and superior brushes and rollers will save you time and apply more evenly.

To make small rooms appear larger, paint them with lighter colors in pastel tones.

Flat and eggshell sheens are good for hiding faults such as uneven texture or nail holes. Glossy sheens such as satin or semi-gloss are easier to clean.

Liberally use paint tape and drop cloths to prevent getting paint where you don’t want it.

Dave Molitor, owner of Molitor Painting Company, recommends Do It Yourself-ers consider their capabilities, available time, and the cost of any equipment rental. Measure carefully. Determine the square footage to be painted, minus doors and windows, so you don’t spend more money on paint than needed.

“Don’t leave masking tape on any longer than necessary,” says Dave. “If possible, avoid painting in the hot sun. Choose shaded sides whenever you can.”

GETting BIDS for work

“The most important issue is to make sure you’re comparing identical bids,” said Tres of Knight’s Paint.

For example, do the bids include moving furniture, and/or removing window treatments and wall decorations? Estimates should be thorough and detailed, describing all prep procedures and the exact quality paint to be used.

“Keep in mind that about 80 percent of the cost is labor,” Tres said, “so paying a little more for better paint that won’t fade or peel prematurely is the best investment you can make.”

“Painting is often viewed as a deferrable maintenance issue, and yet is a key aspect of maintaining the value of what is often our most significant asset,” said Jesse Russo, whose second-generation Foothill Painting company has been in business 30 years.

There are a variety of methods painting contractors use to prepare bids for projects.

“I typically prefer to prepare a proposal price based on the ‘Time and Materials’ approach,” Jesse said. “This approach considers the given details of a specific job or project, evaluates the time and materials required to meet the needs of the customer, and proposes a set price for the work required. I feel it presents a more accurate price for the customer, which equals a better value.”

Dave of Molitor Painting Company says price is often driven by the project’s unique characteristics and demands.

“It is almost impossible to establish a ‘one price fix’ for all methods for painting homes,” said Dave, whose company has been in business since 1991. “Each project is unique when it comes to preparation and condition, such as peeling, chalking, dry rot, priming or power sanding.”

If you determine your project will benefit from the expertise of a professional painting contractor, visit the NCCA website at NCCABuildingPros.com for recommendations. There are two ways we can help if you click on the link “Consumer Information.”

From the drop down box, click on “Find a Contractor,” and then select from “Any Category” either “Painting Supplies,” or “Painting and Decorating Contractors,” or both.

Also from the “Consumer Information” drop down box, you can click on “Request a Referral.” Enter your contact and project information, and you’ll soon receive via email a list of vetted, professional NCCA members you can trust to complete your painting project.

Barbara Bashall writes a monthly column for The Union. She is the executive director of the Nevada County Contractors’ Association, a nonprofit group of 320 general contractors, sub-contractors, building material suppliers, and other construction professionals whose mission is to promote high standards, integrity, and ethical practices within the construction industry. Visit NCCABuildingPros.com or call 530-274-1919. Freelance writer Lorraine Jewett contributed to this column.


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