What to know before painting your house

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

The first priority in picking a painter is finding three reputable companies to come to your home to provide a thorough estimate. If they want to give you a quote over the phone, move on. Ask how they will apply the paint, which can make a big difference in the price.

"When getting your estimate on exterior painting, be sure to ask the painter what type of process they are going to use. If they plan to spray the home, it's going to use more paint. If they are going to roll it, it will likely take longer. This will allow you to compare apples to apples when comparing estimates," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Professional painter Todd Cartmel prefers brushing-and-rolling instead of a standard spraying because he says it lasts twice as long, as much as 12 years when done with a premium paint. A spray job can also be long-lasting, but only if properly applied.

"As long as the spray application is back-brushed and back-rolled and the paint is applied at the correct thickness, it's really no different than the brush and roll application only," Cartmel explained.

Regardless of process, make sure the company you hire is actually the company painting your house. Cartmel estimates that 60 to 70 percent of all jobs are sub-contracted to independent companies, which could put you at risk.

"A lot of times, that crew doesn't have workman's comp insurance, doesn't carry liability insurance, which leaves the homeowner unprotected in the event that something may happen," added Cartmel.

And if you live in an older home, confirm that your painter is lead certified.

"If your home was built before 1978, it is possible that your home has lead paint and there are federal regulations about proper procedures to use when painting your home," said Hicks. "When you are hiring a painter and they don't bring up these regulations, you should get another painter."

Some contractors will offer to buy the paint for you, but Hicks says to ask if there's an additional charge for that. You can also ask to use their painter's discount if you prefer to buy it yourself. She recommends getting a premium paint, otherwise you could be doing it all again in just a few years.

Before hiring a house painter, you should always get at least three on-site estimates from reputable companies that have been in business for at least five years. Some companies may ask for some kind of up-front payment, but this should not exceed 20 percent of the total cost of the job.

Questions to ask before hiring a house painter:

  1. Are you lead certified? (if home was built before 1978)
  2. Are you licensed and bonded?
  3. Will you be doing the job yourself or using a different company?
  4. May I see your liability insurance policy?
  5. What kind of paint do you plan to use?
  6. If I buy the paint, can I use your industry discount?
  7. How will you apply the paint?
  8. How long should I expect the paint job to last?


Thinking of doing the job on your own? Ask yourself these questions first:

  1. Do you have the equipment? Painting a house is not a one-ladder job. You'll need a minimum of two extension ladders and scaffolding. These can be rented, but that's another cost to factor in.
  2. Do you want to take the risk? Working on scaffolding is dangerous. Home painting contractors have experience and know what safety precautions to take. Painting is monotonous work and after a few hours up on a scaffold it's easy to lose track of just how narrow that board is.
  3. Will you do the preparation? It takes a disciplined approach to properly scrape away all of those little peeling paint spots. If you're not going to do this correctly, don't do it yourself. There's no point in putting in all of this work if the paint is just going to start peeling again a few years later.